The People Pages: Fundraising Planning

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

The fundraising planning process ensures that your organization has substantial funding to meet its program and service goals.  A fundraising plan should be developed and put in writing at least once a year.  Because actual funding can vary greatly from that which was planned, especially in the case of grants, it is important to constantly review and revise the fundraising plan.  The plan should be developed by the Board of Directors under the direction of the Executive Director with input from program, fundraising, and administrative staff.

  • Review and recommit to your mission and vision.  All fundraising activity should support and further your organization’s vision and mission.
  • Plan and develop programs.  Set measurable and realistic service goals for each program.  Ask program staff for input regarding successes and challenges, as well as ideas for implementing change.
  • Create a budget for each program and an operational budget.  Identify how much money will have to be raised this year.
  • Conduct a situational analysis of your fundraising program.  Analyze each fundraising area, including grants, special events, membership, annual campaign, and planned giving.  List each area’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.  Create a vision of where you would like each fundraising area to be at the end of next year.
  • Set fundraising goals.  Set financial goals for each fundraising area.  Classify donors according to their ability and likelihood to give and estimate each group’s total donations. Break down each fundraising goal into tasks and assign tasks to volunteers and staff.  Communicate responsibilities and expectations.  Make sure you will have enough cash on hand to implement the fundraising plan.
  • Assess existing donors. Determine what ways existing donors should be asked to give and participate in your organization’s activities this year.  Review your database and make sure that mailing, phone, and email lists are accurate and up to date.  Review written files of major donors.
  • Research new opportunities for funding.  Identify individuals, corporations, businesses, and foundations that will be approached for funding in the coming year.
  • Match potential funders with financial goals.  Decide how each program will be funded.   Determine how administrative expenses will be paid for.
  • Implement your fundraising plan.  Design and develop promotional materials, establish points of contact, and educate new and existing donors about your organization, your accomplishments, and your goals.
  •  Monitor the results of the plan.  Follow up with staff to make sure tasks are completed.  Compare the actual results of fundraising campaigns to the projected income. Revise the plan as needed.

The People Pages: Elements of a Grant Proposal

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

  1. Cover Letter – The cover letter should be one page long.  It introduces your organization and project to the foundation.  It should state the amount you are requesting and the specific purpose of the proposal.
  1. Introduction or Executive Summary – This is a brief summary of the entire proposal.  State the amount of funds requested.  Briefly describe the program that funds are being requested for and illustrate the impact that the program will have in your organization and in the community.
  1. Organizational Background – This section should express your organizational capacity and competency.  State your mission and provide an overview of programs and services.  Briefly outline your history and show how your organization has grown into its present status.  Foundation grants are an investment in the community and this section needs to demonstrate that your organization is capable of managing people, programs, and finances responsibly.
  1. Needs Assessment – Present the needs of your community and the people who will benefit from your program or service.  Use primary and/or secondary research to support these needs and always site sources of statistical data.  Use both quantitative and qualitative information.  Explain why these needs are significant locally and appeal to universally understood values.
  1. Action Plan/Methodology – Explain specifically how your program or service will fill community needs.  State program goals and delineate the actions that will be taken to achieve those goals.  Provide an implementation schedule.
  1. Evaluation – Describe how your organization will determine whether or not goals are achieved.  Explain the methods that will be used to measure each of the goals stated in the action plan/methodology session.  Discuss how the outcomes you measure will be used as a learning tool that helps your organization better plan and deliver programs.
  1. Conclusion – Summarize your funding request, your goals, and the impact that this project will have.  Describe how the program will be funded when this grant is completed.
  1. Appendices may include:
  • IRS determination letter
  • Charitable solicitation letter
  • Board list
  • Résumés of key staff
  • Program budget
  • Organizational budget
  • Financial statements and/or audit
  •  990 (Tax Return)
  •  Press clippings
  •  Publications (i.e. newsletter) only if requested

The People Pages: Proposal Writing Tips

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Before starting your proposal…

