Fundraising Planning -

Fundraising Planning


Fundraising Planning

In this chapter we examined the balance of the fundraising plan and thus focused on ‘where do we want to be’ and ‘how will we get there?’ We examined how to create SMART fundraising objectives and the terms in which such objectives might be written. We also examined key facets of fundraising strategy such as overall direction, segmentation and positioning. We closed by examining the various ways in which a fundraising plan might be structured. As we stressed from the outset – no one approach is appropriate to every situation.


Fundraising Planning

The generic fundraising planning structure we propose is reproduced below. Having dealt with the fundraising audit in a previous section we can now move on to consider the writing of fundraising objectives.


Generic planning framework

Setting Fundraising Objectives

Once the organization has identified its current position in the donor market and reviewed what has been accomplished to date it is in a position to decide what might realistically be achieved in the future.

Objectives are a critical part of the plan as they are the only mechanism by which its success can be measured. If a plan achieves its stated objectives we might reasonably conclude that it has been a success. Without them, one can only speculate as to the planner’s original intent and the effectiveness of the activities undertaken. Valuable resources (donated by donors!) could be being wasted, but the organization would have no mechanism for identifying that this was in fact the case.

As a minimum, fundraising objectives should address the following three issues

  1. The amount of funds that will be raised
  2. The categories of donors that will supply these funds (i.e. individual, corporate, foundation/trust)
  3. The acceptable costs of raising these funds

Fundraisers writing plans for particular forms of fundraising may also write objectives specific to those forms of fundraising so, for example, fundraisers working in direct response might craft objectives in terms of their renewal rates, changes in the lifetime value of donors, average gift levels, response rates, return on investment etc. A fundraiser working in major gift, might set objectives in terms of the number of solicitations made, dollars raised, and how many significant interactions a fund raiser should have with donors.

For many organizations it may be appropriate to split these objectives out and to consider writing separate objectives for restricted and unrestricted funds, for annual donors / monthly-‘sustainers’ and/or by the category of the campaign, e.g. the capital campaign or annual fund. This is frequently appropriate since these forms of fundraising differ greatly.

To be managerially useful, good objectives should exhibit the following characteristics. They should be:

  • SMARTSpecific – in the sense that they should relate to a concrete fundraising activity (or set of activities) that will be undertaken.
  • Measurable – and thus include dollar targets for funds raised, the numbers of donors that will be approached, the allowable expenditure etc.
  • Achievable – so that employees, volunteers and Board members can genuinely focus on their achievement.
  • Relevant – in the sense of being relevant to the corporate objectives of the nonprofit.
  • Timescaled – so that fundraisers know by when they will be expected to hit each target.


Overall Direction

Overall direction pertains to the selection of fundraising methods that will be used to raise funds. Where the organization requires additional funds to those raised in the previous year there are four key strategic directions that it can follow to achieve this growth (Ansoff, 1968). Ansoff Matrix

  1. Market Penetration
  2. Activity Development
  3. Market Development
  4. Diversification

A detailed description of the Ansoff matrix and an interesting profile of Ansoff can be found at



Having now decided the broad approach that will be taken to the achievement of the fundraising objectives the organization can turn its attention to who it intends to address with these activities. Should the organization attempt to target all potential charity donors with its fundraising, or should it focus on specific groups of donors; particular types of people, particular types of foundation, particular types of corporation?

There are a number of different ways of segmenting individual donor markets.

a) Geographic Location

Some nonprofits can segment their donor market on the basis of geographic location. They may find more support for their work within a radius of their office or they may find that particular states, regions, counties, cities or neighborhoods are more responsive to what they are trying to achieve.

b) Demographic

Demographic segmentation involves segmenting the market on the basis of variables such as age, generation, gender, family life cycle, income, religion or race/ethnicity. These are all key variables that characterize our society and they are popular bases for segmentation because they are easy to measure and giving preferences are often stronger associated with these variables.

c) Psychographic segmentation

Psychographic segmentation as the names suggests is an attempt to blend a knowledge of psychology and demographics to develop a richer understanding of consumer behavior. Using psychographics segments are created on the basis of personality traits, values and/or lifestyles

There are a number of commercially available systems that focus on psychographics.  One of the most popular is Strategic Business Insight’s VALS TM framework. VALS classifies all US adults into eight primary groups based on personality traits and key demographics. It is kept well up-to-date with more than 80,000 additional surveys being distributed each year.

The organization’s website allows access to the VALS test so that users can test themselves and identify their personal VALS type.

