Making Plans to Be Successful Fundraising This Fall

Making Plans to Be Successful Fundraising This Fall


9 July 2024


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


A couple of weeks ago, I posted about working your appeal letters around the election this year: Let’s Answer the Election Question. In it, I offered three different timelines for mailing, depending on whether you intend to offer a single letter or a letter and one or two follow-ups.

This week, I’m taking a larger view of the timeline for your Fall campaign more generally.

Beginning with segmentation.

Segmentation sounds a lot scarier than it is. It does take time, but quality time spent right now can help you raise more money this Fall.

Start with a goal. Always start with a goal. How much money do you need to raise this Fall? If you can’t answer this question – it’s July! – stop reading now and get that part done. Everything else, from how many donors you will need to how much you will ask from your lead donors to how many follow-ups to plan for – all depends on how much money you need to raise.

For the purposes of this blog post, let’s say the answer is $50,000.


Now download into a spreadsheet a list of everyone and every institution (business and foundation) that gave you money in 2022 and 2023. Note in separate columns the amount they gave in each of those years plus any money they might have given already this year. Use the calendar year for this level of planning even if you have a different fiscal year. You are interested in the amount they gave cumulatively in each calendar year.

Now make a new column for Fall 2024.

Pull your Board members up to the top of the list. For each one, write in a number in the Fall 2024 column that represents the amount of money you expect they will give before December 31. If they have already given this year and/or are unlikely to give again, write in ZERO.

For the remaining list, move everyone to the bottom who might be unlikely to give again in 2024 – perhaps because they never give in the Fall, because they have requested not to be solicited, or because you have personal knowledge about them that might make it awkward to ask.

Now assume that everyone else on the list will be asked to give between now and December 31. How will they be solicited? Why will they say yes? How can we build a communications campaign around delivering information to them that supports their reasons for saying yes?


Start by understanding that you will not succeed simply by dividing the number of donors you have into $50,000. One-size-fits-all approaches do not work. A single letter won’t work either. And letters that ask for specific amounts of money always raise more than letters that are not specific.

Not everyone will give the exact same amount. So, assuming that you are successful, how will $50,000 actually come in?

Here’s one way it might work:

  • Board members collectively give $10,000
  • Top 5 donors collectively give $25,000
    • 1 X $7,500
    • 2 X $5,000
    • 3 X $2,500
  • Next 28 donors collectively give $15,000
    • 8 X $1,000
    • 8 X $500
    • 12 X $250
  • Everyone else collectively gives the last $10,000
    • 20 X $200
    • 35 X $100
    • 50 X $50


So, roughly 140 donors plus your Board members.

You will note that the above list adds to $60,000. This is for two reasons. First, things don’t always go according to plan, and it’s useful to build in a cushion. And second, it will cost you something to get all these people solicited. Aiming for $60,000 gives you a reasonable shot at netting $50,000.

Now you can start lining up individual donors with request amounts. Based on what they have given in the last two years, and especially what they gave LAST year, together with what you need to ask for to make your goal, assign an ask amount to each donor – like you would ask for a specific amount of money in a foundation grant request.


BUT – there’s always a caveat. Here it is: For every GIFT you will receive this Fall you should plan to ask at least three people to give that amount. Because not everyone will say Yes. And not everyone who says Yes will say Yes to the amount you request.

So, using the above giving chart, you will need to ask:

  • 3 prospects for $7,500
  • 6 prospects for $5,000
  • 9 prospects for $2,500


All the way down to asking:

  • 150 prospects for $50


Or basically 420 prospects plus Board members

If you can’t make the numbers work, or if you run out of prospects to ask, you have a couple of choices. You can lower the goal amount, or you can increase the amount you are planning to ask of specific people until all the math works again.

Now – HOW will all these people be asked?

You will want to ask some donors in person. Make a plan for that. Others may get a renewal notice or an appeal letter in the mail – plus follow-ups, of course. Still others might give in response to email. Or Giving Tuesday. Or a fundraising event.

Then, you will want to time your social media posts, paper and email newsletters, and special events to arrive reasonably before the solicitations do.

And all of this around the election!


In each case, or at least by each segment, name a sub goal to be raised, make a plan, and map the plan into a calendar. Assume it will all get done, and imagine that doing it all is possible.


And guess what?

You probably need to start now.



Cheers, and have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by ZenAga courtesy Pixabay



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  • Susan B. Graham
    Posted at 09:52h, 09 July Reply

    Got it. We do have an overarching plan for social media for the year but missed adding in the appeal support. We won’t do that again! Our letters hit the mailboxes late June so hopefully, and now that the holiday is over, we can still drive support. Thanks for the tip!

  • Alice Hudson Pell
    Posted at 09:15h, 09 July Reply

    Love a gift pyramid!!

  • Susan
    Posted at 08:19h, 09 July Reply

    How do you recommend using social media to support the appeal?

    • David Allen
      Posted at 08:51h, 09 July Reply

      Hopefully, you will already have an overarching communications theme for the year that is driving your social media content and the subject of your appeal requests. (See this January post about halfway down.) After that, it’s not about content; it’s about timing. I would plan a blitz of posts just before and just after the appeal letters and emails are scheduled to arrive. The not-so-subtle message is to look for your personalized letter or email. Toward the end of December, I recommend changing that not-so-subtle message to how easy it is to make a difference with links to a generic landing page.

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