Worried about raising money? Here's how to do it.

Posted: Apr 27th, 2017 Updated: Dec 17, 2020

If you're overwhelmed, know that we've been there too! Here are some tips to make that will make your fundraising goal less daunting.

Whether you are a first-time candidate, a veteran fundraiser, or somewhere between, we've all gazed blankly at a list of potential donors and felt exhausted. Wouldn't it be great if we were all like Bruce Wayne and could self-finance our mission of good? Well, most of us are not, so it's time to roll up our sleeves, get creative, and get to work.


Break down your goal

It's overwhelming to figure out how you are going to raise enough for a new car or home on the generosity of others. The trick? Rather than worrying about the whole picture, break down your fundraising goal into smaller pieces and develop plans for each piece. Raising $10,000? Figure out how you are going to raise $1,000. Can you think of 10 people that might give you $100? Start there.

Raising $1 million? Brainstorm where that first $250,000, $100,000, or even $50,000 can come from. And if you can figure out those buckets, develop sub plans and categories that will help you reach each of those goals.


Donor Triangles and the 80/20 Rule

Here is the reality. Unless there are legal, or other restrictions, that cap your fundraising, nearly all organizations receive 70% - 80% of their resources from 20% - 30% of their donors. It's just a fact, and a critical one when drafting a fundraising program.

When first drafting your fundraising plan, start by populating a donor triangle. Begin with either the maximum contribution you can accept or define a top level of at least 25% of your total fundraising goal. Then, work down in natural and incremental steps, assigning levels and the number of gifts you need at each level to meet your total fundraising goal.

As an example, here is a typical donor triangle for a nonprofit seeking to raise $100,000.

Not every group follows their donor triangle exactly, but completing a donor triangle will give you a frame of reference, establish a goal to work towards, and give you an understanding of the number of donors you need at each given level. To learn more about donor triangles check out this post.


Strategies, methods, and tactics

After completing your donor triangle, you now need to establish strategies and tactics to recruit donors at the various levels. For most small-to-mid-size campaigns and non-profits, there are few key methods you should include in your plan.

  • Major Donors
    • People of influence and affluence. Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Oliver Queen, and Emma Frost. These are your major donors that will fill the top levels of your donor triangle. Major donors give because of their relationship to the organization, staff, or other personal connection.
  • Solicitations
    • Direct mail, email, online, and social media fundraising are great tools to round out your donor program. These programs require some skill and planning. While you don’t need Lucius Fox to design your program, do a little bit of background research when developing a plan. Come back and check out our upcoming blog post on direct mail, or reach out to our friends at Blueprint Public Affairs. It's their specialty.
  • Events
    • Events are great ways to meet new donors and expand your base, but they come with risks. Events can be expensive and time-consuming. Use them sparingly and strategically to grow your network and increase your list.

The most important thing with choosing your strategy is managing your time and what is the most effective. Check out this post for a list of strategies and what the most effective method is. 


Update, rewrite and revisit your plan

Here is the thing about a fundraising plan - it's never truly done. It is more of a guiding document to keep you on track and thinking creatively on how to grow your base and reach your fundraising goals.

Falling behind in one category? Rethink your buckets and whether you can expand that category or exceed your goal in another, great! Tweak your plan to make up for where you are short.

Review your financial plan at least monthly, troubleshoot where you are coming up short, celebrate your success, and tweak the goals to make sure you stay on track and hit your goal.


Want to see a sample fundraising plan? One that breaks down all the buckets to get to $100,000? Sign up to our email list and download an excel fundraising plan template here.

Matt Lyon

Matt has over 12 years of political fundraising experience. Matt’s experience includes overseeing up to fourteen staff members, administering budgets exceeding $1.1 million annually, directing million dollar paid media programs, raising over $5 million for various causes and organizations, and developing and implementing communications strategies that led to dozens of stories in local and national outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Matt is an experienced and campaign veteran always willing to help the next candidate make a difference.