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Dial In Your 2019 Fundraising Plan with 2018 Results

We’re thinking the dust has settled a bit on your year-end fundraising. You probably have some results, and you may even have some final numbers.

But before you close the book on your 2018 fundraising, be sure to analyze your numbers for future opportunity, progress, and warning signs.

And, most importantly, use those results to make your 2019 fundraising plan even better.

Remember that fundraising plan? The one that you may have finished weeks (if not many months) ago before the storm of year-end hit?

That plan was made in the past. You now have real numbers. Use them to fine-tune your assumptions to make your current plan – and results –  even better.

Lt’s organize your thinking into the four areas of fundraising fundamentals:

Acquisition: The number of new donors that you recruited last has a direct effect on your revenue this year. If you recruited more donors into your pool in 2018 than you planned, you have more prospects for renewal and upgrade this year. If you recruited fewer than planned, you’ll have to adjust your acquisition strategy for 2019 or make up the revenue in one of the categories below.

Action Step: Analyze the number of donors you were aiming to recruit in 2018 and compare that to actual results. Did you acquire more or fewer donors than planned?

(Even if your fiscal year isn’t a calendar year, it’s still a good idea to revisit plan assumptions and compare to actual year-end numbers.)

Renewal: The rate at which your donors renewed in 2018 will affect your revenue in 2019. If you had a lower renewal rate, you’ll have fewer donors to approach for a renewal this year. You’ll either have to invest more in acquisition in 2019 to make up the difference or turn up your efforts to reactivate lapsed donors. If your renewal rate was higher than expected, you’ll want to figure out that secret sauce and incorporate it into this year’s plan.

Action Step: Determine your renewal rate in 2018 at every level of the pyramid and compare that to your 2019 plans. Where were your assumptions right? Where were they off? What adjustments do you need to make?

Upgrade: If you have a major gift program you know that this area can be perform way better or worse than what you may have projected in your development plan before 2018 year-end hit. Even one large gift can throw off your revenue assumptions one way or the other.

Action Step: Go through your major donors one-by-one to see how 2018 performance compares to 2019 projections. Include any unexpected large variances in your 2019 projections. For middle donors, you’ll want to be looking to see if your assumptions around the number of people upgrading are in line with results.

 Retention: The entire cycle of fundraising is based on the fact that acquiring a new donor is more expensive than building relationships with existing donors through renewal. The bedrock of building long-term donor relationships – of retaining donors – is stewardship. Hopefully, your fundraising plan in 2018 included some stewardship efforts to retain donors. But, do you know if they were effective?

Action Step: Take a look to see if your stewardship efforts in 2018 did anything to keep your donors giving. Did you have a thank you event, start an insiders newsletter, offer donor briefings, or something similar? What worked? What didn’t? Be sure to incorporate that learning back into this year’s plan. (And you might take a look at our Leaky Bucket e-book for help in determining your retention rate.)


Fundraising plans aren’t stone tablets. While the top revenue number may have been approved a while back, there’s still a lot you can do to make adjustments within your program based on 2018 results and learning.

And if your fundraising plan isn’t built on these fundamentals of fundraising performance – acquisition, renewal, upgrade, and retention – analyze the data you have and save this post for your planning next year.

How are you able to dial in your 2019 fundraising plan with year-end results? We’d love to hear about it!

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