An interesting comparison may be made with the Nielsen Claritas system – Prizm. The two systems are constructed very differently. Each of the Nielsen Claritas segments has its own pages that display “snapshots” of the segment’s demographic traits, lifestyle preferences and consumer behaviors.

Marketers can use the system to guide marketing campaigns and media strategies for specific market segments by answering:

  • Who are the targets?
  • What are they like?
  • Where can I find them?
  • How can I reach them?

The Claritas system focuses on information at the level of the zip code and the site offers the facility for users to be able to input their own zipcode and develop a profile of the people who live in their neighbourhood.

In the UK, the ACORN system allows for a similar degree of profiling by postcode. Site users there can visit the ACORN site, register and then input their own postcode to see an example of the information available. Helpfully, users can see the favored charities of each postcode. (Please note that ACORN is an example of a geo-demographic segmentation system).

There are many other systems available commercially, most of which work on similar principles although the variables tested in each case are slightly different. It would therefore be advantageous prior to utilizing one of these systems to have carried out some initial market research to identify specifically which psychographic variables are significant in a given market. Other commercially available systems include Young and Rubicam’s 4Cs.

d) Behavioural segmentation

Individuals may also be segmented according to their knowledge of, attitude toward, use of , or response to a product (Kotler and Armstrong 2007). This is a particularly helpful approach in the domain of donor retention. The Audobon Society, for example, segments donors according to the level of interest and knowledge that they have in birds and other wildlife. Organizations also target donors with specific campaigns based on their value (i.e. how much they have given in the past) and have a separate strategy for dealing with major givers (i.e. personal contact) than they do the remainder of the fundraising database.


Segmenting Business Markets

Of course, nonprofits don’t only raise funds from individuals. Fundraisers will commonly need to segment the market for corporate donations too. This might be on the basis of location, profitability, turnover, number of employees etc.

The Knowledge Center of NetMBA has a good section on segmentation. So does the research agency Nielsen.



Having selected the target segments the next issue for the fundraiser to consider is what they want to convey to these groups about the organization’s image or position.

Wind (1980: 4) defines positioning as: ‘the place a product occupies in a given market, as perceived by the … target segment’

Similarly Harrison (1987) describes it as: ‘the sum of those attributes normally ascribed to it by the consumers – its standing, its quality, the type of people who use it, its strengths, its weaknesses, any other unusual or memorable characteristics it may possess, its price and the value it represents.’

Positioning is thus not something that is done to the product, it is a perception that is created in the minds of the target audience (Hooley et al 2008). Of course in our context we are less concerned with products than we are with the position of the organization as a whole or perhaps the programs it is intended to raise funds for. Either can be positioned in the market, although it is important to remember that this process is something only partly under the control of management. Fundraisers can strive to get their message across, but it will ultimately be a matter for the donor where they actually see the organization positioned.

Positioning is also a relative concept. It is position with respect to other nonprofits. A useful tool to shed light on this is the perceptual map. Examples can be found here.

The University of Southern California at Marshall has posted a series of helpful resources on both segmentation and positioning.

Finally, there is also a helpful summary article covering perceptual maps and positioning available – click here. This is a summary of material adapted from Marketing Management by Richard P. Bagozzi, Jose Antonio Rosa, Kirti Sawhney Celly and Francisco Coronel, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.



What is a Brand?

A brand is defined as ‘a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors’ (American Marketing Association)

Aaker (1997) argues that it can convey up to six levels of meaning to a consumer:

  •  Attributes
  • Benefits
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Personality
  • User


Reflecting on the Aaker model, visit the websites of the organizations below. What levels of meaning do you believe these two brands convey?


Each brand touchpoint has the power to convey information about an organization’s brandFigure 7.8 Brand Touchpoints

Brand Strategy

Harvard Business School’s John Quelch has focused a lot of his recent work around the issue of nonprofit branding. Folks interested in this field would be well advised to do a search on his name in one of their library’s bibliographic databases. You can read a recent interview with the Professor on the topic of brand value here.

In the UK the leading nonprofit branding academic is Philippa Hankinson. Again a search in a bibliographic database would throw up many articles by the author, but you can also find out more about her work on the website of the Economics and Social Research Council that funded some of her work.

On the agency side the nonprofit think tank and research agency nfpSynergy has made branding a speciality. They have produced two excellent reports on the state of nonprofit branding in the UK and they can be downloaded free of charge from the organizations website. Click here. You must register to use the site, but the material is free. The two branding reports are entitled “Polishing the Diamond’ and the follow up, “Branding: the Jeweler’s Story”.

