As a former Executive Director of several large-scale nonprofits, I know how complex it can be to develop a strong fundraising strategy that will appease a BoD, while also ensuring you’re not setting overly aggressive goals that will drive your over-worked fundraising team into the ground. A really great way to drive straight towards an achievable fundraising strategy is to use your historical benchmarks to back your way into how to set up an action plan to hit or exceed your goal.

Let’s start by establishing how much you need to raise in your next fundraising campaign. Let’s say you need to raise $20K.

Next, pull all your fundraising and supporter engagement information from the previous year or campaign. How big was your email list? What percentage of your email list ended up making a donation? What was the amount of your average donation? What were your most successful donation channels (website, IRL, events, texting, etc)? Let’s use the below as an example:

Last year during a similar campaign, you raised $15K from 200 number of donors. The average donation was around $75. These donations came out of fundraising asks via email and at live events, and your total email and attendee list was made up of 1000 people. That means you had a donor conversion of 20%.

If you anticipate similar conversion rate of 20%, that means you’ll need to aim to get around 270 people to donate the average $75. On average, only 1/3 of donors give more than once (M+R 2018 Benchmarks Report). That means the 270 donors you need to lock down this year will likely be made up of 90 new people. This should guide a very different engagement strategy than if you are depending upon the same pool of supporters year over year. So, this year you should be looking to grow your email list to 1500 people (20% of 1500 is your target 270 donors, plus some extra growth baked into account for the need to identify new donors).

The other option is to diversify your means of donation appeals, and/or provide opportunities for people to make larger donations. If you exponentially grow your email list, you could rely on smaller donations, which could be maximized by donation appeals via text and/or social media. Alternatively, you could shoot for a smaller number of donors who can afford to make larger donations. This strategy would be best served by IRL opportunities like events or dinners where your donors can see the impact of your work.

Kicking off your fundraising strategic planning process by doing some analysis of previous endeavors, you can use your benchmarks to inform the right levers to pull in order to hit your goal.