The title of the article: Designing a Successful Fundraising Calendar + Free Template

Designing a Successful Fundraising Calendar + Free Template

The end of the year is always a busy time for fundraising, and your nonprofit tries to start planning months in advance. But the planning phase may take longer than anticipated, leaving you scrambling in October and November to figure everything out in time.

If your nonprofit relates to this situation, then you need an annual fundraising calendar stat. With a fundraising calendar, your entire fundraising strategy for the year can be laid out in as much detail as you need. With this preparation tool, your team can approach your fundraising goals confidently and follow clear plans to achieve them.

To help you get started with this essential nonprofit planning tool, this guide will explore:

First, let’s answer a few questions about fundraising calendars and how they fit into any nonprofit’s organizational strategy.

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Annual Fundraising Calendar FAQ

What is an annual fundraising calendar?

An annual fundraising calendar is a planning tool used by nonprofits to outline and schedule their fundraising activities and campaigns throughout the year. Fundraising calendars may include details about:

  • Donor engagement activities
  • Fundraisers communication plans
  • Key dates and deadlines
  • Fundraising goals
  • Program costs
  • Staff and volunteer hours

Fundraising calendars are highly customizable, and your nonprofit’s calendar should include the information and level of detail that helps your team. For example, your nonprofit might already have a separate content management calendar for marketing initiatives. In this case, you might just add key marketing activities to your fundraising calendar, such as campaign kick-offs, but leave off granular details, such as when social media posts go live.

What are the benefits of an annual fundraising calendar?

Ultimately, your fundraising calendar’s effectiveness depends on how your team uses it. A well-planned and executed fundraising calendar allows you to reap the following benefits:

  • Organized strategic planning
  • Better decision-making
  • Clear sense of purpose
  • Enhanced time management
  • Improved staff and board management
  • Greater ability to engage donors

Your fundraising calendar is your nonprofit’s roadmap for the year, and if you follow that map, you’ll ideally reach your fundraising goals’ destination.

If something does come up and you need to deviate from your plan, do not throw out your calendar. Instead, treat it like a living document and make necessary edits. This will allow you to consider future outcomes and successfully shift plans for how to achieve your fundraising goals.

When should nonprofits create a fundraising calendar?

Ideally, your nonprofit should have its annual fundraising calendar ready well in advance of the upcoming fiscal or calendar year, depending on how you manage your operations. For some nonprofits, this means having a calendar that outlines activities from July 30th to June 1st. For others, this means January 1st through December 31st.

Whichever way you set it up, plan to create your calendar at least a month in advance of when you will actually start using it. This way, you can avoid playing catch-up and start preparing for long-term projects right away.

How to Create an Annual Fundraising Calendar

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

We’ve discussed the types of general activities that your annual fundraising calendar can document, but the content on your calendar should be dictated by your goals for the year. Think of your calendar as not just a checklist of activities for the year but a plan for achieving specific goals.

As such, your first step in designing your fundraising calendar is to define your nonprofit’s fundraising goals for the year. These goals should:

  • Align with your overall mission and financial needs. Talk with your team, especially your executive director and program managers, to identify what your nonprofit needs to accomplish this year. For some nonprofits, this might mean planning a growth strategy, while others might seek to raise enough funding to maintain current operations.
  • Be practical based on past years’ performance. Evaluate your organization’s past fundraising activities and campaigns to identify what worked well, what needs improvement, and what should not be repeated. This ranges from social media strategies and events to sponsorships and grant applications.
  • Consider expected trends and events. Is there anything your nonprofit can predict will happen in the coming year that will impact your fundraising efforts? This might include trends in corporate funding, major political events, and seasonal activities. For example, every nonprofit should consider the heightened philanthropic activity around the end of the year.

Use these goals as guidelines for your entire fundraising calendar. When adding activities, consider how each proposed initiative helps your overall goals. If something doesn’t clearly align, consider if it’s still necessary or even if it takes resources away from other activities.

Identify Key Fundraising Activities

Next, use your goals to determine the types of fundraising activities and campaigns you plan to undertake during the year. A few campaigns you might add to your fundraising calendar include:

Matching Gift Campaigns

Fundraising calendars help nonprofits plan specific fundraising activities that need to take place at specific times, but they can also help track and coordinate ongoing fundraisers. For example, your nonprofit might add reminders to continually promote matching gifts.

Matching gifts are a passive fundraiser in that once a nonprofit has matching gift software enabled on its donation page, the fundraiser essentially runs itself. However, you can earn more from matching gifts by remembering to regularly promote it to donors, so they in turn remember to fill out and submit matching gift requests to their employers.

To learn more about matching gifts and why you should add a matching gift campaign to your annual fundraising calendar, check out this video from the Double the Donation team:

There are also events and specific time frames related to matching gifts that you may want to add to your fundraising calendar. For example, if you organize a matching gift challenge with a sponsor, you should add notes to your fundraising calendar about when this period begins and ends, as well as plans to market it to donors.

