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Fundraising Overview

Annual Appeals

Direct Mail Efforts

Grant Writing

Major Donors

Planned Giving

Special Events

Ways To Increase Donations

Donation Tips

Why send thank you letters to donors?

Why do people respond to fundraising appeals?

Questions donors ask when getting direct mail

Why $25 Gifts Are Important


Marketing and  Public Relations

Board Resources

Starting A Nonprofit


Links & Discounts

Printing Companies

Full Color Printing

Remittance Envelopes

Offering Envelopes

Donation Receipts




Printing And Design Online

Links & Resources

Fundraising Overview

5 Distinct Areas of Development

Fundraising Checklist

The Next Step

The Fundraising Formula

Related Samples and Books


A Fundraising Overview



"Development is a team effort. It is an investment in the future of your organization"

Not For Profit World - helping nonprofits

When your organization is looking for long-term funding solutions, a development plan should be implemented. A development plan is not a quick fix, nor should it be viewed as a temporary solution. A Development plan begins with the basic areas of fundraising and eventually encompasses all aspects.

Is your organization ready for a complete fundraising campaign? Review our fundraising checklist in a downloadable .pdf format.

Development consists of the following five (5) distinct areas of fundraising.


1. Annual Appeal / Annual Fund  and Direct Mail

The most well known direct mail campaign is the annual appeal, sometimes referred to as an annual fund, or annual campaign. The annual appeal is a direct mailing that is usually mailed just prior to Thanksgiving or in early December to promote giving near the holidays. Many organizations follow up in the spring with another appeal that is designed to show potential donors how much has been raised to date and how they can help support the cause. Visit our Annual Appeal and Direct Mail pages for samples, tips and ideas to make your appeal a success.

2. Grant Writing / Proposal Writing

Grants usually come from three (3) major sources. Independent Foundations/Charitable Funds, Corporations, and Government. Adequate research of potential funding sources is critical, along with a staff member or volunteer with strong proposal writing skills. Visit our Fundraising Resources section for additional resources.

3. Major Gifts / Major Donors

As your development plan is implemented you'll begin to see a pattern emerging of major contributors to your organization. Each organization sets a level of giving that they term as "major" and they focus increased time and resources on the donors that fall within that range of giving. When selecting a giving level, keep in mind that if you have more than 150 individuals classified as "major donors" it is probably time to reevaluate your giving levels. Visit our major donors page for additional resources.

4. Planned Giving / Deferred Giving

This type of giving refers mainly to "after-life" gifts but many new vehicles have been incorporated to allow donors to make "during-life" gifts that offer the tax advantages of "after-life" gifts. From Bequests to Charitable Lead Trusts, many organizations provide pamphlets or brochures highlighting these types of gifts to educate donors while informing them of your mission and how to support your cause. Visit our Planned Giving page for samples, tips and ideas to start a planned giving program in your organization.

5. Special Events

Most organizations host an annual event, whether it be a golf outing, formal dinner/dance, duck race, or fashion show. Special events provide publicity and help you identify potential supporters. Visit our Special Events page for event tips and ideas and samples.

The Next Step

Once familiar with the over-all development plan you now need to concentrate on the daily tasks of the development effort and how to best address those needs. One word of caution, volunteers are crucial to your operation but many times it is best to leave the confidential matters of gifts and giving to regular staff members. Privacy and confidentiality are of the utmost important when dealing with donors and their finances. It is especially important when cultivating major donors.

As your plan starts, you will be introducing some exciting new activities into your daily schedule. Plan accordingly to provide adequate staff and volunteers. Inadequate staffing leads to overworked, frustrated, and uncooperative fundraisers.

Some basic starting points:

Establish and maintain a database of current and potential donors. This will be used for every area of development. It will be one of the single greatest tools in your plan. It will need to be updated frequently. All information MUST remain confidential, therefore access should be limited to one or two regular staff members. Several software programs have been written for this purpose. They are expensive but well worth the investment. A good rule of thumb is to keep donor information on index cards in alphabetical order until you have 1,000 donors that have donated $100.00 or more. Then move into a professional donor fundraising software program.

Find a suitable candidate to type correspondence, thank you letters, and handle information sent to and from potential donors. As checks begin to be received it is imperative that donors are thanked immediately. See our Why you need to send thank-you letters section on our fundraising resources page.

Find someone to assist with the writing and lay-out of brochures, development, and special event documents for public relations and development efforts. Professionally printed documents such as brochures and flyers need to be set up in professionally designed software programs such as Illustrator or Photoshop. If you don't have a creative designer in-house consider using our free online design studio where you can do it yourself online.

Grant research and proposal writing should be done by someone who has special expertise in this area. At the very least many online grant writing guides are available to help get you started. The Foundation Center is a great resource for proposal writing.

The tasks associated with a development effort are numerous and require the utmost attention to detail. You are dealing with donors and their finances; everything must be complete and accurate. Do not trust information or assignments to anyone who is not 100% committed to insuring the success of your objectives or your reputation will suffer. Development tasks can be very repetitive (like processing gifts and database management) others will require great creativity and progressive thinking (designing brochures, establishing estate planning seminars).

Most organizations can implement a development plan with their current staff and volunteer base - provided they have the resources to research professional development strategies. Consultants can be hired to help with the start-up or as funding resources strengthen experienced staff may be necessary.

Remember that development is a team approach. It is a long, tireless project requiring the enthusiasm, dedication and the positive attitudes of everyone involved.

Start Thinking About...

Why do you need funds?

How much do you need?

How much should actually be raised?

Who will raise funds?

Why should individuals give you their support?

The Fundraising Formula

One of the most common traps for the fundraiser is to think in terms of extracting contributions from each member of the public. If your goal is to raise $10,000 and your community numbers 10,000 prospective donors, the simple approach is to divide $10,000 by 10,000 and expect that each of those prospects could give you $1. 

It won't work. The formula proven time and time again tells us that 1/3 of your total will be obtained from about 10 individual contributors. Another 1/3 will come from the next 100 donors, and the balance will come from all the other prospective contributors in your community.

That's why one of the first things you should do is identify those top ten and then the next 100 likeliest and invest your greatest effort here.


Related Samples

Annual Report Sample (front and inside) - click for larger image

Annual Report Sample - Not For Profit World    Annual Report Sample - Not For Profit World

Holiday Card Sample - click for larger image

 Holiday Card Sample - Not For Profit World

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