In the previous piece in our annual giving series, we explored the function and value of annual gifts. An annual gift is a contribution made to a nonprofit organization or higher education institution, provided on any given annual basis with unrestricted purposes. By extension, an annual giving campaign is an organized effort, established by your organization or institution, to solicit yearly gifts to support your general operations. The question is: what all is involved in an annual giving campaign? And how best do you structure your fundraising efforts to meet your goal? Let’s explore the 8 phases involved in a successful annual giving campaign.
Before creating an annual giving campaign plan, it’s important to round up a group of people to help you oversee your campaign at large. The first step in your annual giving campaign is to form a steering committee. This is a group of 6 to 8 board members who will help you plan your campaign before you assemble your full staff. Essentially, the annual fund steering committee decides on the priorities and order of business an organization manages. So, they help give your organization strategic direction and support. If anything, they have a vested interest in the delivery and outcome of a project.
Now it’s time to begin planning your annual giving campaign. During this time, it’s necessary to set a goal for your annual fundraising campaign. So, it’s important to make your goal as measurable as possible. Remember, at the very least, the basic goal for your annual fund is to secure funds for your operational expenses. So, it’s necessary to evaluate what your basic needs are. Revisit the mission of your organization and work backward. Ask yourself: what is our organization’s reason for operation? And what do we need, regularly, to make our mission a reality? You may also harbor more general goals that need to be quantified. This may include: cultivating and nurturing deeper connections with your donors, improving donor retention, increasing engagement, and identifying prospects.
So, once you begin planning your goal, begin mapping out a budget for annual fundraising efforts. This funding will help cover the costs of fundraising events, making solicitations to prospects, and investing in fundraising software.
Once you have a clearer impression of your annual giving campaign goals, it’s time to begin assembling your team. Since annual giving campaigns are ongoing, it’s easy for them to take a back seat when your staff is addressing efforts that require immediate attention. So, to prevent your campaign from falling by the wayside, it’s important to create a designated annual fund team. They will ensure that your organization is on track to meeting your annual giving campaign goal, and will work tirelessly to pursue it.
You may be wondering: who all do I involve in my staff? Since annual giving campaigns are so broad, you need to employ a cross-functional team to manage your campaign. For example, it’s necessary to hire a major gift officer since 60% of your annual fund will be made up of major gifts. Additionally, volunteers can help your organization broaden its reach and inspire more individuals to give. If anything, their presence creates the perception that your annual giving campaign is a community-based fundraising effort (not just another fundraiser). It’s also important for you to involve board members and key stakeholders so they can track your campaign’s progress and see where best to redirect your efforts.
Now, before you begin developing a marketing strategy for your annual giving campaign, it’s important to figure out who your target audience is. By narrowing your focus, and determining who all would be most likely and most inclined to give, you can tailor your marketing strategy to appeal to those donors who are already interested in donating. This cuts your work in half. The question is: how do you figure out who has the propensity and capacity to give to your organization?
With a wealth screening, you can see which donors have the greatest propensity and capacity to give. Not only can you segment your audience based on basic demographic information such as age, but you can also append your database with wealth attributes. So, you can easily understand an individual’s giving history (what/how much they’ve donated in the past) and estimated giving capacity (what/how much they’re likely to give in the future). This will help you understand how to spark their interest and, as a result, expand your reach to donors just like them.
It’s also important to create an annual fund model. Now that you understand the commonalities among your planned giving donors, you have a clearer impression of who to target. By using predictive modeling, our data scientists employ WealthEngine data along with your data to create a unique, custom algorithm. Using this algorithm, WealthEngine can predict who in your database is most likely to donate to your organization on an annual basis (via online channels or direct response channels).
Now that you’ve formed your annual giving campaign team, it’s time to develop your marketing strategy. Remember: communicating the mission and message of your campaign is your first priority. Who does your organization seek to serve? And how will it address the needs of that community? How will your organization leave a lasting impact? To develop an effective marketing strategy for your campaign, you should create a case statement, campaign theme, collateral material, media, and at least two campaign kickoffs (one internal and one external).
During this time, it’s also incredibly important to develop your stewardship strategy. It’s paramount to focus on engaging your donors in ways where you can form deeper relationships with them. This will help you increase the number of recurring donors in your base, who are incredibly valuable to your organization. So, in order to cultivate and nurture your donors effectively, it’s necessary to hyper personalize your outreach. By articulating or displaying a grasp of their individual contributions or interests, you can forge connections with your donors that highlight their values in relation to your overall goal. This can be done through different channels such as direct mail, online campaigns, or planned events.
Now that you’ve done all of your annual giving campaign prep work, it’s time to launch your campaign! Before you open your campaign to the public, you should first conduct a Board (or Internal) Campaign, soliciting internal gifts. Once all of your board members have made contributions, you can then go to the community for support. Remember: the Internal campaign lays the foundation for your annual giving campaign, so public support can only be gained after you’ve received complete participation from your Board.
Once you’ve opened your campaign to your community, it’s important to solicit gifts in sequential order. This fundraising strategy, of sequential solicitation, is a guide outlining the order in which you should receive gifts to meet your fundraising goal. That being said, it’s important to secure your major gifts first, and then receive smaller gifts toward the end of your campaign. That way, once you secure the bulk of your goal through larger donations, the smaller gifts you receive are just meant to help you reach the end of your goal.
During this period of gift solicitation, it’s also important to create opportunities for your donors to interact with your organization beyond donating. This could be through the creation of special events, volunteering opportunities, peer-to-peer fundraisers and other nonprofit fundraising ideas.
As your annual giving campaign efforts wind down once you’ve met your goal, be sure to express thanks for their participation. Without their efforts and commitment to your cause, you wouldn’t be able to transform your mission into a reality. Your donors, and their generous contributions, are what make that possible.
So, before following up with another ask, be sure to express your gratitude by sending them a personalized thank you message! When donors feel acknowledged for their actions, they feel like change agents, and are inspired to do more to create a positive impact.
Now that you’ve reached the end of your annual giving campaign, it’s beneficial to reflect on your campaign process. Ask yourself: what worked? What extraneous factors did we not account for? How could we transform our campaign moving forward? Answers to these questions will help you address and reframe your fundraising goals.
It’s also necessary to assess your stewardship goals and restrategize if needed. Did your donor retention rate increase? By how much? Are there donors in your database who have the propensity or capacity to give more? Which donors upgraded their gifts? Evaluating your campaign from this lens helps you adjust your fundraising strategy. It also helps you identify effective ways to deepen donor engagement for future campaigns.
Discover the best prospects you can target for your annual giving campaign. Download WealthEngine and Coldwell Banker’s A Look at Wealth 2019 to get inside the minds of millennial millionaires.
This is the second article in our Annual Giving series. You can read more about Annual Giving best practices in our first article on What is an Annual Gift? and strategies you can implement to boost your fundraising in our third article on Top 5 Annual Giving Campaign Ideas.
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