Whether your nonprofit’s fiscal year mirrors the calendar year or not, there’s an annual cycle to fundraising. Typically, it’ll start out a little slow in the calendar year, pick up a little steam in the spring, dip a little bit in the summer, then go full steam in the fall through the end of the calendar year. Outside of direct mail, there is a symphony of digital marketing channels, and it can be a challenge to understand them all, let alone organize them in a way that will bring in more revenue for your nonprofit.
To help get you started, here are 4 steps you can take to plan and organize your digital fundraising for the year:
1. Identify Your Goals for the Year
This may sound like a no brainer, but many nonprofits fail in digital fundraising because they don’t take the time to set goals. Agendas get packed, fires need to be put out, and work doesn’t slow down. It’s important to block time out on your calendar at least once a year to get together with your team, review the previous year’s performance, and settle on goals that you seek to accomplish in the coming year. The following are some goals that you might discuss, along with any others you come up with:
- Increase fundraising revenue by X%
- Increase number of gifts by X%
- Increase annual gift by X%
- Increase sustaining donors by X%
- Increase volunteers by X%
2. Create Monthly Themes
If you’ve never taken the time to create a monthly planning or fundraising calendar, it can seem overwhelming. How will you raise money? What can our organization talk about to inspire donors to give? A good start is to create monthly themes that you can build marketing and fundraising campaigns around. Make a list of as many themes you can think of, then whittle that list down to 12, one for each month. Because we’re just talking about initial planning, you don’t have to create your campaign ideas and fundraising offers just yet. Simply settle on themes for now, then create a separate annual or quarterly meeting to review campaign ideas associated with each theme. To help get your mind jogging, consider themes around these categories:
- Programs and/or services
- Special events
- Organization’s anniversary/founding
- Funding an asset
- Giving Tuesday and/or other giving days
- Year End
3. Identify Marketing Channels
Once you’ve identified your themes, make a list of all of the marketing channels that you are currently using or plan to use in the upcoming year in which you are creating your plan. Even if you’re not certain whether or not you’ll be using a particular marketing channel, include it anyway. It’s better to see the big picture with all marketing channels listed out, so that you don’t overlook any during your initial planning. The following may be a list to consider (plus any others you would add):
- Direct mail
- Social media organic posts
- Social media ads
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ads
- SMS messages
- Online display ads
- Website banners
4. Put Dates on Calendar
When you’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to literally break out your calendar. This could be a physical calendar, one in the cloud (Outlook or Google), or one you create via a program like Excel. The dates that you put on the calendar won’t be specific campaign names, because you haven’t gotten that far yet. You will put activation and deployment dates on the calendar as placeholders. For example, for the month of January, you might put an X on your calendar for any date in which you will send an email. If you are running an online ad campaign, that X would go in each of the dates that the campaign is running, which may be several days or weeks. Here are other examples of dates that you would put on your calendar.
- Direct mail in-home- Email deployments
- Ad campaign flight dates (when they start/end)
- Blog posts
- Social media organic posts
- Campaign support assets activation dates (website banner, FB Cover image)
After you get your dates on the calendar, you’ve completed the initial process of planning an annual marketing and fundraising calendar for your nonprofit. From this point, you would most likely want to set aside another time to start drilling into each month’s campaigns and marketing channels to determine what you will say, what assets will need to be created, and what resources you’ll need to allocate to help bring your campaigns to life.
If you have any other tips that you use to help get organized, please share them! We have fundraising people from all over the world who may come across this post and we can all learn from each other.
As a tip, I have create an annual fundraising planning calendar template, based on this article above that is available in my online community, Fundraisers Unite. It has everything organized in an Excel file that lists out an area for you to put your themes, marketing channels, and dates. You can certainly build your own from scratch, but to save time, I’ve done the work for you. If you’d like to learn more about Fundraisers Unite, check out this page.