Fundraising Planning for 2016 – Annual Giving (Membership)

Fundraising Planning for 2016 – Annual Giving (Membership)

How much money will you raise for operations in 2016? Can you predict with any kind of accuracy?

You can if you’ve been paying attention and if you follow the Steps.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Segregate your board members for separate consideration. (See Board Evaluations, Board Campaigns.)


Fundraiser’s Almanac – November

Fundraiser’s Almanac – December

  • Fall Appeal 2nd Drop
  • Good News
  • Planning for Year-End
  • Filing/Data Entry
  • Lapsed Member Letters


Step 2: Separate the donors to whom you will pay individualized cultivation attention from those with whom you will primarily communicate at arm’s length. For each member of the first group, you will need to propose an ask amount and an ask date.

Now visualize the ask actually happening. Who is involved? Was there a cultivation strategy prior to the ask? possibly including several steps? Is the ask in person? Or in a special letter? Write enough of a paragraph plan to make sure it happens – for each donor. This group explicitly includes:

  • People who gave more than a certain threshold amount last year,
  • People on your radar for some other reason, and
  • Foundations and businesses who have supported you in the past.

This might be a short list for you. Or it might be much longer. You might use a threshold gift of $1,000 and still be overwhelmed. Or you might consider all of your donors in this category. Regardless, if these are people and donors worth individualized attention, they are worth the planning effort. Start early and calendar the work. (See Use a Planning Calendar.)

Step 3: Assign a discount value to their ask amount. Some people will give you what you ask for. Some will even give more. But if you start working with enough donors, the statistics will catch up to you eventually. I generally work off an 80% rule. If I’m virtually certain a specific donor will give what I’m asking, I calculate the discount at 80%. If it’s 50:50, I make the discount 40%.

Also, when you’re discounting, think about what they gave in the immediate past several years. If a very wealthy donor has given you $500/year for several years, the chances are pretty good that she will give you $500 again, and perhaps $700 or even $1,000. But the chances are not necessarily great that she will give you $10,000, even if you ask for it directly – and even if she can afford it. Whereas it might be completely appropriate to ask for that much, it won’t be prudent to assume an $8,000 outcome.

BTW: This is the group of donors that collectively represents the great majority of your organizational growth potential. It is easier to ask someone giving $250 to consider a gift of $1,000 than it is to ask someone giving $100 to give $250.

Step 4: Add the discount column.

Step 5: Calculate how much everyone else gave in the aggregate this year. Note that this figure is independent of the medium used to solicit the gifts. If you’re in the mail, on the telephone, on-line – it doesn’t matter. After you’ve taken all the bigger donors out in Step 2, count on this group to give no more than it gave last year.

Step 6: Look back at 2014 donors who did not give in 2015 – your Lapsed Members. Add up what they gave in 2014 and multiply that number by 40%. (See Lapsed Member Letters.)

Step 7: Calculate your organization’s actual receipts for non-gift cash this year. Non-gift cash is money someone gives you to purchase something – like event tickets, merchandise, raffle tickets, and auction items.

Step 8: Now add these five totals together to get your first cut gift revenue prediction for 2016.

  • Board goal
  • Discount column for the larger gift solicitations
  • Actual 2015 results from everyone else
  • 40% of actual results from 2014 from donors who did not give in 2015
  • Actual non-gift cash from 2015

(Note that I did not include New Members, who nearly always cost more to recruit than they actually give.)

Now compare the total figure with what your program side needs you to raise in 2016, and you’re almost certain to have a gap. Put it this way: I’ve never NOT had a gap.

So what can you plan for the gap?

  • You could reduce your expense budget.
  • You could ask the big dogs for more money (subject to the caution about paying attention to what they are used to giving.)
  • You could add an event or an appeal.

Or you could start speculating.

The premise behind the separation in Step 2 is that everyone you start with is already a donor. But what if they weren’t? What if you were asking relative strangers? Cold-calling friends of board members or area businesses? What if you were sending grant requests to foundations who had never heard of you?

Strategically, that’s fine, but discount accordingly, perhaps at 10 or 15%. Ask for $100,000 in cold-call grants and budget successfully raising $10,000 from the effort.



So does this make sense to you? It’s harder than I thought it would be to write this generically enough to apply broadly across many different types of land trusts.

What are you doing to plan your 2016 work?



David Allen


Photo credit: Paw Paw River courtesy of Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.


Related Posts

First Take – Fundraising Planning for 2016

Fundraising Planning for 2016 – I Dream of Board Fundraising

Fundraising Planning for 2016 – Use a Planning Calendar


Find out how David can help you with your membership fundraising here.

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