  1. Develop a relationship with the funder.  Call the foundation and pitch your idea before preparing a proposal.  You may get important feedback about their priorities and clarify any misunderstandings.
  2. Read the guidelines very carefully.  Follow the format they request.  If they have an application form, get a copy well ahead of time.  Make sure you have time to prepare and deliver your proposal before the deadline.
  3. Make sure your project fits in with the grantmaker’s goals.  Research grants that have been distributed in the past and compare those projects to yours.
  4. Determine the proper amount to ask for.  Match grant funds with other sources of income and make sure your asking amount is within the foundation’s normal range.
  5. Make sure you are not ‘reinventing the wheel’.  Investigate other programs in your community and be prepared to differentiate your program’s methodology, geographical area served, and/or population served.
  6. Demonstrate collaboration and/or efficiency.  Be prepared to discuss ways that your organization has partnered with other community organizations through joint efforts or by sharing information/replicating programs.  Show that your organization has taken steps to reduce costs and streamline activities.
  7. Have a backup plan if the grant money is not received.  This is one reason why it’s important to diversify your income.  Don’t depend on one grant to support a program.  Figure out alternative ways to implement the program with limited funds and/or identify and pursue additional sources of revenue.

After completing your grant proposal, make sure…

  1. The spelling and grammar are correct.  Have a second person proofread the proposal. 
  2. The envelope and cover letter are addressed to a particular person.
  3. The proposal is interesting to read and full of information, yet concise. Use simple language to tell a compelling story about your organization and programs.
  4. All attachments are included and in order.  Refer to the foundation’s guidelines for a list of required attachments.  Don’t send extra materials that aren’t specifically requested.
  5. The appropriate number of copies are enclosed.

After getting funded….

  1. Thank the grantor.  Immediately send an acknowledgement in writing.
  2. Spend funds according to your agreement.  You are ethically obligated to do what you spelled out in your grant proposal.  If something major changes, call the foundation and discuss the situation.
  3. Report the actual outcomes of the grant.  This helps foundations learn more about the needs of nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve.

The People Pages: Types of Charitable Gifts

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Types of donations, or charitable gifts, include:

  • Liquid assets –may be in the form of cash, check, money order, or securities
  • Grants – these are foundation gifts that do not need to be repaid.  Types of grants include:
    • General Operating Support
    • Program Support for specific programs or projects
    • Seed Money for new programs or organizations
    • Capacity Building to develop organizational skills and resources
    • Capital to fund facilities and equipment purchase and improvement
    • Matching which match other funds raised by the organization
    • Challenge which are conditional on a certain amount of other funds being raise
  • Planned gifts –large gifts that transfer assets from an individual to an organization contingent on the donor’s death.  The most popular types of planned gifts are:
    • Bequests – an organization is named as a beneficiary in a will
    • Charitable Remainder Trusts – the donor makes a donation which is invested into an annuity; the donor gets an income stream as long as they are alive and upon their death the remainder is transferred to the organization
  • Real estate, artwork, or other valuable items
  • In kind donations – material goods that help the organization fulfill its mission
  • Volunteer time

Other sources of income for your organization might include:

  • Membership
  • Program Fees
  • Earned Income from the sale of goods or services

Remind your volunteers and donors about your organization’s material needs as part of developing a mutually beneficial relationship with them.  Incorporate opportunities for giving into all of your interactions and activities, including:

  • Annual giving campaign
  • One on one communications
  • Special events
  • Newsletters
  • Email newsletters and announcements
  • Website
  • Capital and other special campaigns

The People Pages: Types of Donors

from The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

There are many different entities that contribute their valuable time and money to nonprofit organizations.   It is important to diversify the types of donors who support your organization in order to ensure your organization’s financial health.   By developing relationships with a variety of funding sources, your organization will be more likely to generate new sources of revenue when other resources become extended.  Consider each of the following types of donors when developing your fundraising plan:

  • Individuals who contribute to nonprofits include program participants, volunteers, staff, customers, friends, neighbors, good samaritans, and philanthropists.
  • Small businesses often contribute to nonprofit organizations in exchange for an opportunity to promote the name and goodwill of the company in the community.
  • Corporations usually support nonprofit organizations through a corporate foundation or community involvement program.  Many companies match their employees’ charitable gifts.
  • Foundations usually provide grants, or gifts that are not repaid.  There are several types of foundations:
  1. Operating Foundations run programs and do not distribute grants.
  2. Family Foundations are founded and governed by an individual, family, or other cohesive group.
  3. Community Foundations pool funds from multiple donors, manage the funds, and distribute grants according to each donor’s wishes.
  • Churches often hold fundraising events or donate a portion of their collections to religious causes; many also give to nonreligious local community groups.
  • Community Service Clubs, such as the Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, and Soroptomist International are actively involved in raising funds and awareness for local issues.
  • Federated Funds, such as the United Way, collect and distribute donations to member organizations.   Most of these donations are solicited through workplace giving campaigns.
  • Government; at the state and federal level, distributes funds to nonprofit organizations through grant initiatives sponsored by specific departments or agencies.  Local governments may also make contributions or grants.

