Campaign planning can be difficult for fundraisers for a number of reasons, including limited resources, time, and staff. However, you can save your team time and get better results by putting together a robust fundraising strategy grounded in data.

Creating a fundraising strategy for your next campaign will help you build on past success and develop a plan to improve your approach. By focusing your strategy on the right data, you’ll thoroughly understand your financial goals, identify your barriers to success, and proactively plan to overcome them. To create your own fundraising strategy, follow these three steps:

  1. Evaluate Your Past Campaign Performance
  2. Set Clear Goals for Your Campaign
  3. Take Stock of Your Resources

As you go through these steps, you’ll also have the chance to revisit your organization’s messaging to make sure it’s accurate, focused, relevant, and effective. Let’s dive in to help you create a strategy that covers all your bases.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Past Campaign Performance

Before you can move into goal-setting and planning for your next campaign, you’ve got to take a look at your previous campaigns and dig into the data. What worked? What didn’t? What successes do you want to replicate?

Use these strategies to thoroughly analyze your past performance and gain clear insights:

  • Compile data from your previous campaign. Start with donation reports from your CRM, but don’t stop there. Pull social media analytics, and revisit previous campaign goals, calendars, and marketing plans. Revisiting every aspect of your strategy will help you form a complete picture of your past performance.
  • Calculate your donor acquisition and retention rates. Look at all the metrics you tracked during your last campaign, but pay special attention to these two. Acquisition and retention rates tell you not only how successful your campaign was at engaging supporters but also provide a baseline for your next campaign’s engagement.
  • Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Evaluate which aspects of your campaign were most successful—was it your marketing, peer-to-peer fundraising, or a major event? Then, think about the areas you know you’re lacking resources or experience in, such as website design or major donor cultivation. Building awareness of these strengths and weaknesses will show you exactly where you need to direct your attention.
  • Ask for staff input. Schedule a meeting to get feedback from your team on their fundraising experiences. Everyone’s perspective is important and can help you gain additional insight on how to improve your strategy. Consider sending a survey to volunteers who participated in your last campaign, as well. 

After evaluating your past performance, define actionable takeaways based on what you’ve seen. Make sure they’re specific! For instance, “We should update our website with clear pathways from our homepage to our donation page” is much more helpful and actionable than “We need to raise more online.”

This analysis is an important step in the process, but analyzing large amounts of data and using it wisely takes work. If you want outside help and an expert’s perspective on how you can improve your strategy, consider working with a nonprofit consultant who knows the ropes. 

Step 2: Set Clear Goals for Your Campaign

Now that you’ve learned your lessons and identified your successes, it’s time to move into goal-setting. You may already be familiar with SMART goals, but it never hurts to be reminded that any goals you set should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound.

Along with setting an overall fundraising revenue goal for your campaign, choose goals that align with your organization’s current priorities. These will be specific to your organization, but Donorly’s fundraising plan template highlights three common strategic focus areas you may consider:

  • Donor acquisition: Once you’ve gotten new social media followers and email subscribers, how are you going to turn them into donors? Develop specific goals for the size of your donor pool. Don’t be afraid to get numbers-focused here. You have the data, so come up with an attainable goal for how many donors you would like to acquire during your next campaign.
  • Donor retention: How are you going to keep donors engaged so they continue to donate to your organization? Look at what your donor retention rate was from your last campaign and determine a goal for this one. Set smaller goals to improve your stewardship by finding new ways to keep donors engaged in your work.
  • Supporter engagement: If you’re hosting events and volunteer activities during your campaign, set specific attendance and engagement goals for each one. Consider goals related to growing your community — your virtual event audience, your local volunteers, your recurring donors, etc.

In order to set SMART goals pertaining to each of these focus areas, they need to be measurable. For each goal, choose a clearly defined key performance indicator (KPI), by which you’ll measure your progress and success throughout the campaign. These should be concrete numbers that are easy to measure, such as the number of new volunteers you want to recruit or the percentage of last campaign’s donors you aim to retain.

Step 3: Take Stock of Your Resources

After setting goals, double-check that they’re appropriate for your overall financial situation and available resources. Outline a detailed campaign budget that takes into account your estimated revenue, expenses, and labor. 

Review your existing resources as you develop your budget to determine where you may need to spend more. Specifically, evaluate where you stand in terms of:

  • Prospect research tools: Major donors are an important part of any fundraising campaign, and prospect research tools such as wealth databases make finding and securing this vital support much easier.
  • Online donation software: Assess if your current online donation portal is meeting your needs. If you need to invest in new software, Getting Attention’s list of top online donation tools provides a good starting point for your research.
  • Marketing resources: How many team members do you have on your marketing team? What channels do they have experience using? Determine if you need to seek out any third-party resources like a marketing agency or train your team on additional marketing platforms.
  • Project management tools: Developing a process that works for your team is crucial for getting work completed on time. Along with meeting with your team to track progress on big-picture goals and check in on day-to-day tasks, consider trying online project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp

When investing in new tools, make sure to consider resources that will support sustainable fundraising strategies for years to come. Don’t spend too much time on a tool that will only support one campaign. 

Developing a fundraising strategy takes time and effort, but it’s a necessary step in setting yourself up for success. Once you’ve done this work, you can move on to creating specific marketing plans, campaign timelines, and event schedules. As you fill in the details of your strategy, don’t be afraid to branch out and incorporate new fundraising ideas, too, such as supporter-led birthday fundraising or a hybrid auction. 

Remember that you can—and should—reevaluate and adjust your strategy as you go based on what’s working well and what isn’t. Making these adjustments will allow you to leverage your data effectively to raise more for your cause.

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