It can be intimidating to translate your fundraising goals into your calendar. You might feel there is not enough time to hit your target objectives. After all, there are only twelve months in a year.

So, where should you start? Kick off your efforts by building a comprehensive fundraising calendar that represents your nonprofit’s target dates. In this guide, we’ll review three big-picture, strategic tips to bolster your planning efforts:

  1. Align Your Calendar with Your Goals
  2. Finalize Your Strategy with Data
  3. Leverage Recurring Giving

With a thorough plan, your nonprofit can diversify its fundraising revenue and engage its supporters consistently.

If you feel stuck, take a step back and be sure each of your overall goals is represented rather than become too focused on fleshing out each one perfectly. A good plan now trumps a great one later. That said, let’s begin!

Align Your Calendar with Your Goals

Before diving into event planning, it’s essential to consider your organization’s other priorities. Ideally, your fundraising calendar’s purpose goes beyond noting event days. It should also be a central plan for your organization’s key happenings.

Keeping up with other goals is crucial to improve your fundraising results. That said, in your calendar planning, be sure to budget time for items like:

  • Donor stewardship: Receiving donations is great. But to increase your donor’s lifetime value, you must steward new and existing donor relationships. Events like one-on-one lunches, phone calls, and appreciation galas should not be forgotten when marking your calendar for the coming years. By making donor stewardship a habit, your nonprofit can increase its donor retention rate and see a higher ROI.
  • Volunteer tasks: Sourcing volunteers takes time. Be sure to update your calendar with relevant volunteer tasks related to recruitment, onboarding, and appreciation. This way, you’ll build a positive and productive volunteer team and best use your recruitment efforts.
  • Community outreach: During fundraising and capital campaign planning, it’s easy to forget about your local community. However, according to NXUnite, consistent community outreach has several benefits, such as enhancing your public image, raising even greater awareness, and developing valuable partnerships.
  • Board meetings: Your board provides meaningful financial and philanthropic perspectives. Be sure to schedule adequate time for board meetings to discuss your nonprofit objectives and make changes if necessary. You should hold these meetings regularly, and your nonprofit should update its calendar often.

View your planning time as a chance to collaborate with your organization. Welcome their perspectives and consider offering calendar access to your different department heads. This way, you’ll avoid fundraising event overlap and make the best use of your planning time.

Finalize Your Strategy with Data

Once you’ve infused your calendar with your organization’s goals, reference data to finalize it. Think of data analytics as a way to prevent planning blind spots. Your organization likely has several goals to plan for and accomplish, so it can be easy to make a scheduling mistake.

Additionally, your donor’s lifestyles and personal giving schedules greatly determine when each event should fall. To stay informed, look into these data sources:

  • Global giving trends: Because your fundraisers don’t exist in a vacuum, keep up with global giving trends is essential to finalize your event dates. For example, on average, nonprofits raise 17-22% of annual revenue in the month of December alone. Consider how economic factors such as unemployment rates and market stability may impact the current giving cycle.
  • Giving history: Discover your organization’s average donation amount and frequency for each planning period. You can also look into how donors give and tailor your campaigns based on their preferences. For example, most donors prefer to give online towards the end of the year, you might schedule a holiday peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
  • Donor data: Review your donor data for more specific information. Learning about your donors’ demographics, wealth data, and giving motivations can be especially informative. For instance, if you find that you’ve been attracting an older demographic of supporters, you might want to pursue more planned gift opportunities.
  • Annual event data: Identify the successes and challenges of previous larger event campaigns. Then, determine if there are any connections between the fundraising event’s date and performance. For example, if your attendance rates aren’t as high during the spring as compared to the fall, you might opt for an online spring campaign and shift your in-person fundraising event to the fall.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your calendar as you gather more data about your donors’ specific giving patterns and global giving habits. For example, if more donors prefer to give online year after year, you might plan more text-to-give fundraisers for increased engagement.

Leverage Recurring Giving

One way to boost your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy is by promoting an effective recurring or monthly giving program. Although it’s not a specific fundraising event, recurring giving is an important revenue stream that can inform your event planning. And, due to its flexibility, it’s a popular option for several reasons.

First, recurring giving encourages your supporters to give smaller gifts more frequently. This way, they can make a difference over time rather than feeling put on the spot to donate a large gift. In turn, it puts donors’ minds at ease and increases lifetime value.

To demonstrate this point further Funds2Orgs’ monthly giving guide notes that “monthly giving programs typically experience retention rates of over 80% after the first year and over 90% after the fifth year.” That means that if your organization prioritizes promoting monthly giving in its marketing schedule, you’re likely to see a high ROI in future years.

To experience the benefits of monthly giving, you need to plan for it. Here are some calendar tips to keep in mind:

  • Set monthly giving goals: Within your fundraising calendar, establish monthly giving goals based on your previous data. Estimate a range for the number of monthly giving donors you need to acquire based on your overarching fundraising goals. Begin by promoting your program to long-time existing donors. Then reach out to newer, less frequent donors to spread the word and hit your goals.
  • Identify key giving months: Some months will be better than others for recurring donor acquisition. Look for months with historically low new donor acquisition numbers and take advantage of those times to invite current donors to engage in recurring giving. By doing this, you’ll make the best use of your slow fundraising months and progress closer to your annual revenue goals.
  • Integrate monthly giving communications: Make a plan to weave your monthly giving communications into your fundraising promotion schedule. Strategically place this program within your email appeals, social media posts, and event presentations. For example, if you find the summer to be a slow fundraising period, plan to post more educational resources about how to get involved throughout the season.

Look for additional ways to make your recurring program unique and create a positive environment. It may include offering a rewards program, taking them behind the scenes, and giving them regular updates about how their contributions make a difference.

Knowing when to plan each fundraising event takes time and relevant data to nail down. Take the guesswork out of your planning process by viewing your calendar holistically and ensuring it reflects your goals. As you plan, consider noting specific deadlines for each event or project. Doing so will help your team evaluate your progress and make necessary adjustments ahead of time.