It takes a lot of work to organize your nonprofit’s fundraising activities year after year and even campaign to campaign. Besides the standard fundraising campaigns, you have to manage donor engagement experiences, marketing efforts, and each touch point. It’s a lot to handle, so how do you coordinate all of it with an already full plate? Instead of flying by the seat of your pants, try using a fundraising calendar to organize all your annual fundraising activities.
What Is a Fundraising Calendar?
In a way, a fundraising calendar is similar to a for-profit business plan because it helps your nonprofit organize each planned event and significant touch point for the upcoming calendar or fiscal year.
The activities you add to your calendar are completely up to you, but most nonprofits benefit from incorporating both big picture goals and minute-by-minute donor interactions. In putting together a well-rounded and thorough calendar, you’re essentially creating the ultimate fundraising tool.
You’re free to put your fundraising calendar together any time of the year. However, January and February are notoriously slow months for fundraisers, and thus, a good time to craft the plan.
Plans Carry Benefits
There is no shortage of benefits when you use a fundraising calendar.
For starters, your nonprofit as a whole benefits because this plan is there to guide your actions throughout the upcoming year.
On this one document, you can see what’s happening at the moment and what you have to plan for in the future. In a nutshell, this calendar keeps your nonprofit on schedule and focused.
Fundraising calendars also help with continuity, which is especially helpful in the nonprofit industry where high staff turnover rates are common. Whether you’ve been with your nonprofit for decades or started last week, a fundraising plan is simple to understand and easy to follow for anyone.
Finally, a fundraising calendar allows you to look at each fundraising activity from two perspectives. You can see the minute impact, such as the anticipated amount raised, the number of donors you hope to engage, etc. At the same time, you can see how each individual activity works with the others to create a thorough plan to engage and ultimately retain your donors.
A Note on Goal Alignment
Before you dive headfirst into your fundraising calendar, it’s important to think about how your calendar aligns with your nonprofit’s overarching goals. In fact, virtually every action you take at your nonprofit should relate back to these vital strategic goals.
So, even before you start putting activities down on paper, think about how each one benefits your organization’s goals in the long run. For example, if you’re looking to increase your donor retention rates, you want to schedule fundraising activities that include engagement such as peer-to-peer fundraising and social sharing drives. Along the same lines, if you want to fund a new initiative, then plan to rally your donors with a crowdfunding campaign.
Grab a copy of your strategic plan, and find all the ways you can use fundraising to help meet those goals. Much of your annual fundraising calendar should naturally fall into place if you recognize and plan around these strategic goals.
The Essential Elements
It’s possible to create a word document to host your fundraising calendar, but a spreadsheet or calendar is better suited to handle the details needed for the average calendar. Once you choose how you want to frame it, begin to plan out your year activity by activity.
Keep in mind, there are two main types of fundraising activities to add to your calendar. Hard deadline activities are those such as fundraising campaigns, board meetings, and special days of giving like GivingTuesday that have a definite start and end date. Besides hard deadlines, you have action deadlines, which are suggested dates and times you want to do specific activities, such as send out emails or solidify your sponsorships. Action deadlines are more fluid than hard deadlines, but both are important to note.
For each action and hard deadline activity, write down:
- Start and end dates
- Staff or volunteers responsible
- Cost to perform activity
- Other resources needed
- Anticipated income (if applicable)
- Additional actions needed to complete the activity
- Mediums for communicating, such as social media, email, or direct mail
- Organization support, such as marketing and communications
- How each action aligns with your organization’s goals
- Area for notes
The more thorough you make your fundraising calendar, the easier it is for everyone in your organization to follow.
While it’s natural to focus on the bottom line when you’re knee-deep in campaign planning, don’t limit your fundraising calendar’s purpose to solely guiding the next activity. Instead, use this tool to learn from your actions and adjust as necessary in the future.
To do this, start by noting campaign results and any other important aspects of each campaign directly on the calendar. If the response from your online audience was extra positive during one activity, mention that. If your personal fundraisers went above and beyond in a peer-to-peer campaign, write it down. In addition, don’t forget to note lessons learned and suggestions for the next campaign. With this data, you can continuously adapt your fundraising strategy.
Above all, remember that it’s not just your organization’s fundraising staff that uses this fundraising calendar. It’s a document that everyone in your nonprofit can and should access.
Fundraising calendars are a great tool if you’re looking to organize your annual fundraising activities. By creating a detailed planning document used by your entire organization, your nonprofit can run strategic fundraising activities and evolve your fundraising practices from one year to the next.