Shelter Management

Making an Annual Fundraising Plan

Five steps to a realistic plan that saves time and makes money

When you're scrambling to keep the doors open and kibble in the bowls, it's easy to be pulled off track by fundraising opportunities that look good on the surface but end up sapping your strength and bringing meager rewards.

The best way to avoid distraction and make sure you have cash when you need it is by making — and sticking to — an annual fundraising plan. Grab a pencil and a calculator, and fire up your computer, and you're ready to follow these steps.

1. Determine how much you need to raise.

  • Figure out what you want to accomplish in the coming year (adoptions, spay/neuter surgeries, educational programming, etc.), and make your income and expense budget for these objectives.
  • Subtract the amount of income you anticipate from fees, contracts and other sources. The result is your fundraising goal.
    (If you're planning to build or renovate a facility, you'll want to put together a capital campaign plan. If you're building an endowment, you'll develop a planned giving plan. Here, we're talking only about operations.)

2. Explore the fundraising strategies described in this section.

Consider all your options as you put together your plan. Adding new strategies can make a significant difference in your bottom line.

3. Determine how much of your operating budget you'll raise from various sources.

  • Individual donations: List specific approaches, such as appeal letters, major gift acquisition, ongoing honor/memorial programs, cage sponsorships, etc., and amount you anticipate raising from each.
  • Foundation grants: List specific foundations and other grant makers, areas of support, and the dollar amounts you plan to request. Remember that you may get turned down, so give yourself some leeway.
  • Special events: List specific events and anticipated net income from each.
  • Be realistic. Base your projections on previous year's results. Substantiate your projected increases by identifying the specific strategies you'll adopt to achieve them.

4. Make a fundraising calendar.

  • Include grant deadlines, dates when appeals will be mailed, other special solicitations, and events. Indicate who will be responsible for each.
  • Align your communication calendar with your fundraising calendar. This helps keep all your communications — whether through newspaper stories and TV coverage or through appeal letters — in sync and working together to convey your messages.
  • Be sure to compare your calendar with your cash-flow needs and move an appeal or event if necessary to get funds in when you need them.

5. Review and revise your plan as needed.

Each month, check your actual income against your projections. If a funder turns you down, an event or solicitation fails to deliver as expected, or you find the need or desire to add program, be prepared to make adjustments.

You can still take advantage of new opportunities to serve your audiences — just be sure to consider every change in program or finances in the context of your overall plan. Revisit your plan and your current financial situation to determine whether other programs will suffer if you divert resources to a new program — or how you can step up fundraising to cover additional costs.

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