Master Your Fundraising Calendar


This is the year to master the fundraising basics.

There are clear strategies that you can follow to build lifetime donor relationships and fully fund your nonprofit’s mission. It really can be done!

These strategies will give you the highest return for your fundraising efforts.

Here’s a plan to help you tackle WHAT you need to do each month.

These are the state-of-the-art skills to NAIL this year.

January — It’s Thank You Time

It’s time to totally nail your thank you process. What does your donor’s post-gift experience look like?

Please remember that your thank you is the FIRST step in donor retention and building donor loyalty.

So go overboard and show your donors some love.

  • Create a welcome package for new donors and extend a special personal greeting to them.
  • Send several thank you letters  – one from a volunteer or board member, one from your board chair and one from someone who has benefitted from your organization.

Remember the old adage: “Find 7 ways to thank your donors and they will give again.”

Feb: Storytelling Month: Ramp Up Your Messaging Skills

Just how powerful are your stories? Try these:

  • stories about people whose lives are changed thru your work
  • donor’s stories about why they give
  • board members’ stories about why they care and what you do

Are they interesting? Imaginative? Full of energy? I know you can do it!

Remember it’s the story that evokes an emotional connection—not statistics.

March: Find New Major Gift Prospects

It’s time get serious about major gift fundraising – no matter how busy you are. :)  If you think you don’t have enough major gift prospects, start here:

Consider these oft-ignored major gift prospects who may not be getting the attention they need:

  • former board members
  • former capital campaign donors
  • former major donors in the past 10 years

Go see them with an update or impact report. I’ll bet they are thrilled!

April: Cultivating Relationships with Major Donors

Ouch, this is where it can get tricky.  Just how do you develop a trusting relationship without being pushy or needy?

You need to master the soft skills of major gift fundraising – everything from gracious etiquette, to listening skills, to finding out your donor’s hot buttons.

This month, recommit to getting out of the office for thank you visit and advice visits.

Tell your donors, “I’d love to hear your story,” and then just listen.

May: Brush up on Face-to-Face Asking Skills

One-on-one asking conversations are the moment of truth. You’ve got to master this if you want to be a successful fundraiser.

What DO you say in a high-stakes fundraising conversation? How DO you warm up a donor for a successful ask?

You have to always ask for permission to ask. Ask the donor if she is interested in learning about how she can support your cause. Ask her if you can bring some ideas to her.

June: Time to Create Your Annual Fundraising Plan

Do you take time in the summer to create an Operating or Annual Fundraising Plan?

Here’s when you take stock of the past year, and evaluate everything that happened: your special events, your staff, your board’s participation, every single fundraising strategy.

Then craft your strategies for the coming year with a great fundraising plan.

July: It’s Time for Donor Retention to Build up Donor Loyalty.

If you don’t have a full-fledged Donor Loyalty program, don’t wait to make it happen. Everyone is doing it!

First create some metrics. Find out you donor retention data and craft a plan to improve it!

An all-out Donor Loyalty Program includes:

Donor communications – thank you’s, impact reports, newsletters

Donor engagement experiences – tours, events, panel discussions, meetings

Break your donors into segments by size of gift, and custom tailor your Donor Loyalty Plan for each donor segment.

August: September – Year-End Fundraising Time!

Now you’re entering major fundraising season—the year end.

Let’s start planning early.

If you add specific strategies to your campaign, you may be able to raise 50% more than last year. (That’s was one INSIDERS’ experience.)

It’s time to create a killer step-by-step Year-End Fundraising Plan.

  • Warm up your donors with a “thankathon.”
  • Then design a multi-channel fundraising effort – direct mail, phone follow-ups, email and social media.
  • Use the exact same message over and over in each medium.
  • And lay out a sequence of appeals that reminds your donors over and over how much they care about your cause.

October – Nail Your Social Media Communications and Your #GivingDay

It seems like marketing is now synonymous with social media. You can’t mess around any more and show up as fuddy-duddy or out of touch. It’s time to get with it.

I bet your cause could get a whole lot more out of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Don’t forget that people are social creatures.

This month, empower some smart people to help drive the social media conversation for your organization.

  • Be sure your cause has interesting things to say and share online. (images, videos)
  • Seek input from your supporters online.
  • Rally the troops, ask for help, drum up volunteers — all through social media.

November – Tweak Your Web Site and Make Last Minute Plans

Now’s the time get ready for that tidal wave of year-end online gifts.

You need to tweak your web donation page and make sure it’s easy to use. (hint: add video or a sweet image.)

Add a web page that says, “Your gifts at work”—with a pie chart of your revenue sources and how you use the money.

Post your overhead percentage—and build credibility with financial data.

December – Show Everybody Some Love!

You’ll be with year-end appeals, parties, and gifts to honor donors, not to mention your own family’s plans for the holidays!

So this month focus on appreciating everybody.

Send holiday wishes to your wonderful donors who help make your work possible.

And be sure you thank the staff, and make them feel appreciated. They’ll reward you with loyalty and even better performance.

In December we all have some fun – we focus on ourselves and our careers: leadership skills, managing stress and personal development. 

Bottom Line:

This calendar covers everything from annual fund campaign skills, to social media and crowdfunding, to major gifts.

You can add your fundraising events, corporate and foundation grant deadlines and other activities,  But here’s a great place to start.

Let’s build lifetime donor partnerships and get our missions full funded. OK?