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Annual Fundraising Calendar

Feb 2023 - READ IN 5 MINUTES

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Regularly review and update your calendar throughout the year to ensure that it remains relevant and aligned with your school’s fundraising goals.

Tips for Building Out Your Annual Calendar of Fundraising Campaigns and Events

 

Creating an annual calendar of activities and events provides a structured approach to fundraising and helps ensure that your school has enough time to plan and execute successful campaigns and events. It’s a big task that requires the input, feedback, and buy-in of multiple departments and both internal and external stakeholders, so the sooner you start the better.

In this post, we share tips for developing a timeline, scheduling your fundraising activities and initiatives, tracking goals, and maintaining your calendar.

When to start

Ideally, you should start planning next year’s calendar of events well in advance, typically anywhere from six to nine months before the start of the new fiscal year. This will give you enough time to develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account all the necessary details, such as event venues, staff and volunteer schedules, marketing and communications plans, fundraising goals, and more.

Who to involve

Your planning process should involve all relevant stakeholders, including staff members, board members, volunteers, and other partners, to ensure that everyone’s input is considered and the calendar accurately reflects your school’s mission and objectives. Start with internal stakeholders first, which may include:

  • Advancement Staff
  • Annual Giving
  • Development Officers
  • Donor Relations
  • Gifts Processing
  • Major Gift Officers
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Technical Support

It’s important to verify commitment and get internal buy-in from these key players and make sure everyone is comfortable with the plan for the year ahead.

How to plan

Some teams use a Google or Excel spreadsheet to plan out their annual campaigns and initiatives because it provides a bird’s-eye view of the overall project schedule so you can see when different project tasks are due. That said, there are also plenty of free task management platforms that are more flexible and come with templates you can use to get a head start on planning. For example, check out this  article on “How to create a digital fundraising campaign project in Asana.”

As you start to plan for the coming year, you’ll want to: 

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of past fundraising events to identify what worked well and what could be improved upon. 
  • Consider your overall annual strategy and the goals of your team, while also taking into account your donor base and the most convenient channels of engagement.
  • Be realistic and have a clear understanding of the budget and resources at your disposal.
  • Factor flexibility into your plan and be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances that may arise during the year, such as changes in funding priorities, shifts in donor preferences, or external factors like natural disasters or pandemics. 

Divide and conquer

Try dividing your annual calendar into more manageable quarters.This helps the team to understand what each quarter entails in terms of workload and to think more strategically about goals and objectives.

When you break down your stretch goals for the year into smaller goals for each quarter, it encourages the team to focus on near-term numbers that are more attainable. Then, depending on whether you surpass your goals or fall short, you’ll be able to pivot and adjust strategy accordingly as the year progresses.

If your team is smaller, you may find quarterly planning is too much of a commitment. In which case, you can adopt a monthly approach which is a bit looser and easier to plan.

Set key dates

After breaking the calendar down into quarters or defining a focus for each month, start with the key dates that are already on the books for the year ahead.

This list may include giving days and crowdfunding campaigns, capital campaign start and end dates, timeframes for securing major gifts, phone-a-thons, stewardship activities, or onsite events benefiting your school.

Having confirmation of the timelines in advance secures these periods on the calendar and gives your team a realistic view of hard dates and deadlines that are already determined.

Once you’ve added these activities to the calendar, consider what other tasks each commitment entails. All of your fundraising initiatives will most likely include a number of deadlines that go along with the solicitation, including:

Take time to think through all of the smaller action items that are included in each one of the activities you are adding to the calendar. Add the tasks as well to paint a clear picture of the amount of time and commitment necessary to carry each one out. This will allow you to  allocate resources more effectively and efficiently. By planning ahead, you can determine which activities and events require the most resources and prioritize accordingly.

How to maintain your calendar

Filling your calendar with fun and exciting initiatives for the upcoming year is a huge first step, but diligently maintaining your calendar is key. You should plan to regularly review and update the calendar throughout the year to ensure that it remains relevant and aligned with your school’s fundraising goals.

Prepare by scheduling quarterly check-ins to assess the status of planned activities and events. You can use these meetings to set the tone for the quarter ahead by reviewing strategy, verifying task completion, and tracking progress toward goals. If your team is on target to hit their goals, be sure to document what’s working. If not, consider pivoting your strategy to meet the goals that have been set. Or, tailor the goals to meet the needs of your institution.

Finally, after each meeting, share an updated online version of the calendar as an internal reference. This keeps all tasks and objectives transparent for everyone involved. Saving each version of the plan can be beneficial for next year’s planning because it will show the progress made each quarter with that amount of staff members, resources, and time applied. It makes it easy to iterate and enforce a stronger and potentially more predictable plan for the next year.

Summary

Finally, committing to an annual event calendar helps to establish a consistent schedule of fundraising activities and campaigns, which can help increase donor engagement and support. Donors appreciate knowing what to expect and when, and having a regular schedule can help you build trust and loyalty—and ultimately drive donor retention too.

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