You will also find many interesting papers on branding are available for free at

Finally, remember that the application of branding to nonprofit organizations may be a little different. I raised the argument in the text that a significant part of a nonprofits brand personality may be shared. Two of the articles that resulted from this work may be downloaded below.


Integrated Communications

The organization must ‘live the brand’ in order to be successful and reflect its various dimensions in every form of communication that leaves the organization. They can achieve this through the following;

  • Stakeholder consultation and buy-in – making sure each constituency is represented and has offered feedback on the brand. Read the case study of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Notice how the whole organization was involved in developing the new identity.
  • The generation of a brand book – providing detail of the design, usage of logo, values, direction, etc. Visit the following websites to see how organizations manage the use of their logo and brand; Corporation for National ServiceUnited Way, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Cross-functional briefings and meetings – to establish regular contact with all groups to ensure consistency across the organization
  • Map a year in the life of… – nominating an individual of each stakeholder group to track all communication from the organization to him/her/it for one year in order to track consistency from various departments to the stakeholder


Case for Support

The final aspect of strategy we consider here is the case for support. The positioning statement makes it clear how the nonprofit is distinctive from others. This distinctiveness will form the foundation of the case for support, but the ‘case’ is much broader than this. It provides a detailed rationale to donors of why their support is needed and should engender a sense of immediacy, excitement and purpose. As this is often a public document in the sense that it may appear on the website or be included in an annual report it must also be well articulated, convincing and capable of being thoroughly understood by all the nonprofit’s supporters.

So critical is the concept of a case for support we devote our next chapter exclusively to that topic.


Fundraising Planning Frameworks

Before closing this section it is important to say a word or two about the formats that might be used for writing up a fundraising plan. We introduced one such format above which consisted of an audit followed by objectives, strategies and tactics. There are other variants that might be more appropriate.

In some cases it might make more sense to map out the audit, objectives, strategy and then to specify the tactics that will be adopted with each segment of donors – so perhaps a separate list of tactics for use with major donors, lower value givers and corporate givers if these are the selected segments.

For organizations that do a lot of work with direct response, it can be more helpful to structure the plan by presenting the audit, objectives, strategy and then the tactics for recruiting donors to the organization and (separately) the tactics for developing the value of existing donors over time. It may even be helpful to develop a hybrid of these latter approaches by considering how the first segment of donors will be recruited and retained, how the second segment of donors will be recruited and retained, etc.

There isn’t a single “right” way to draft a plan. Each document should reflect the unique nature of the organization it represents. The following examples illustrate something of the diversity that will be encountered.

Based on what you know about fundraising planning, how would you rate the approach of each of these organizations? What might you learn from them to inform your own approach?


File Downloads

Conceptualizing Brand Values in the Charity Sector

The Power of Brands


Recommended Reading


Ansoff I (1968) Corporate Strategy, Penguin Books, London

Bonoma T.V.and Shapiro B.P. (1983) Segmenting the Industrial Market, Lexington, Lexington Books.

Dove, K.E. (1999) Conducting a Successful Capital Campaign: The New, Revised and Expanded Edition of the Leading Guide to Planning and Implementing a Capital Campaign, Jossey Bass, San Francisco. 

Greenfield J.M. (1998) The fund-raising environmental audit.: An article from: Fund Raising Management.

Hooley, G., Saunders, J., Piercy N.F. and Nicoulaud, B. (2008) Marketing Strategy and Competitive Positioning (4th edtn), Prentice Hall, London.

Joyaux S. (2001) Strategic Fund Development: Building Profitable Relationships That Last, 2nd Edition, Aspen’s Fund Raising Series for the 21st Century, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA

Kotler, P. and Armstrong, G. (2007) Principles of Marketing (12th edtn), Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Kotler P and Keller K.L.(2009) Marketing Management, 13th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Lindahl W.E. (1992) Strategic Planning for Fund Raising: How to Bring In More Money Using Strategic Resource Allocation, Jossey Bass Nonprofit & Public Management Series,Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

Lysakowski L (2007) Nonprofit Essentials: The Development Plan (The AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series), Wiley, New York.

McDonald M.H.B. (2007) Marketing Plans: How To Prepare Them, How To use Them, 6th Edition, Heinemann, London

Sprinkel-Grace, K. (2005) Beyond Fundraising: New Strategies for Nonprofit Innovation and Investment, 2nd Edition, Wiley

Test your knowledge with our Quiz: Fundraising Planning

Most giving is 80% emotion and 20 % rational.  And the best way to get to someone’s emotions is to tell a story.