Building An Annual Plan From Scratch

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Having a good annual fund development plan keeps you focused on the work that needs to get done and raises money for your organization. But what do you do when you join an organization that has no plan in place? How do you build a development plan from scratch?

Something that has worked for me is to envision what an annual plan will look like a few years down the road and develop strategies to get there.


Examine the current status and get…

  • a good understanding of current trends and challenges.
  • a good understanding of the organization’s fund development history.
  • a good understanding of its donors.
  • a good understanding of who the organization is and what it does.

Explore fund development opportunities including:

  • Monthly Giving program
  • Major Donors program
  • Planned Giving program
  • Direct Mail program
  • Acquisition and Cultivation strategies including, fundraising opportunities with strong calls to action, third-party fundraising, proposal writing, marketing and promotions
  • Strategies for particular constituent types, i.e., individuals, businesses, foundations, groups, etc.
  • Tools and processes, i.e., database implementation, policies, procedures
  • Writing a case for support
  • Creating a good story and photo bank
  • Writing fundraising copy for each program for use in newsletters, fundraising letters, website, etc.
  • Creating a philanthropic culture starting with the board, staff and other volunteers
  • Identifying and developing strategies for capital needs
  • Creating volunteer opportunities and
  • Developing engagement strategies for the community at large

Once you’ve created a document of all the possibilities, develop a timeline for implementation with particular emphasis and detail on the strategies you plan to implement in the next 12 months.

Starting from scratch, allows you to build a plan that is customized to the needs of your organization. Although there is a lot of hard work involved, implementing the organization’s first annual plan will yield positive results.

Have you ever built an annual fund development program from scratch? What are some of the important lessons you learned? What tips would you recommend to someone who is building an organization’s first annual program?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.



  1. Ann Green

    This is a great post, Diana. The only thing I would add is that a fundraising plan needs a donor relations component, including thanking donors.

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