My article and my Facebook live session on your Q4 donor base actions generated many questions about how to make a fundraising plan. Making a fundraising plan for your nonprofit is a task that requires in-depth understanding of your context, work and ambitions. I don’t have that of course. But I can help you get going. So, in this article I will focus on how to make a start with your fundraising plan.

Your ambitions for next year

Obviously, it all starts from your ambitions and dreams for next year, for 2022 at the time I write this. What do you want to achieve next year? And what do you need to do in order to achieve that?

Drill down on your ambitions

Be very specific about what you want to achieve and about what you need to get done for that to happen. What projects, activities, or actions do you need to implement? Write this all down in a team brainstorm and visualize all steps clearly to make sure you are not missing anything.

Don’t forget to do a reality check: is it possible to do all this and to achieve all this within one year? Keep in mind that some processes take time!

Be specific about the money you need

Now that you know what you need to do, and what you can realistically do in a year’s time, draft a budget to see how much your ambitions will cost. Be very precise here, as well. Make sure you include all the costs needed including general costs and costs for time people will spend on the work.

As a next step, highlight items you think you can get donated in kind, free of charge.

Then calculate totals for projects and activities and a total overall of money and donations needed to make this all happen.

Your contract data

Look at your grant agreement and sponsorship registers.List which of these arrangements will continue in the next year. For how long? Are they earmarked to cover some of the costs of your ambitions? (Or in other words: are these arrangements covering projects and activities that are part of your ambitions for the next year?)

Add new columns to your budget for each of the expected sources of income that are already contracted. Then add the expected contribution to your ambitions in the respective columns, in the corresponding budget line rows. So that it becomes visible which part of the budget is probably covered by ongoing project grants or sponsorships.

Your numbers

Now look at the donations you received in the current year to date. What kind of donations did you receive? Are they earmarked for a specific activity or group? What are the trends you see? Do you see seasonal trends? What triggers people to donate? Can you calculate an average of donations per month and extrapolate that to one year? Does that feel realistic to expect as an income for next year from your individual donors? Is it prudent?

If yes, then add a column to your budget file and include the projected amount for donations. Add earmarked donations to the corresponding cost elements. If they are not earmarked for a specific activity or expense, then add them to a new row, not connected to any specific budget line.

And now you can calculate the size of your fundraising ambitions

So now you have your ambitions translated to numbers against your highly likely income from grants, sponsorships and donations. Add a final column to your budget, labeled: to be raised. In this column you calculate the total of expected costs minus expected coverage.

And voila, there is your insight into what your fundraising challenge is, for the ambitions you defined for the next year. You can see exactly which projects or activities require (more) coverage and how much is needed.


How does this look to you? Do you still feel your ambitions are realistic? Is your budget realistic? Have you added in all the secured income properly?

Gap analysis

Looking at the fundraising target, brainstorm with your team how the gap between secured income and budget can be filled. What kind of sponsor or donor could be interested in supporting the projects and activities that are under-funded at the moment? Think of private individuals, companies, private foundations, government agencies, foreign organizations and embassies, etc.

Make it actionable – private individual donors

Look at your donations overview and analysis. Can you activate or repeat a trigger that inspires people to donate? Can you expand your private individual donor base? What is a first step you can take?

Make it actionable – grant-making donors, sponsors and investors

Look at your gap analysis and brainstorm names of potential donors. List them and identify what you already know about them. Where do their dreams and priorities overlap with your mission, vision and values? What else can you find out? How? Do you happen to know people who may have experience with these donors? (See also here for ideas). Depending on the size of your team, pick at least 2 and maximum 5 potential donors to analyze further and divide tasks to get that done.

Plan for a process

As you can see, planning for fundraising is a process, just like fundraising itself is. Plan a timeline with your team with milestones and regular catch-up meetings to update each other on progress. Create a wall in your office (or a digital wall) where you post actions planned and done.

Plan for adjustments

Make sure you plan for checks of moneys raised versus ambitions. At what moment do you need to scale down your ambitions if the moneys raised keep being behind? What are steps you can take at that moment? Make sure you have a plan B for a less costly implementation towards your ambitions or for a rescheduling of your ambitions.

Always make sure to keep your board and team in the loop with these kinds of decisive moments and decisions so that everyone understands what is at stake and why maybe an ambition needs to be scaled down temporarily.

My key tips

  • Always look for the first next step that you can do today.
  • Dream big but be prudent when you plan and don’t hesitate to scale down if needed.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. This group is a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.