First Take – Fundraising Planning for 2016

First Take – Fundraising Planning for 2016

By November, you should have most of your fall fundraising pretty well dialed – hopefully, anyway. So now it’s time to start looking ahead to 2016. BEFORE your program people come to you asking if you can raise X or increase giving by Y%, here are some questions you should look at to get ready.

First, take a look at what you’ve forecasted for year-end 2015 (See more about forecasting, here). If you plan 2016 based on meeting a goal, and you don’t end up meeting that goal, you’ll be in trouble right out of the gates in January. I once had a boss who asked what I could raise in the coming year. I answered $1.5 million. He said great – please raise $2.5 million and told me that $2.5 million was only 20% greater than this year. I pointed out that we weren’t going to make this year’s budget because he had done the same thing to last year’s Director of Development. In fact, he had been doing this every year and the gap was just getting larger and larger. (I left later that year, and he left shortly after that – some things you just can’t fix.)


Fundraiser’s Almanac – October

Fundraiser’s Almanac – November

  • Fundraising Planning for 2016 – I Dream of Board Fundraising
  • Fundraising Planning for 2016 – Calendared Events
  • Fundraising Planning for 2016 – Annual Giving (Membership)
  • Giving Thanks


Don’t fall into that trap. Base next year’s goals on this year’s actual, not this year’s budget. You won’t know what this year’s actual will be until mid to late January – which implies two things: First you need to get better and better at forecasting, and second, you need to have a check-in meeting about the budget in late January.

Next, you’re going to want to work with a calendar. Take a close look at your development calendar this year and be honest about when things actually got done. Circle or highlight the bottlenecks. When did the hair-pulling start? What could you have done differently to make things easier? I’ve advocated on this blog that you “take stock” (See Taking Stock and Taking Stock – Q2) at several points each year to leave yourself and/or those who follow you some good information about what happened and how you could have done things better. Now is a good time to reread those notes and plan those better things. By the way, this is also a great time to make decisions about what NOT to do again next year, too.

Gather also information about what donors gave during the year. Make lists and specifically include:

  • Every foundation grant – review the logic behind each grant request, the grant deadline, the amount of the grant, and the date the funds were released. Was the grant repeatable? Could you go back to the foundation for additional grants? When?
  • Every corporate gift – Same story – what did you ask for, when did you ask, and when did you get an answer. Was the grant repeatable?
  • Board member gifts – What were they asked to do, and what did they end up doing? What will the new board members do in 2016? And don’t forget that some board members won’t be board members in 2016!
  • Gifts from donors cultivated by board members or staff in 2015 – What were they asked to give, and what did they end up giving?
  • Gifts from donors to be cultivated by board members or staff in 2016 – What were they asked to give in 2015, and what did they end up giving?

Clearly, some of this data gathering will be speculative for now. What do you expect to happen by year’s end?

Finally, look at everyone else in your database. Specifically NOT including everyone in the above segments, calculate your renewal rate and your average gift. Start with everyone who gave money in 2014. How many gave money again in 2015? That’s the renewal rate. The average gift is the total amount given by the 2015 donors divided by their number. If you have these two numbers, you can project how much will be given by 2015 donors in 2016.

What you’re going to end up with is a pretty good sense of how much money you could raise next year if you keep doing the things you did this year. It’s likely to be more, because you should be asking for more each year, perhaps by as much as 12-15%. But it’s not likely to be much more than that, unless you plan to do something different. So if your program people come to you asking if you can raise X, and X is MUCH greater than what you raised this year, you’ll need to add something – like a special campaign, or a second appeal, or another event, or……?

Got all that? Now you’re ready to plan. We’ll get started next week.



David Allen


Photo credit: Wheelbarrow Full of Pumpkins by David Allen.


Learn more about how David can help you with your membership fundraising here.

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