How to get your slice of the pie: four must-have ingredients for a successful fundraising plan

Blog post by Abbey Harlow:

As we celebrate the marvel of mathematics and baking that is Pi(e) Day, I invite you to indulge in a different kind of treat– the sweet success of a well-crafted fundraising plan! 

Just as a perfectly baked pie requires the right ingredients, timing, and technique, so too does creating a successful fundraising roadmap for your nonprofit organization. 

So, grab a slice, settle in, and let’s explore the essential ingredients that will help you bake up a plan for fundraising success.

Vision: A Recipe for Success

Imagine this section as the delectable crust of our fundraising pie. Just as a pie needs a sturdy foundation to hold its delicious filling, your fundraising plan needs a robust vision. 

Creating a fundraising plan isn’t just about checking off items on a list; it’s about crafting a strategy that aligns your organization’s dreams with actionable plans. Devote some time to think about the big picture before filling that in with steps to follow.

Grab a pen and paper, computer, or whatever note-taking device you prefer and ask yourself things like: 

  • Where are we headed? 
  • How can our fundraising efforts nurture a community around shared values and aspirations?
  • How can our organization ensure its fundraising values are sustained across changes in leadership?
  • (And, my favorite): If someone gave us a five or six figure gift (or, however you define a transformative donation for your non-profit) what could you accomplish? What doors could it open? 

Crucially, make sure everyone, from your hardworking staff to dedicated board members, shares this vision.  If you can’t articulate what you’re raising money for, donors won’t greet your messaging with the enthusiasm your non-profit deserves.

And don’t keep it to yourself – open up the conversation. Collaborate with key players inside and outside your organization to refine your strategy. 

Time: The Patient Path to Fundraising Success

This is the slow simmering of a fruit compote destined for the heart of your delectable pie. 

A skilled baker allows the ingredients to meld over time, and fundraising success demands a similarly slow-cooked process, one that unfolds gradually, layer by layer.

Whether you’re delving into the intricacies of planning in-house or seeking external expertise, the investment of time is non-negotiable. Fundraising success is measured in months and years, not days and weeks.

Acknowledge the importance of setting aside dedicated time regularly. Make it a practice to carve out moments for your fundraising plan. It’s not just about having time; it’s about making time – a commitment that reflects in the depth and effectiveness of your strategies.

Aside from your organizational practices, create space for the process of community building. Consider the gradual construction or growth of a community around your cause. 

It’s about nurturing connections, fostering relationships, and allowing a shared purpose to organically blossom. This process won’t  offer immediate gratification, but the richness of a robust and supportive community is well worth the time invested.

Although you may wish your fundraising goals were accomplished yesterday, try not to rush each moment of preparation. Instead, try to relish the gradual infusion of commitment, engagement, and purpose. I promise, it will be worth it.

SMART Goals: Measuring What Matters

Welcome to the baking of the filling – the heart of our fundraising pie. Crafting a pie filling is an art; it needs to be just right. Similarly, your fundraising plan needs SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

This is your opportunity to define success and what it means for your fundraising goals. It’s not about drowning in complex metrics; instead, it’s a decision to measure success in a way that fits your capacity.  

And don’t forget to take time to reevaluate regularly. In the shifting landscape of fundraising, be open to adjusting goals as your organization evolves. Flexibility is key; tracking elements that don’t contribute to your success is a waste of your valuable resources. 

Celebration: Savoring Milestones Big and Small

As we reach the final taste of our fundraising pie, think of this section as the delightful garnish. Celebrating is like adding a scoop or ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream – it enhances the flavor and makes the pie more enjoyable. In fundraising, recognizing milestones is the finishing touch that sweetens the deal. 

I’m sure you agree that we don’t take enough time to celebrate in the nonprofit sector. We’re often too caught up in the next challenge. I can’t say it enough – make the time! Schedule those celebrations into your calendar if you need to. Whether it’s a big fundraising win or a small victory, it all counts. 

Celebrate internally – boost that team morale. Externally? Show your supporters that their contributions have made a real impact. Hit a milestone? Implemented a game-changing strategy? Spent a hellacious afternoon deduping an appeal mailing list? Celebrate. 

So, there you have it – a recipe for a fundraising plan that’s as sweet and satisfying as a slice of pie. Unite your organization under a shared vision, try to embrace the patience required, set goals that are both ambitious and attainable, and, perhaps most importantly, savor the sweetness when you can.

Abbey Harlow is a VT based fundraising consultant whose favorite pie is (plain) rhubarb. She’s offering a free review of a fundraising communication for your org in exchange for five minutes of your time.

You can learn more about her work with nonprofits at