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Major Gift Cultivation

It’s common knowledge in the nonprofit sector that approximately 80% of the average nonprofit’s funding comes from just 20% of donors. Recent reports show this trend has only been exacerbated with 90% of donation revenue coming from 10% of donors.

This means if your nonprofit does not already have a formal process for courting major donors, now is the time to start planning one. 

On your annual fundraising calendar, add directions for your major gift officers. As they develop relationships with major donors, the donation cultivation process will become highly individualized, and major gift officers will need to create their own schedules for each prospect. However, your fundraising calendar should document steps for your major giving program as a whole.

For example, you might add core activities such as:

The major gift fundraising cycle, detailed below.

  • Conduct prospect research
  • Reach out to new prospects
  • Cultivate relationships by inviting major donors to special events
  • Make asks for a major upcoming project to donors likely to convert

Putting these activities on your calendar will help you continually refresh your database of prospects, grow your major giving program, and ensure major gifts come through at key times of the year.


From booking a venue to organizing a marketing campaign, events require significant planning but can also bring in significant revenue. For major events, consider breaking their planning into multiple steps, such as:

  • Initial planning. Early planning stages for events depend on the event type, such as an auction requiring an extensive item procurement period. However, for most events, major activities to add to a fundraising calendar include organizing sponsorships, booking venues, planning activities, and making necessary software and resource purchases.
  • Marketing. Event marketing should start at least several weeks before a major event and requires planning beforehand. Consider scheduling time for market research and marketing asset creation, as well as creating an outreach schedule for when promotions go live. For example, you might plan time to hire a graphic designer to create invitation eCards, then use eCard software to schedule their delivery.

An example eCard invitation, inviting supporters to an ice cream party event.

  • Marketing. Event marketing should start at least several weeks before a major event and requires planning beforehand. Consider scheduling time for market research and marketing asset creation, as well as creating an outreach schedule for when promotions go live. For example, you might plan time to hire a graphic designer to create invitation eCards, then use eCard software to schedule their delivery.
  • Hosting. Unless an unexpected emergency comes up, you should schedule a specific date to host the event early on. This enables bookings in advance for venues, entertainment, and catering.

For events, pay special attention to staff time and what types of staff you will need. Some events may be able to rely heavily on volunteers, whereas others might require a significant amount of work from staff and even external vendors.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

In many ways, peer-to-peer campaigns run themselves, but they need coordination to get off the ground and make an impact. For your peer-to-peer campaign, add the following items to your fundraising calendar:

  • Software purchases. If your nonprofit does not already have peer-to-peer software, plan to begin the purchasing process in advance of your campaign. Be aware that some software purchases, such as platforms that are major investments or require significant customization, may require months-long implementation processes.
  • Volunteer recruitment. Determine how and when you will recruit participants. You may start making open calls early on and then plan to ramp up recruitment as your campaign’s start date nears.
  • Onboarding. Schedule time to create a formal onboarding process for volunteers in advance. You should have a style guide for how to present your nonprofit online and a walkthrough for how to use your peer-to-peer software.

Be aware that if you are hosting a rolling peer-to-peer campaign, you will have no set dates, and your timeline will be looser. Whether your campaign is scheduled or rolling, add reminders to regularly check in with your peer-to-peer fundraisers to provide encouragement, answer questions, and thank them for their participation.

Giving Tuesday Campaign

Giving Tuesday is one of the most important fundraising days of the year with almost $3.1 billion raised in 2022. If your nonprofit wants to participate in Giving Tuesday, start planning your campaign early.

Many nonprofits use Giving Tuesday as an opportunity to try new fundraising strategies to reach new audiences and stand out from the crowd. Whether your nonprofit is using an old strategy or trying something new, remember to pencil in research time for your campaign plan. Use the period several months in advance of Giving Tuesday to determine what fundraising strategies donors are responding to, if nonprofits in your field are using them, and if they are feasible for your organization.

Then, schedule time to assemble a team, establish your strategy, purchase and implement any needed software, and create necessary marketing materials. If you don’t have a separate content management calendar, consider adding notes about when to post announcements and send out promotional materials to your annual fundraising calendar.

Determine Timing and Scheduling

You now know what activities you want to put on your fundraising calendar, but when should those activities happen?

For every activity, assign a specific date or time frame based on:

  • Seasonality. Certain times of the year lend themselves to certain fundraisers. For example, the end-of-year holiday season is likely to be packed with marketing campaigns and events, whereas the fall may primarily be dedicated to planning those upcoming activities.
  • Donor behavior. Consider how donors are likely to respond to future activities based on previously scheduled ones. For instance, at the end of the year, you may make a major push to acquire new donors. In the following months, you would then shift gears to prioritize retention efforts to maintain as many of those donors as possible. This factor is especially important when it comes to establishing major giving practices.
  • Relevant external factors. Are there any upcoming challenges or opportunities you are currently aware of that might impact your schedule? For instance, if your marketing head is going on maternity leave, you may need to schedule a training period for the replacement to get up to speed.

