How to Create a Fundraising Calendar for Your Organization
This post is part of my Fundraising Planning series, where I walk through different aspects of fundraising planning to support organizations in preparing and building capacity for successful fundraising. Check out the previous posts on fundraising needs and introduction to fundraising calendars and stay tuned for posts on finding funding opportunities and more!
How to create a fundraising calendar
Fundraising calendars can be an incredibly useful fundraising tool for your organization. This post will walk you through eight steps to create a powerful calendar for successful fundraising!
Missed the introduction to fundraising calendars? Check it out to learn about the parts of a fundraising calendar then come back to create one!
Step 1- Identify your fundraising needs, goals, and opportunities
Before filling in your actual calendar, you need to identify your fundraising needs, goals, and opportunities. Fundraising needs include the amount of money you need this year to support your programming, as well a general guide for what funding you will need for next year. Be sure to also include any capacity building needs, such as a strategic planning session, new computers, additional staff, etc. Learn how to identify your fundraising needs
Once your fundraising needs are identified, set your fundraising goals. Look into what you raised last year from each funding source, and which needs the funding fulfilled. This can help you determine how much funding you’d ideally like to raise through each source this year. Based on last year’s performance and this year’s needs, set fundraising goals for each fundraising source, including individuals, grants, corporate sponsorships, fundraising events, etc..
When determining your funding opportunities, start with the people, corporations and foundations that have previously funded your organization, as well as those you have or could develop a relationship with, and then complete further research for other opportunities. Include the giving days (e.g., Giving Tuesday, local fundraising days) as well as any annual events or fundraising campaigns where you anticipate raising money. Funding opportunities can be kept on a prospect list that can serve as a reference when developing your fundraising calendar. It is important to prioritize these funding opportunities based on likelihood of funding, how your organization fits in with their fundraising priorities, and your organization’s internal capacity to complete the steps required to request funding.
Step 2- Determine the purpose of your fundraising calendar
It's important to think about what and how you will use your fundraising calendar when creating it. Many organizations I work with use their fundraising calendar to plan, communicate with the team, track information regarding each ask, or for some combination of these uses. If your organization has a Customer Relationship Management (CRM)system (e.g., Raiser’s Edge, Donor Perfect, Salesforce) for tracking individual donors, the information you may need to include on your fundraising calendar for asks of donors may be very different. In this case, donor information may only include general activities for “Individual Donors” versus tracking all of the donors’ names, contact information, and activities. Similarly, if your organization only engages in a few fundraising activities per month, your spreadsheet may also look different. In this case, all opportunites could be listed on the same spreadsheet versus having a different tab for grants, corporate sponsorships, etc. Determine what you will use your fundraising calendar for so that you can set it up to be most useful.
Step 3- Set up your spreadsheet(s)
After determining the use for your calendar, you can then begin to set up the spreadsheet. My recommendation is that you start with a new tab (in the same spreadsheet) for each fundraising area if you have more than two requests per month in that area. For example, you may have a grants tab, a corporate sponsors tab, an individuals tab, an events tab, etc. Another option if you have a significant amount fundraising activities is to create a new tab for each month. While this will not allow for rolling due dates to shift as easily, and you will also have to be more proactive about looking to the month ahead, it may provide for better record-keeping for your organization. For small organizations, keeping all fundraising asks in the same spreadsheet tab may also make the most sense.
I've created a free fundraising calendar template to get you started! Download it here-
After creating your spreadsheet tabs, include column headers for anything you’ve decided is important enough to track. At a minimum, I strongly recommend including at least Internal Due Date, Due Date, Funder, Amount of Request, Request (subject), Next Steps, Notes, Date Submitted, Outcome and Funding Raised. Your organization may also find First Draft Date, Contact Information, How to Ask/Apply, Staff Involved/to Review, Previous Funding, and Follow-up (reporting/appreciation) helpful information to track. Depending on your spreadsheet set up, you may have different information tracked for different types of fundraising; just be sure to track all necessary information needed now and down the road regarding each ask.
Step 4- Fill in opportunities with due dates
Now that your spreadsheet is set up, start filling it in by focusing on the due dates. Put everything with a hard deadline in your calendar first, such as grant applications, fundraising events, giving day campaigns, etc. Be sure to set appropriate internal deadlines to allow for internal reviews, approvals and general time to not feel rushed with the submission.
Step 5- Look at the big picture and rearrange
Once everything with a hard deadline is included, step back and take a look at the overall calendar. Do you have capacity to complete everything that has a hard deadline for the months in which they are scheduled? Are you requesting the funding well in advance (9+ months) of when you need it?
The great news is that many things with a hard deadline can be completed and submitted early. For example, you don't have to wait until the last minute for a grant that is due in June; you can complete some of those deadlines in May, or possibly even April or March. Though you won’t receive the funds earlier in most cases, you can still be proactive in ensuring you have sufficient time each month for the scheduled requests. Rearrange the opportunities with hard deadlines based on your capacity and funding needs, and make sure that activities are not scheduled for after deadlines have passed.
Step 6- Fill in opportunities without due dates
After assessing your calendar, you should have a good idea of where non-hard deadline funding opportunities need to go. Prioritize these funding opportunities based on what you will ask for, which months you have additional capacity, and which funding opportunities are most likely to result in funding. While these funding opportunities may be moved around some, schedule them for when you need them most and realistically have the time to complete.
Step 7- Identify whether you need additional support and how you will get it
At this point, you may realize that your funding opportunities exceed your capacity (great!) or that you need to find more funding opportunities. In either case, look at your resources to identify whether you can get additional support for making funding asks or finding new opportunities. This support may come from a consultant, board member with fundraising experience, intern that can be supervised, etc. If needed, you can always include fundraising for this type of capacity in your calendar.
Step 8- Double check your calendar
Use the following questions as a checklist for your fundraising calendar:
Are we making asks for all of our fundraising needs, including current and upcoming programs, administrative expenses, capacity building, etc.?
Do the request amounts total 30-50% more than our actual funding needs? (Don't expect 100% of asks to result in a “yes”!)
Are any fundraising activities left out, such as fundraising events, end-of-year drive, grant reports from the previous year’s funding (if you're tracking that on the calendar), etc.?
Do we have the capacity to make all of these requests? If not, can we identify additional support?
Do we need to find additional opportunities to put in this calendar? If so, who will find those opportunities?
After completing these eight steps, you should have a fundraising calendar that you can use the entire year! Stay tuned for more information about finding fundraising opportunities and other fundraising planning topics!
Didn't get a chance to download the calendar? Download it now!
I’m Amanda Wallander Roberts, MSSW, a consultant passionate about building fundraising and evaluation capacity with social organizations. I’ve helped over 60 social organizations fundraise and evaluate programs, including raising over $20million, and developing more than 50 logic models, evaluation plans, and process maps. Learn more about my services or contact me for support today!