Annual giving strategies that work


If you are looking for a fool-proof annual giving plan that works for every charitable organization, unfortunately it does not exist. Every nonprofit is unique in its mission and serves a specific community. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here are seven key annual giving strategies that work.

1. Pay attention to the calendar: Timing is important. What might work for one organization, might not work for yours. While the end of the year is always a key time to engage supporters, you should also consider the following:

  • The school year calendar.
  • Appeals from other organizations that your constituents might support.
  • Lead time to plan, recruit volunteers and execute a successful annual appeal.

2. Know your audience: While demographic research can be helpful in mapping out a fundraising strategy, no amount of research will replace the knowledge you have about your supporters. What events have been popular in the past? When is the best time to ask for support? What gets the most response from your community outside of fundraising – newsletters, text messaging campaigns, social media posts, special events? Keeping track of your donor data over time will help take the guess work out of these questions.

You also want to diversify your message. If you are sending letters, consider a different letter for one-time givers, recurring givers, new families, etc.

Lastly, consider labeling your levels of support. This can help you be specific with whom you are targeting through correspondence and it encourages donors to consider “moving up” in their commitment to your organization each year.

3. Do your homework: However you decide to appeal to your donors, the message you send is what counts. Sharing a personal story that illustrates the importance of your ministry is one of the best ways to get your donors’ attention. Know what your needs are and be specific about how much it will take to meet them. In addition, share key statistics with your donors that let them know the effect their donations have and paints a picture beyond the needs they see on paper. Lastly, set your sights high, but not too high, and have an attainable goal for your annual fund.

4. Make it easy for your donors to give: Provide the opportunity to donate online (if you haven’t already). Invest in a CRM or donor database software to facilitate various gifts and more importantly, keep track of giving. Identify any roadblocks your supporters might run into and remove them.

5. Keeping track of donor data: While it may seem obvious, previous giving is the top indicator of a donor’s likelihood of making another gift to your organization. Giving history provides invaluable information, especially if you are considering a targeted approach, asking for specific amounts or if you are considering a capital campaign. Analyzing this data can also tell you which giving strategies work well for your organization to adjust your strategy for the next year’s annual fund.

6. Thank and engage: While thanking your donors is obvious, it is often overlooked. Find creative ways to thank your donors and do so in a timely fashion. Also, don’t let an appeal letter and a thank-you letter be the only ways you keep in touch with your supporters. Send regular updates using a variety of communication tools about the important work you have been able to do because of your donors’ support.

7. The balancing act: Stick with what works and get creative. While these may seem like opposite strategies, finding the right balance will help maintain giving from your key supporters while attracting new donors to your organization.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Most of your donors give because of your mission and the important work that you provide. If you’d like to discuss annual giving or the services of the Steier Group, please contact me.

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