How to Create and Manage a Fundraising Calendar

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Published:

June 16, 2023

Last Updated:

June 26, 2023

With so much going on in a nonprofit organization, it can be difficult to keep track of important dates, campaigns, and other key fundraising milestones.

That’s why fundraising calendars are so important. When done correctly, they serve as a one-stop shop, keeping your fundraising team organized and on task.

Not sure where to begin? No worries—in this article, we are going to share everything you need to know about how to create and manage a fundraising calendar.

Let’s get started!

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Importance and Benefits of Fundraising Calendars

Calendar

Fundraising calendars are important living documents that help nonprofits organize and plan their fundraising efforts and activities.

Below we’ve listed four benefits of fundraising calendars that will make you want to create one for your organization today.

Big Picture Overview

Fundraising calendars for nonprofits give you a holistic view of your efforts so that you can see the bigger picture in your organization.

The right fundraising calendar will give you a 360-degree view of everything you’re doing so you can see what fundraising strategies are working well, what needs improvement, and what should be cut.

Better Resource Allocation

A fundraising calendar for nonprofits helps you see where there are overlapping campaigns and gaps within your fundraising strategy.

Nonprofits often have limited resources, so it’s critical you use them strategically. This includes financial resources but also human capital as you look to staff events with employees and volunteers.

A fundraising calendar can also help you shift your budget so you can reduce costs and be more efficient based on your different campaigns’ needs.

Increase Donor Engagement

Because fundraising calendars help keep you organized, they may help you increase donor engagement. This is because you’re not inundating your donors with communications.

Instead, you are being thoughtful and strategic in your outreach, making sure that they are receiving communications from a single point of contact or for specific campaigns, one at a time.

Sample methods of outreach include print or digital solicitations, event invitations, newsletters, magazines, and thank you's. You can read more about best practices for donor engagement here. Just keep in mind that sending too much from too many people can overwhelm your donors, which is why tracking all correspondence on a fundraising calendar can help.

Be Better Prepared

At the end of the day, fundraising calendars are about being better prepared.

They help you see what’s coming up so you can be adequately prepared. Have an upcoming event? You can make sure you start recruiting volunteers to staff it. Running a marketing campaign? You can start designing the material in advance to get it finalized before the launch.

Key Elements of Fundraising Calendars

Key

Now that you know why fundraising calendars for nonprofits are important, let’s talk about what you should put on them. Short answer: the more, the better—just as long as they are organized.

You’ll tweak your process as you go, but here are three key elements of fundraising calendars to help kickstart your planning.

Campaigns

Perhaps the most important element on your fundraising calendar is your fundraising campaigns.

You want to capture clearly on your calendar when the campaigns are running and make sure that they stand out.

Then, within each day of the campaign, you want to share what communications are being sent out. This includes when you’re sending written letters, emails, and even social media posts. You want to make sure there is no overlap in these efforts, spacing them out to maximize visibility.

If you are printing materials, you can also include production schedules, editorial deadlines, and more. The more detailed, the better.

Events

In addition to your campaigns, it’s also important to include your fundraising events on your calendar.

Fundraising events can take a lot of advanced planning, so it’s important to not only include the events themselves on your calendar, but also the important tasks leading up to them. Consider including things like when the event invites will be sent out, when the set up and tear down of the event will take place, and more.

Anything that you need to do in order to throw a successful event should be reflected in your fundraising calendar.

Again, you want to make sure that your fundraising calendar is comprehensive so you know what is going on in your organization from a fundraising perspective at any given moment.

Post Communication

Donor engagement continues long after the campaign or event ends, so it’s important that you capture how you will follow up with donors on your fundraising calendar too.

Consider things like post-event emails thanking donors for attending, personalized thank-you notes for gifts, surveys to ask for feedback, and more. Engaging and thanking your donors after fundraising events is key to cultivating long-term support for your organization.

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Tips for Maintaining a Fundraising Calendar

Tips

Proper calendars for fundraising take work, but they’re worth it. However, they’re not just something you set and forget. Instead, fundraising calendars are living documents that require constant maintenance to stay relevant and useful.

Here are five tips for effectively maintaining your fundraising calendar.

Finalize Your Calendar in Advance

As you look to maintain your fundraising calendar, you’ll want to make sure that you have a draft finalized for the year in advance.

Of course, you can make adjustments as needed in the moment; however, having it finalized in advance allows for approval time, as well as ample time to help you plan and execute it as you take your annual budget into account.

For example, if you are hosting a fundraising gala, you should send your invitations out at least six weeks in advance of the event to allow your guests to make arrangements to their schedules.

Set Clear Deadlines

As you look to plot out your activities on your calendar, make sure that you set clear deadlines. Work backwards if you need to have something finalized by a specific day, and add the final deliverable and any other milestones to help you reach that goal.

For example, if a grant application is due on June 1, then you may want to start the process in April, working through approvals as you go. Clear deadlines on your fundraising calendar also make it easier to stay organized and identify areas of improvement in your fundraising efforts.

Color Code

One great way to stay organized is to color code your fundraising calendar.

Assign each campaign or type of outreach a specific color so you can tell what it is at a glance. There may be multiple things going on on a specific day; however, if they touch different audiences, it’s not something to worry about.

Calendar

This is a great example of how you can color-code your fundraising calendar to stay organized.

Share Access With Others

While it may be tempting to be the single owner of the fundraising calendar, you should share access with others so the burden to edit and maintain it does not fall only to you.

You can make the calendar accessible to all or a select few. However, it is important to have your entire team on the same page to streamline your fundraising efforts, so it’s in your best interest to make it available. If you have concerns about people accidentally making mistakes or deleting important elements, keep a backup.

Update the Calendar as Priorities Change

Your fundraising efforts are not set in stone, and neither is your calendar!

Don’t forget to update it as your priorities change. Remember, your fundraising calendar is only as good as the people who update it. If it’s out of date, it will be of no use to anyone.

Set a hold on your calendar every Friday for 10 minutes to update it or ask others to go in and own their changes. It doesn’t matter how it gets updated, just that it gets updated to reflect any changes.

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Wrapping Up: The Next Steps

Calendar

A fundraising calendar may seem intimidating, but it’s an important document that can help you stay organized and streamline your fundraising operations.

As you look to create your calendar, make sure you add all your critical fundraising activities, important dates and events, and anything else that impacts your organization’s financial health.

As long as you’re thoughtful in your planning, your fundraising calendar will help guide your efforts throughout the year. Organization is critical as you look to make the most of your fundraising campaigns, and creating a fundraising calendar is a great first step to keep you on track.

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