Charity Fundraising Strategy Template - 4 Steps And Examples To Create Your Strategic Plan

A simple to use charity fundraising strategy template that gives you a simple 4 step process and examples to create your fundraising strategic plan that anyone can use.

Charity Fundraising Strategy

Implementing a charity fundraising strategy or plan doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be done well.  This template and 4 step process follows the classic strategic planning cycle and will enable you to do that.   

What The Fundraising Strategy Planning Template Does

The template enables you to create your fundraising strategic plan in 4 steps;

  • Part 1 - The fundraising strategy process.
  • Part 2 - Managing fundraising strategic risk.
  • Part 3 - Creating your fundraising plan.
  • Part 4 – Delivering your fundraising plan.

However, it does more than that.  The CEF Data Store shows charities across the sector reporting fundraising as the lowest rated of the 21 dashboard metrics.  That make this an opportunity to achieve more, so the toolkit has been designed to enable you to audit your fundraising processes to help you do that. 

This blog is a summary and doesn't include the 10 pages of additional tools I’ve created.  You can download the toolkit and its tools from the CEF Income Questionnaire. Register here - everything is free. 

How To Use It - Template & Techniques

It can be used by anyone.  If you lack experience in strategy or fundraising it will walk you through the process and for those that are, there are tools to enable you to analyse in more depth, those areas you wish to.  Take from it what’s useful and amend the process, templates and checklists to meet your needs.  Action steps you may wish to consider are highlighted in bold.  Here’s the first.

  • The best strategic process is one that works for you, so take what’s useful, by adapting the process, templates or checklists to meet your needs.  

Growing fundraising is understandably at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but that will be difficult and take time and the funding available is far short of what the sector requires.  Fundraising alone is not enough. 

  • Fundraising will be critical to recovery, but it is only part of the solution, so make sure you are also using the other Charity Toolkits, as part of your overall response.

Forty nine of the 74 CEF Data Store fundraising indicators are amber, meaning that the majority of charities report they are not doing these well. 

  • Use your fundraising strategy review to identify where and how you can improve the overall fundraising process. Even small changes have a cumulative impact.
  • Health check your fundraising by completing the CEF Income questionnaire;. It takes 2 mins to register here and 30 mins to do; everything is free.

PART 1 - Effective Fundraising Strategies - Process

Strategy is about making the best decisions you are able to, based on the best evidence you have.    

The process doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do need to have a logical, structured process, challenge positively, be prepared to think about new ways of doing things, take people with you and make decisions based on the available evidence. 

Some strategies may look 10 years into the future, or even longer; major investment programmes.  However, most are 3 to 5 years.

  • Decide on a suitable time frame for your strategy.

We cannot control the events in the outside world so effective strategy, isn’t about deciding what we want to do, but rather understanding how that may impact our work, and focussing our resources to exploit the opportunities and mitigate the threats facing us.  

However, there are potentially a huge range of factors, many of which may well be both critical and highly uncertain.  Here’s how to manage that risk.

PART 2 - Managing Fundraising Strategic Risk

What are we trying to do? Your aim is to deliver the funding your charity needs and you can’t plan how to do that without first knowing what that is.  This can be as simple as rolling forward your normal income and expenditure numbers and then adjusting these in light of relevant key factors.  For example, building in the need to replenish reserves, any capital campaign or building costs, or the ending or start of any major projects. 

  • Create your estimate of your future year income targets.

Wouldn’t it be safer to just do what we do now?  Maybe, but maybe not. The operational risks and pressures in the immediate term are obvious and urgent. Whereas the strategic risks tend to be less obvious, so it may feel safer to sit tight, but if you’re wrong, it may be too late by the time you find that out.  Here’s a way to assess and manage that risk.   

Income diversification is often talked about, but less often done.  Should we?  Over reliance on limited income streams has 2 potentially serious implications.  Firstly, there may be limits on the extent to which this income can be grown.  Secondly, a major unforeseen future event may lead to a significant reduction in a critical income stream; as just happened to pretty much all of them.

However, diversifying also involves risk – it usually requires investing often scarce resources, takes time and, inevitably, developing new income streams carries more near-term risk than relying on existing well-stablished methods. 

  • Think about the overall probability and impact of your near-term risk, compared to that of the strategic risk in developing new income streams.
  • Ask yourself - how much of each type might we be willing to accept?

Whatever you decide to do, having a robust strategic process will enable you to minimise the risk.

PART 3 - Fundraising PESTLE & SWOT Analysis

The Outside World - As COVID19 has brutally demonstrated, we are at the mercy of what happens in the outside world.  Effective strategy is how well you respond to that. 

However, there is huge uncertainty, and the scale and nature of the emerging threats and opportunities will vary from charity to charity and, as yet, many remain unknown.  

  • Identify and assess the potential global, UK, regional, or even local external risks and opportunities relevant to your charity.

The Survive & Thrive toolkit provides a strategic assessment of what the future holds, including funding, and offers ideas on what these emerging threats and opportunities might be.  These are the S and W in your SWOT analysis.  There’s a PESTLE tool for fundraising, with the Additional Tools in the downloadable toolkit.   

Assessing your charity.  The 2nd part of your SWOT analysis looks internally, to objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses.  Many find this the most difficult aspect of strategy.  Talking about weaknesses almost always makes people react defensively.  I prefer to think of this as finding ways to achieve even more.  

The Data Store results show charities reporting that how they manage the fundraising process is an area where we can do that.  Think through each area. There’s a checklist you can use an Internal Strengths & Weaknesses checklist. This isn’t a compliance check, but a search for opportunities.  The impact of each improvement you make may be small, but it will be cumulative and improve your fundraising on an ongoing basis. 