Your strategy and approach for each type of donor should correspond to that donor’s motivation for involvement with your organization, their giving history with your organization and in the community, their ability to give, and their socioeconomic characteristics.  Conduct extensive research about each donor before approaching them to ask for a gift.

The People Pages: Donor Research

From The People Pages: Resources for Social Change (c) 2003 The Fruition Coalition

Before asking for gifts, it is very important to research prospects in order to gain a better understanding of their needs and motivations.  This research enables you to communicate with donors appropriately, which results in increased connection to, and involvement with, your organization.

When asking for major gifts, such as grants or planned gifts, specific information about the foundation, corporation, or individual should be collected and analyzed before making contact.  Sources of information for each include:


  • View their website for publications, guidelines, and other information.
  • Obtain a copy of their most recent tax return through The Foundation Center’s Website (  This lists the grants that were made, the amount of the grants, and the names of organizations that they supported.
  • Call a program officer and pitch your idea.  Get feedback and suggestions.


  • View their website and look for their community involvement section.  If they don’t have a separate section for charitable activities, it might be found in the investor information section.
  • Obtain a copy of the corporation’s annual report, which communicates the company’s values, goals, and financial position.
  • Obtain a copy of the company’s Hoover’s or Dun and Bradstreet report for key executive staff names, details about products and services, and financial information.
  • Read articles about the company in newspapers and trade journals.


  • Usually individuals who are approached for major gifts have a personal connection to the organization.  They, or someone close to them, may have benefited from your programs.  Have a conversation with the people within your organization who know such individuals in order to get ideas about the donor’s interests and values.
  • Go online and type the person’s name in a search engine to learn about their history, achievements, and affiliations.  Read magazine or newspaper articles that feature them.

When asking for smaller gifts, such as annual giving or membership, it is more effective to group donors according to demographic, socioeconomic, or personal characteristics and conduct research on the group as a whole.  This grouping process is also referred to as segmentation.

Donors can be segmented according to…

  • Level of participation in your programs and services
  • Giving history – the frequency and amount of past gifts
  • Income/wealth – their ability and willingness to give
  • Age, gender, or culture
  • Hobbies and interests


Winter 2013 Webinars Announced

The Fruition Coalition’s Winter 2013 webinars are focused on capacity building. These classes will strengthen your organization to position it for sustainability and success. Each online class costs $45 and includes a free comprehensive e-Workbook ($19.99 value). Classes begin at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Grant Proposal Writing

February 8, 2013

This class will prepare both inexperienced and seasoned grant proposal writers for successful writing and project management. Topics covered include identifying prospective donors, developing relationships with philanthropic partners, grant proposal structure and contents, organizing the writing process with a team, budgeting, and managing grants that have been received. Students will receive a free copy of The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal e-Workbook (ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1).

Nonprofit Marketing Planning

February 15, 2013

This class will guide students through the process of articulating information about the organization, environment, relationships, and communication leading to the development of marketing strategies and a comprehensive marketing plan. This class will help your organization become more grounded in its values and identity, create opportunities for meaningful engagement, and develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships so that organizational goals can be achieved. Students will receive a free copy of The Fruition Coalition Marketing Plan e-Workbook (ISBN 978-1-300-59132-0).

Board Development

March 1, 2013

This class will explore the multiple components of a comprehensive board development initiative. Topics covered include governance and other responsibilities, recruitment, orientation, operations, professional development, evaluation, and developing a strong relationship with the executive director. Students will learn how to expand the board’s skills and strengthen their sense of purpose and commitment. Students will receive a free copy of The Fruition Coalition Board Development e-Workbook (forthcoming).

Strategic Planning

March 15, 2013

In this class, students will learn about the strategic planning process. Topics covered include facilitation and organization, community engagement, data analysis, decision making, goal setting, implementation, and evaluation. Participants will be prepared to create a living plan that is easily accessible and user friendly. Students will receive a free copy of The Fruition Coalition Strategic Planning Workbook (forthcoming).