Is it an Oversized Pumpkin or Your Overly-Ambitious Fundraising Plan?

Lisa Tarshis
October 12, 2021

Here in the Midwest, it’s pumpkin-picking season again, and I am here for it. 

When I was younger, my parents had this rule when we went pumpkin picking. We could get any pumpkin we wanted, as long as we could carry it to the car ourselves. 

Your fundraising program is a lot like little ole me and the pumpkins. While it’s fun to look at the biggest pumpkin - one year there was one so large it was almost my size! - or create the most elaborate fundraising plan, you won’t be able to carry it to the car or the finish line.  

One of the reasons I love creating a fundraising plan (or any plan for that matter) is that you can lay out all the work ahead of you and make sure it’s realistic before jumping in. And when you take a step back, if you realize it’s not realistic or that one of your teammates will have more than they can handle, you still have time to adjust. 

When you plan ahead, you’re setting yourself and your staff up to have a manageable amount on their plates, allowing them space for self-care, forward-thinking, and room to problem solve when challenges arise. 

Here are three tips to ensure your fundraising plan is realistic for your team so that no one is left dragging an oversized pumpkin to the car:

  1. Look at each fundraisers’ work month-to-month. After outlining the activities, events and appeals for the year, go through each team member’s responsibilities and see what their individual experience will be like. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see if any part of the year will be overwhelming. For example, if one of your fundraisers is managing three events for the year but they all fall within two months, consider spacing out the events differently or dividing them up amongst team members. 
  2. Create buckets under large tasks. Creating buckets of work under large activities, events or appeals will help you get a more accurate estimate of how much time something will take for each team member. For example, if you look at the Winter Luncheon as only falling to your events person, you’ll miss out on the fact that your communications team member will need to be involved in messaging, invitations, collateral and more. If you instead think of the event as having 3 buckets: fundraising, communications, and logistics, you’ll be better able to anticipate the bandwidth needed from each team member to make the Winter Luncheon a success. 
  3. Leave some open space in your fundraising plan. It’s tempting to review a fundraising plan and add something in if there’s a light month. I highly encourage you NOT to do this. It’s ok to have a month that doesn’t have an appeal. It’s ok to have a period that is slower. These are great times for your team to catch up, take a day off to recharge, fit in some professional development, and plan ahead. 

You’re looking for a fundraising plan that allows you to thoughtfully accomplish your goals without pushing your team to the brink and causing burnout. Be intentional about leaving room for your team to try new things, rest, and address challenges. Looking for more guidance on how to do this? Join me next week for my brand new masterclass: How to Raise More, Save Time & Stay Sane. Grab your seat here.

One way to ensure your team members are set up for success is to set annual SMART goals. In today’s freebie I’m sharing more about SMART goals and how they can help you manage your fundraiser’s workload, so everyone is happier and more productive!