  • Assess your internal strengths and weaknesses.
  • At each stage, ask yourself – what might we do more of, or do even better?

Beginning To Bring Your Strategic Planning Together

  • Match your internal strengths and weaknesses to the external opportunities and threats to create your fundraising SWOT analysis.

If you wish to, you could identify those that are particularly important or urgent. Then use this to create your strategy.  Watch this Charity Excellence ‘How To’ video (3 mins) for how to do your SWOT really well.

The image at the top, in this blog, is a CEF worked example that highlights those that are particularly important, or urgent.  The arrows show linkages that can be used to create a strategy; using strengths to exploit opportunities, and/or to address weakness, and/or to mitigate/avoid threats.  Or better still, could you turn a threat into an opportunity? 

  • You know what your income targets are and understand the risk in developing new income streams - bring these together with your SWOT to identify the best way forward.

You now know what you’re going to do, so it’s now time to work out how to do that.

Your Fundraising Strategic Plan - Options

The 1st step is to look at all your fundraising options, particularly those techniques you don't use, or don't do well. 

Digital.  It's estimated that charities lose out on £1.5bn in donations annually, due to lack of digital effectiveness, online donations are growing year-on-year and, with the virus, it’s more critical now than ever.  In this CEF Sector Insight Briefing on digital fundraising, all 9 indicators are currently amber. That is, the majority of charities report that they are not doing these well. Make sure yours is. 

In terms of how charities have responded to COVID, 44% reported an increase in online donations, while 60% had tried some form of virtual fundraising during the pandemic with three-quarters of them doing so for the first time (Blackbaud, Status Of UK Fundraising, July 2020).

  • Online Fundraising. You might consider setting up an online shop, such as E Bay.  The CEF list of 70+ fundraising platforms, has links to 5 under Auction/Sell. Think about virtual events. Consider text donations.  Or contactless.  More fundraising resources.
  • This CEF Sector Insight Briefing on website effectiveness has all 6 indicators at amber. Reviewing your website could be an easy win for you. If you're a member of the CEF community, run 'website' in the query system and it'll give you an assessment of your website and links to the resources you need.
  • Google Ads.Are the ads that appear at the top of your screen whenever you run a search.  If your charity has national reach and particularly if it has a strong public appeal, the £90k Google Ads grant is an absolute gift. It's not a quick fix, but once set up, workload in maintaining it is low.

But there are a whole range of other options.

There’s a Fundraising Techniques Checklist in the downloadable toolkit that provides a summary assessment of the most common techniques.   

  • Assess the various fundraising methods, including those you currently don’t use.
  • Decide which you wish to look into in more detail, consider later or dismiss as not suitable.   

Testing and Selecting Options

For those you might wish to consider, assess each.  There’s a Testing & Selecting Fundraising Options checklist in the downloadable toolkit. 

Why Return On Investment Really Matters

ROI is a key factor, but not often taken into account.  Charities will be focusing on reducing cost, but whilst cutting your fundraising budget may generate short-term cost savings, it’s fundraising that generates the funding you need.

Using ROI offers a much better way to get the most out of your fundraising. It’s how much return you might achieve, compared to the cost of doing so.  The return may not just be financial and cost is both time and money.  There’s a Simple ROI Process that you could use below.

  • Identify any high cost activities that add limited value, and reallocate the funding to those that are higher value/lower cost.

Remember that you may have to initially invest more than you get back.  That’s OK, as long as the longer term growth makes that worthwhile, and you have the time and funding to invest.   

  • Test each and select those that best meet your needs.
  • For those you decide to take forward, make estimates of income, cost, timescale and key actions.

Update Your Fundraising Financial Projections

  • Build your estimates into your financial projections.

It’s often an iterative process, so you might not get the numbers you want first time round.  

  • However, don’t inflate the income figures simply to make the numbers work.

That changes nothing, but the spreadsheet.

·       Instead, revisit your planning to identify how you might realistically increase income.  

Have you missed an opportunity somewhere?  Or, you might consider taking funding from another budget area to invest in fundraising?

As long as you can be realistically confident that you will remain sustainable in at least the medium term, you have bought the time to develop alternatives. 

  • If that still doesn’t work, then the Board must consider scaling back its plans to reduce costs. 
  • If you need to, you could create a contingency plan with cost reduction options.

Part 4 - Delivering Your Fundraising Strategic Plan

Business Planning - Year 1 of your strategy is your next year’s annual business, budget and risk management plans. 

  • Build your Year 1 activity and finance into these, not forgetting any additional capabilities you will need into the staff development budget.

Don’t overlook staff development.  Our people are our greatest asset.  Developing them is an investment in your future, not a cost saving.  Here’s a CEF resource on how to develop staff well, at little or no cost.

Communicating Your Fundraising Plan

Strategy isn’t a plan, it’s what an organisation does and that involves everybody, ideally from the outset. 

  • Engage your staff and volunteers.

Your people may not understand the full breadth of strategy in the way you do, but they are experts in their area. This helps to test your thinking, may identify opportunities you’ve missed, or problems you were unaware of.  It also makes people feel part of the process and helps them to understand their role in delivering it.  And once you’ve finalised it:

  • Ensure it is communicated to everyone in clear, plain English.

The best place for big glossy plans that are full of jargon is usually on the shelf, which is where they tend to end up gathering dust.     

Fundraising Strategy Reality Check

The last thing to do is to:

  • Step back from the detail and ask yourself, if your strategy is realistic and deliverable?

There’s a Strategy Reality Check checklist in the tooolkit.  To be confident in your strategy, you should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to the statements in it.

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