Marketing & Promos
October 25, 2021

How to Plan an Annual Fundraising Calendar for Your Nonprofit

For many nonprofits, one of the most important activities at the end of each fiscal year is the creation of a fundraising calendar for the new year. Not only can it help you hit your fundraising targets, but it can also keep everyone in the organization working towards a common goal.

But how do you create a good and holistic fundraising calendar? What elements does it need to include? In this article, we will go through the step-by-step process of creating a fundraising calendar and also provide a few tips that will help you achieve your goals for the new year.

What is a fundraising calendar and why is it important to have one

A fundraising calendar is a key tool that keeps all team members on the same page. It outlines the events your organization will focus on in the next 12 months and details when these events will begin and end. Remember that every successful nonprofit is a combination of different departments working together to achieve a common goal. Without a framework for integrating the different functions of each department, resources could be wasted as activities could end up being uncoordinated and random. This is why fundraising calendars are crucial. 

For example, if a fundraiser is coming up, the marketing team will need to create promotions, the finance department will need to provide the funds in time and the HR department may need to recruit new volunteers. All these activities will need to be in sync to ensure a successful fundraiser. A fundraising calendar ensures that the heads of the different departments know their roles to make the event a success. 

Also, people can get caught up in day-to-day tasks. A calendar reminds everyone of the big picture that the organization is working towards. It can also help you stick to deadlines. And it can motivate everyone by clarifying what needs to be done. 

Related: An Introduction to Online Gaming-based Fundraising for Nonprofits

How to create a fundraising calendar

While there is no one standard way to write a great fundraising calendar, it’s always a good idea to follow a system. This will ensure you won’t forget anything important. It will also help you complete the process quickly and easily. Here are the steps to follow: 

1. Determine your goals and fundraising targets

Every year is a new chance for your nonprofit to strive to be bigger and better. So, before you start creating your annual fundraising calendar, think of your biggest goals, fundraising targets and overarching strategy. They will help you determine the priorities in the new year.

Do you want to double your donations in the next year? Do you want to improve your donor retention rate? Knowing your goals will help you decide on the kind of activities you should focus on. 

2. List all key dates

You may have board meetings or other events you conduct each year—you need to list these. Also, remember to list important days that happen throughout the year—Giving Tuesday, Valentine's Day, Independence Day, etc. And take note of any events that relate to your cause. For example, World Oceans Day would be important if your nonprofit focuses on protecting marine life. 

3. Plan for peak fundraising times in the year

You have probably noticed that during some months of the year, you get more donations than others. These are the natural giving seasons. And you need to highlight them in the calendar so that when you start filling it, you have the major fundraising activities and campaigns aligned with these timeframes. 

Generally, fall is great to kickstart major fundraising campaigns. December is naturally considered a month of giving. January is also very lucrative, as donors may be looking for tax benefits and some might want to start the year by donating. Historical trends suggest that summer is one of the worst times for fundraising. Analyzing fundraising and donor data from past years for your nonprofit will help you understand the best times in a year to plan campaigns and donor outreach. 

4. Fill your calendar

Now that you know what activities you should focus on, it's time to start filling your calendar. Be prepared to make tough decisions as you may have more activities on your list than the time in the calendar would allow. Also, make sure you allocate enough time to each task. Otherwise, you may have some events lasting for longer than you planned, which will affect other events or even require you to cancel them.

After you fill your calendar, review it. In addition, get feedback from all the major departments of the organization. You need to ensure that the calendar is in sync with other calendars—like the communications calendar. 

Tips to create a successful fundraising calendar

There are some recommended best practices you should follow as you create your calendar. Not only will these ensure the calendar is set up for success, but they will also help you make the most from it.  

1. Give your team access

The calendar should be accessible to everyone, not just those in managerial positions. If you are using an online calendar, this will be easy to share. Most CRM softwares allow you to share the calendar with your whole team. Encourage everyone to look at the calendar at least once a month as it may get updated regularly.

2. Have monthly or quarterly themes

Want to stay focused on your fundraising calendar? Then group activities around themes. For instance, you might make July a “Thank our Donors” month. This will allow everyone in the organization to remember the overall goal for the month. And as a bonus, themes make communicating goals easy and also enable better planning of content through newsletters and social media.

3. Include monthly charitable gaming events

Fundraising through online charitable gaming is a quick, easy and engaging way to raise money. Since the world has shifted from hosting events in-person to digital and hybrid setup, online charitable gaming is slated to become even more popular as a fundraising channel. Including events like online 50/50 raffles or Catch the Ace in your fundraising calendar can help attract donors and grow your donor database. Deciding to run these virtual events in advance will provide ample time to plan marketing communications and secure all required licenses. 

Related: 8 Email Marketing Tips for Nonprofits to Inspire Giving and Attract Donors 

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4. Base your calendar on data

The greatest resource you have when making your calendar is your past data—review it so it can help you make the perfect calendar. For example, by looking at your past data, you may see that certain activities perform better than others in terms of attracting donor response. This will help you decide which events to focus on.

5. Start early

Whether you operate on a January 1 to December 31 or July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, start creating your calendar early—at least a month before your fiscal year begins. Giving yourself ample time will enable you to get all the information you need, verify its accuracy, conduct interviews, and even get feedback. It will ensure that you don’t skip important steps that compromise the accuracy and reliability of your calendar.

We hope these tips will help you get started creating your fundraising calendar. It doesn’t matter what tool you use—a spreadsheet or a dedicated calendar software—the process remains the same. Once you create your first calendar, you will notice that creating the next one will be easier. 

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