Advance Planning

This article is part of a lengthy series called Fundraiser Preparation and is Part I of the Advance Planning section. The series is an excerpt from my book, Fundraising Success.

How to prepare for fundraising success by planning ahead: Put together your fundraising goals and objectives, then block out an annual schedule for your fundraisers to meet those goals.

Set goals and objectives
Your non-profit organization needs to define its objectives. Goals need to be set both for the year and for specific events. Those topics are covered thoroughly in the Sections on Goal Setting and Record Keeping. So, we’ll focus here on the need to decide on certain timelines.

Set your annual schedule
First, you need a master schedule for the year. Each fundraiser has to have the right amount of lead time, sales period, delivery, and wrap-up. Mark off three sets of six-week blocks on your calendar. These will be the slots for your major fundraising campaigns.

Coordinate these six-week blocks with other schedules and holidays, schools, competing events, etc. Leave some recovery time in between each major campaign so that you’re not doing continuous fundraising. Two weeks is the bare minimum between finishing with one fundraiser and scheduling the organizational planning session for the next one.

The type of fundraiser you select will affect certain variables like prep time, sales period, and waiting for delivery. Don’t vary from using the six-week block of time approach just because you’re considering doing an immediate delivery sale or an event-based fundraiser. Instead of trying to squeeze another fundraiser into the schedule, use the time wisely to maximize your results instead.

Set fundraisers for specific time blocks
Once you’ve got the master schedule set, then focus on the individual six-week blocks. Pick your three best fundraisers and match them with the slots, being careful to optimize the fit. What do I mean by optimizing the fit?

Consider a school’s annual fundraiser schedule. If the group is well organized, the first six-week block can actually begin before school starts. Planning, fundraiser selection, even ordering sales materials can all be completed before the first day. Of course, that requires planning for next year before the end of the current year.

Start early
Why do you want the early start? First of all, parents are more enthusiastic about volunteering and supporting your cause at the start of the new school year than they are at any other time. You “optimize the fit” by scheduling your first fundraiser to leverage that enthusiasm and support.

By planning ahead, you could have a Classroom Computer Campaign making catalog sales during mid-September.

Besides leveraging the new school year commitment level, starting early also gives a bit of a breather to your students, parents, and volunteers. That’s important before you begin conducting your largest fundraiser of the year.

You will also gain a better response for your big holiday fundraiser in the prime mid-November timeframe. You can use the in-between gap before Halloween for a simple one-weekend event like Pumpkin Patch Kids.

The same logic also applies to the third of the six-week blocks. Your Spring fundraiser can be positioned easily around Spring break, going before or after as your specific schedule for that year dictates.

Therefore, using an annual planning methodology gives you the best chance for success by strategically positioning your selling times for maximum participation.

Click here for Fundraiser Preparation: Advance Planning – Part 2

Click here for Fundraiser Preparation: Overview