Additionally, consider how much time should be dedicated to each activity. For example, while an event might only last for a few hours on a single day, you might need well over 100 hours of staff time to prepare for that event. This will help you balance schedules and avoid overwhelming any one team or person at your nonprofit.

Allocate Resources

In addition to the time activities will take, consider what other resources are needed. This may include budgeted funds, as well as which personnel is assigned to what activities to avoid double-booking or overextending resources.

Alternatively, consider what resources each activity is likely to bring in. For example, a volunteer recruitment drive will increase available volunteer time while an expected renewed grant will provide more funds for various programs.

How to Maintain an Annual Fundraising Calendar

Meet regularly with your team

Your annual fundraising calendar’s effectiveness is contingent on your team following it and adapting it as needed. Meet with your team about this year’s fundraising calendar regularly to:

  • Create your calendar. Unless your nonprofit is a one-man team, you need input from the rest of your team to determine which activities to prioritize, what resources you need for those activities, and who should be responsible for them. For instance, you might initially assume your IT team can handle your website redesign single-handedly, but after input from the rest of your nonprofit realize they need to work in tandem with your marketing team.
  • Ensure ownership. Every task on your fundraising calendar should be assigned to a specific person or group of people. Meet with various teams so they are aware of their responsibilities each month.
  • Make necessary adjustments. The people carrying out your various fundraising activities will be the first to sound the alarm if adjustments need to be made. Keep lines of communication open so team members can report delays, needed additional resources, and shortfalls. On a more positive note, team members might also report that certain activities earned more or were wrapped up in less time than expected.

By talking to various members of your staff, you will gain a broader perspective of your nonprofit’s current operations and capacity. This will improve your understanding of what your team can reasonably accomplish in a given year and help you stay on track to hit your fundraising goals.

Track Progress

As mentioned, your annual fundraising calendar is a roadmap for achieving your goals for the year, and that roadmap may need to add a few detours here and there. These hiccups should not derail your entire calendar. Instead, be ready to be flexible and make adjustments as needed.

Track fundraising activities in relation to your annual goals. For example, if you have a target amount you want to raise this year, you might focus on how much your fundraisers, events, and major donors bring in throughout the year. If a fundraising event has lower attendance than expected due to weather, consider how you can adjust other activities planned in future months to make up for that revenue shortfall.

Consistently engage donors

While your calendar likely only lists major activities, don’t forget the small everyday activities that keep your donors engaged. For instance, you can’t predict when every new donor will decide to give, so you need a flexible strategy that allows you to show appreciation and recognize donors at a moment’s notice.

Annual Fundraising Calendar Template

If you search the web for fundraising calendars, you’ll likely find results that look like a regular calendar you might hang up in your kitchen. These are not annual fundraising calendars and have limited use for nonprofits.

Rather, your fundraising calendar should take the form of a spreadsheet to be more useful to your team. Here’s an example and breakdown of the core elements of an annual fundraising calendar:

An annual fundraising calendar template.

  • Month. Annual fundraising calendars are usually broken down by month to avoid making them too unwieldy. If there are specific activities that need to happen on specific dates, such as hitting a grant submission deadline, add a note to your calendar.
  • Activities. What activities are taking place this month? Usually, these are overall activities for the month, such as “plan Giving Tuesday campaign” or “start contacting potential annual gala sponsors.”
  • Costs. To the best of your ability, estimate how much each activity is expected to cost. This includes software purchases, vendor costs, and staff time. If you haven’t already prepared it, consider crafting your nonprofit’s annual budget in tandem with your fundraising calendar. This helps you keep track of where your money is going and ensure you have enough funds allocated for the entire year.
  • Staff. Determine who at your nonprofit will be responsible for what activities. This can be names of specific individuals or groups, such as your marketing team, major gift officers, or volunteers. Additionally, estimate approximately how much time you expect staff to spend on any one activity.
  • Expected income. Ultimately, your fundraising calendar is about earning money for your nonprofit. As such, for applicable activities, do your best to estimate how much they are expected to earn. This is especially necessary if your nonprofit’s annual goal is related to hitting a specific fundraising target.
  • Notes. If there are any extra reminders you want on record about a planned activity, add them to your notes section. This might include a reminder about the staff member going on maternity leave or a note emphasizing a strict deadline for a certain task.

To keep your nonprofit on track for the entire year, consider adding an optional “Goals” section to the top of your fundraising calendar. This should be a statement of what you hope to accomplish during the year that you can always refer back to at a glance each time you look at your calendar.

Annual Fundraising Calendars: Wrap Up

With a well-thought-out plan, any nonprofit can start its fundraising year off right. Annual fundraising calendars can help your organization do just that by creating timelines, allocating resources, and helping to focus your goals. To get started with your annual fundraising calendar, use our template or create your own. Then, meet with your team and start planning.

For more fundraising and organizational resources, explore these guides:

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