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Fundraising secrets, tips & hints

What's on Your 2008 Fundraising Calendar?

by Deane Brengle


It doesn't matter if your nonprofit has 30,000 members, 3,000 members, 300 members, or 30 members. Scheduling your organization's fundraisers to take maximum advantage of the calendar is a no-brainer.

Usually scheduling for fundraisers is done after a budget is set so you know how to plan to raise the funds required. But sometimes the calendar itself offers ideas for fundraisers that you may not have thought about. Either way- you need to consider some basic things when creating your organization's fundraising calendar.

  1. Gather Your Resources.

    If you take a little time to gather all your planning resources it will speed the whole process up dramatically.

    • Track down traditional/long time fundraisers/events of your organizations that are continuing on to this year and the dates they were last year and any projected or pre-planned dates this year.

    • Find your town's community calendar - either at the newspaper listings at your local library or online. You must know the dates of other community and nonprofit events to plan accordingly. The chamber of commerce, local convention center, and tourism bureau are another good sources.

    • Locate a major holiday and event guide (online). With these you can make note of religious, legal, and national events that are happening. Two good ones are:

      1. Holiday Insights
      2. Holiday Smart


    • Organization specific days/weeks/months. Like pet related, library, museum, Boy Scout, sporting, etc.

    • Something to write on. A big 2' x 3' wall calendar from your local office supply store is the best. It should have a page a month and a box for each day. A large white board or laminated calendar can also be used.


  2. Gather Your People.

    Call for a fundraising calendar session with all the relevant people from your organization. This may be as simple as the fundraising committee of a booster club on one hand to all departments and relevant staff in a large nonprofit.

    This meeting doesn't have to be long. And all decisions aren't necessarily set is stone. You are designing a frame work for the upcoming year that will help you make informed scheduling plans in the future.

    This calendar session is also a good one to tack onto another meeting of the appropriate people.

  3. Mark Out the Days.

    Make sure your dates are accurate. Write down all suggestions. The calendar can always be edited later.

    Start with:

    • Major government holidays and three-day weekends.

    • Religious holidays.

    • Major sporting events (Super Bowl, World Series, & regional and local sporting events).

    • Major existing community events.

    • School vacations (Christmas break, Spring break, and the first and last week of school).

    • In a presidential election year, you'll want to avoid fundraising before, during and after an election. Some local elections may be major enough to note those too.

    • Existing fundraisers in your community that are well established and could have an impact on your event. Major galas, dinners and large scale charity and nonprofit events.

    • Organization specific days/weeks/months. Like pet related, library, museum, Boy Scout, sporting, etc.

    • Your organization activities: Board meetings, staff trainings or retreats, anniversaries, regular meetings, etc.

    • Your organization's activities such as events, fundraisers, an annual appeal, capital campaign, annual membership renewal, or other major donation drive.


  4. Scheduling Strategies

    Once you have all of this information on the calendar you can see the big picture and the opportunities for potential fundraising activities and events. Some of you will want to avoid the marked dates and others will find inspiration in those same dates. But without going through this mapping process you are approaching the scheduling process blindfolded.

    • Avoiding Conflict - For larger nonprofits there are many groups in your community who are trying to raise money. There may be only a few dates left on your calendar suitable for your event. There is little chance that you'll find a weekend completely free from all activities.

      Instead, strive to target the audiences you want to attend your event and avoid competing for the same group of people. Two events can both be successful on the same day if their target audiences are different.

    • Embracing Conflict - Smaller nonprofits may wish to target dates with competing events or the holiday season.

      Before Christmas, Easter, and Valentine's Day are traditional times to schedule a product fundraiser that features gifts or candy. Any size group can sell flowers before Valentine's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day.

      Small nonprofits can also use large events to piggy back their fundraising efforts. Parking cars at a major sporting event, working the concession stand, or doing clean-up can be successful.

      Teaming up with another larger nonprofit on their event can be successful too. Many charity events grow so large that the lead nonprofit looks for help (and will pay, too).

      Food and game booths at festivals and fairs are great examples of piggy backing also.


  5. Conclusion

    Once you have your calendar filled out you may want to store it in a more permanent form - either as a computer file or refine it to a smaller paper form. Either way- be sure and keep your calendar updated. Add community events, your own events, and all relevant others to the calendar as they become known.

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    About the Author:

    Deane Brengle is the editor of several free online publications that cover fundraising for small nonprofit groups. You can visit these publications and read more about fundraising in articles by him and other experts in the field at The Fund$Raiser Cyberzine, The Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter, and Fundraising Booklets.



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