Fundraising, how-to guide.

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Cultural organisations rely heavily on government funding to sustain their operations, especially small and local. Building a fundraising plan and strategy is the first step to economic sustainability. 

Moreover, a fundraising plan ensures that you know your audience and keep in regular contact with them, investing in a long term relationship with your community. 
We will often refer to an organisation as an actor of these activities; even if you are an individual or a local community member the following apply to you too with adapted role titles. 

How to do I make a fundraising plan? 

Start with designing your fundraising strategy. In brief, you need to: 

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. What can you do with the time and resources you have right now?
  • Who are the potential donors? 
  • Build your case: why would people support your cause? Why now? Why are your gifts unique? How are your donors thanked and involved? 
  • Consider fundraising tactics and activities.
  • Identify the number of gifts and their impact. Compare yours to those of other institutions, to understand where yours differ.  
  • Plan how to monitor and send these gifts and how to thank your donor.
  • How will you show your appreciation and involve your donors in the future? 


Your final document should include the following: 

Compelling case statement

The case statement presents who you are, what you do, who your beneficiaries are, why should a donor be part of your organisation. The case statement is the core of your plan, defines communication, consistency and continuity.  Ensure you share this statement internally and based on the feedback you receive make adjustments. 
A strategy shows where you are, where you plan to go and how to get there. It needs to be honest and will define your tactics.
Assessment of Strengths and Weaknesses is part of developing your case.  

  • What is your relationship with your community? 
  • What are your activities and their impact?
  • Do you have collaborations? 
  • What is your online presence? 
  • Who are your competitors? 
  • What fundraising strategies do they use?

There are several strategies with different specificities on their cost and benefits. Below are common strategies in the cultural sector.

If the financial capacity fails to meet the demand of the programs you provide, you need to create a new and bigger donor base and revenues. 

Instead of looking for financial support, you can build a volunteer program. Approach people with interest to your mission with social media and letter-writing campaigns. Many religious or volunteering organisations utilise this strategy successfully and can serve as benchmarks.

This strategy aims to increase your visibility in order to attract donors and support. It can be your main strategy, especially if you are forming a new organisation. Good practices can be found in the major non for profits in the sector.

If you already have programs that meet demand without outside support, you can implement this strategy to adjust the cost to revenue. You emphasise in management optimisation and share messages to attract new donors and upgrade existing ones.

For organisations that are established and financially sound, emphasise in keeping and evolving your existing donor pool. 

Prospective donors and activities

Start building a database of the people most likely to contribute. Gather information about them (demographics, wealth, location) and update and manage them frequently. These constitute your market and can be corporations, foundations and individuals. 
Information management is key to identify and attract donors.  You need to create a database of the people involved and show interest. The data collected are demographic to create a screening process. You can collect them with visitor kiosks, ticketing, online tickets, website analytics. Make sure the information gathered is accurate and screen every two to three years. Implement an effective management system to gather information on existing donors and how they utilise their benefits to expand your strategy. 

Fundraising tactics

Based on the prospective donors’ list, you will need to have a tactical plan with the methods of fundraising you plan to use, such as gifts. 

Revenue targets

According to each fundraising tactic, you will create realistic revenue targets over five years. 


Create a budget containing revenue targets and projections of expenses. Consider that you may need to invest in your plan with potential income losses over the first two years. 


Make a calendar of activities with specific deadlines for the implementation of your plan. Ensure proper operation run and allow time to prepare. 


Based on the above,  you need to identify what kind of people need to be employed and how will they be remunerated. They could be staff members on the payroll, new hires or independent consultants.   For your plan to work, you have to invest in the person running the program. These positions ought to include a communication manager, administrative assistant and fundraising advisor. A great incentive is to offer them an agreed-upon percentage of the total funds raised. Ensure that the volunteers, staff and fundraising team are involved in the process of designing a plan as they will help its execution and success. In a broader level, you need to consider that the people in your organisation already represent different parts of the community and can be a source of fundraising prospects in their circles. 

Policies and Procedures

Consider and adjust your policies and procedures to maximise the efficiency of your program and extend them to include your donors.  What is the Donors Bill of Rights? These can be:

  • Organisation Mission. How will their funds be used and what are their benefits for the donation.
  • Know the key people of your organisation, e.g. the Board, and trust in their judgement
  • Have access to recent financial statements of the organisation. 
  • Receive assurances of the proper use of their gifts.
  • Receive recognition, gratitude and acknowledgement.
  • Be assured the organisation uses their information responsibly and abides by the legal system in place. 
  • Ensure the relationship between staff and donors adheres to a professional standard.
  • Provide information on the roles of your fundraising team. 
  • Be able to pose questions when making donations and receive a reply promptly.


There are several activities and they are part of your fundraising tactics.

Direct Mail: cost-effective and maintains communication.

Newsletter: keeps donors informed about the progress of your mission and the utilisation of their gifts.

Special Events: design special events for your existing and potential donors. Create a team for this specific task of staff and volunteers. Measure your ROI(return of investment)=net revenue/expense of investment, to plan events successfully. Events may be member-only receptions, cocktail, dinners, educational programs.

Major Gifts: personal in nature, utilise interest expressed to you, specific in the request over a period of time and make sure you follow up after the donation. 

Membership Levels: you can create membership programs fluctuating based on your donors. Offer them to grow their involvement and relationship through an upgrade to a higher membership level.  Each level can offer specific benefits: special events and privileges, receptions, discounts, educational seminars, tailored newsletter subscriptions, and free admission. 

Planned-Giving: is a great way to increase revenues but requires great implementation and a continuous communication campaign, so you need to create an information kit and use the above activities. 

Foundation and Government Grants: featuring a list of projects planned as well as research. You can ask for guidance in this process from your chosen entity in order to tailor your request.

Corporate Donations or Sponsorships: you reach out to the private sector and develop personal relationships. You can offer collaborative projects, tax refunds, visibility or special events. 

 Crowdfunding: You can accompany your fundraising strategies using online crowdfunding campaigns such as Go Fund Me or Kick Starter.

Virtual fundraising events: Organise virtual events, either adapting existing social events including online participation or create a new activity. Such as online walkathons,workout challenges or concerts. Through your website or by platforms such as JustGiving. Read our full article Fundraising, how-to guide 2: Virtual fundraising events, an introduction for more.

Local Approach cannot stress enough the importance of a good fundraising strategy to the survival of any heritage project.  Fundraising is a continuous process with various strategies implemented throughout the life of a program. It is not about getting cash to stay in business but building a close relationship with your community and increase their involvement, especially after what 2020 has demonstrated. 

I want to learn more

Institute of fundraising (UK) 

The National Council of Nonprofits (USA) 

“A Fundraising Resource Kit For Developing a Fundraising Plan” The Neil Squire Foundation

“Nonprofit Fundraising in the Age of Coronavirus” Harvard Business Review 

Our Article: Fundraising, how-to guide 2: Virtual fundraising events, an introduction 

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