Nonprofits require strategic fundraising plans to help fulfill their mission and vision.
A fundraising calendar can help organizations prioritize fundraising activities.
In this article, we'll share elements and tips on developing and getting the most out of your fundraising calendar. We've also included a free fundraising calendar template to download and get started.
What is a Fundraising Calendar?
Technology advancements mean your nonprofit can access more marketing and fundraising material. Each time a new online tool arrives, your board is probably pushing you to add it to your fundraising activities.
At this point, you may be used to throwing things at the wall to see what tactics work. Whether your organization follows a calendar or fiscal year, a fundraising calendar can help by laying out your organization's strategic plan month by month.
It will also help each fundraising team member focus on your mission and fundraising goals throughout the year. Adding event and campaign deadlines, key roles and responsibilities, financial goals, and budget will keep everyone on the same page.
Key Elements of a Fundraising Calendar
When developing your nonprofit organization's fundraising calendars, follow SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). Your calendar must reiterate the fundraising goals you've included in your fundraising plan.
Before breaking your plan down by month, you'll want to include specific and measurable plans for all donor groups.
With each fundraising activity, you must add who does what and when, specific campaign details, and financial and other goals.
Fundraising is primarily about relationship building. Donor communication is critical to this effort. Before you begin, you must segment your donors into donor groups and determine which campaigns and events will interest them enough to give. As you develop your calendar, include when to send printed, email, and social media marketing to each donor type.
Communication with major donors is another vital element to add to your fundraising calendar. Your nonprofit should have a moves management plan for each major donor. These plans should include specific mail pieces, calls, and in-person meetings with each.
Fundraising events and campaigns are the first and easiest details to add to your fundraising calendar. These include your annual fundraising gala and year-end campaigns. Other dates to include here are annual holidays and observances, like International Women's Day, where you can send communications to specific donor types, strengthen relationships, and raise money.
You must also add board meetings, budget meetings, all grant application dates, and any other deadlines grant foundations require to your calendar.
New nonprofits won't have past events to base their calendars on, so it's essential to do your due diligence and see when other organizations hold their events. You should also look at your donor base and see what event types may interest them.
Now is an excellent time to see if there are events you can host with other nonprofit organizations. Connect with nonprofits who have similar missions and form relationships whenever possible.
Including more than the start and end dates for fundraising events is crucial. Most events require sponsorships, in-kind donors, marketing, and volunteers to be a success. For each key date and campaign, you'll want to add the following action deadlines:
- Event committee meetings
- Sponsorship and in-kind item solicitation
- Volunteer training
- Major donor research
- Donor appeals
- Peer-to-peer campaigns
- Major donor outreach
- In-person meetings
- Phone calls
Key Team Members
A fundraising calendar keeps all team members on the same path. Each key deadline and action deadline should include the person responsible.
All of your fundraising events and campaigns should have volunteer committees. These volunteers will be responsible for much of your sponsor and donor outreach and will help to run events. Adding these team member roles to your calendar will decrease the stress on your board members and staff and add helpful skills and personal connections.
Nonprofit budgets must be made available to the public. Your budget will include fundraising goals for each event and campaign. Adding these goals to donor communication pieces will help excite donors.
Budgets for each event and campaign also make planning your fundraising calendar easier. If you expect to raise more money in the final three months of the year or over the summer months, you can schedule major donor outreach simultaneously to increase the funds these events bring in.
Download our Free Fundraising Calendar Template
While learning what elements to add to your fundraising calendar, you may wonder how to lay it out to help all team members understand your organization's goals and prioritize your needs. We've added a free fundraising calendar template to help you create one of your own.
Pro tip: To download an Excel version, click on 'File,' then select 'Export' and choose 'Microsoft Excel XLSX'.
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Fundraising Calendar
1. Align your fundraising calendar to your strategic plan
The primary purpose of a fundraising calendar is to align with your strategic plan and share it in an easily consumable way. Your strategic fundraising plan should identify your organization's goals and objectives. Your fundraising calendar can focus your plan on key dates, special events, and fundraising campaigns.
2. Keep it flexible
Throughout the year, your calendar must be flexible. Event and campaign fundraising goals will change because you didn't raise enough money during one special event. That may mean adding an event or finding more major donors.
3. Make it editable by your team
Making team members accountable for different fundraising efforts and giving them specific responsibilities will also help your calendar's adaptability. Using project management tools to share and edit your fundraising calendar lets you keep all members on the same page.
4. Don't schedule too much at one time
You must limit the fundraising activities and key dates when laying out your original fundraising calendar. If you schedule too much at one time, you have less room to edit and adapt the calendar when things go differently than planned.
Limit your fundraising efforts to a few major fundraising events and campaigns for the year. Add grant applications, major donor outreach, and other donor communication to the other months.
5. Keep the focus on your mission
Finally, you must remember to use your fundraising calendar to promote and focus on fulfilling your organization's mission. You're already halfway there if you've aligned your calendar to the organization's strategic fundraising plan. You can also focus on your mission by adding your mission and vision statements to your fundraising calendar and all team communication.
Fundraising is a strategic process and one that requires a solid team. Nonprofit fundraising calendars help nonprofits lay out a detailed plan that all team members can follow. Your fundraising calendar will help team members choose the best fundraising events and campaigns to connect with donors and raise more funds.
We hope our free fundraising calendar template will help you develop your calendar and strategic plan. We also know new nonprofits must make the most out of every dollar they raise, so Zeffy offers 100% free fundraising tools like peer-to-peer fundraising, event ticket sales, eCommerce, and online donation pages.