Make a plan for annual planning

January begins one of my favorite times of the year — Annual Planning. 

Building plans with our client partners and extended Masterworks team is exciting. All the discovery sessions, deep dives into data and trends, reviewing past creative performance, dreaming together about what could be in the coming year. And then, putting all the pieces together in a plan that speaks to the ministry’s unique fundraising goals. It really is energizing. (Or maybe that’s just the planner in me!)

As you look to the future of your ministry in 2023 and beyond, here are four things you should do as you create your plan for the year:

Four things you need to create a solid annual plan

  1. Define your fundraising goals and why.
    Broad goals like: raise revenue by 5%, increase active donors counts, or improve return on investment (ROI), are great things (I’d take all of those in a plan!) but, in and of themselves, may not actually move you forward in achieving long-term growth. Knowing why you need to achieve these goals is just as important. Do you need to grow your revenue to cover increased program expenses? Is there a Capital Campaign that will then need ongoing operational funding? Is there an opportunity to expand your ministry impact through new programs?

    Make your goals tangible and simple. “We need to raise $X more to cover Y.” Having this articulated at the outset allows you to build a plan that you, your team, your leadership, and other partners can work together to achieve. 
  1. Know what success looks like. Success will look different from organization to organization. For some looking to drive future growth, success may be tied to new donor goals and less to in-year net revenue. For others, increased program expenses may be the driving force, and success may look like growing revenue now, while keeping acquisition efforts steady. Maybe it’s an increase in the number of sustainers on your donor file. Maybe it’s expanding into new channels or technologies, despite the results. Whatever it is, make sure you’ve communicated what success looks like and how it will be measured.
  1. Expect to invest. Know how your goal(s) and your budget relate to each other. Like most things in life, achieving a goal requires some kind of investment. Is your budget flat but your revenue goal up? Where can you shift your channel mix to save cost? Are there major donors willing to invest in a new fundraising strategy to grow your organization? After the cost increases we saw in 2022, many organizations were forced to make hard budget decisions for both program and marketing. As we look to 2023, continued increases are on the horizon, though at this time not projected to be as severe. (Let’s pray that continues to be the case!)  
  1. Plan for a pivot or two. When it comes to planning, we believe it’s critical to build a solid plan with goals that we can track with our client partners. This is why the first point (a simple goal statement) is so important. It makes pivoting easier because not everything is a goal. The tactics and strategies in the plan are meant to support the overall goal. If it’s not supporting the goal, it’s time to pivot.

    We know that there will be some detours (or pivot points) on the way, and how we achieve the goal might be different than we thought at the outset. Much like route options in our GPS, there is more than one way to get there. This is the part of planning that really gets me excited! It keeps us constantly pushing forward and looking for that next, best fundraising opportunity. I mean sure, a nice drive down the fundraising road is, well, nice. And we don’t really like bumps in the road. But when we know where we’re going, how success is being measured, and what investment is available, we can be prepared to pivot together and arrive safely at our destination.

At Masterworks, we work with our client partners to build comprehensive annual plans. We listen to you — internalizing your goals and desires for your fundraising program. We consider existing and emerging channels for reaching donors. We challenge conventional wisdom on how much you should mail (leveraging the Masterworks Response Index and reducing mail to online responsive donors), allowing for investment in growth rather than postage increases. We combine knowledge of your file health, your goals, and our robust team of subject matter experts to produce a long-term plan that we can track against together. 

Interested in how you can mail less in 2023, expand your digital reach, and/or put together a solid plan to present to your Board? I’d love to help!  Reach out at: