5 Must-Haves for Annual Fund Success

Image: digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you love and appreciate your annual fund? Hope so! Your annual fund brings in favored general operating dollars, surfaces new prospects for major gifts, and gives you a reason to clean up your donor database—always a good thing. 

Also, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative found that charities with annual funds are more likely to meet total fundraising goals. 

Here are 5 things you can do to ensure your annual fund keeps on giving:

1. Set a $ goal that is based on reality

A huge annual fund campaign goal that doesn’t reflect the capacity of your donor base, prospect list, and amounts raised in years past is no friend of yours. In fact, it can derail your campaign’s momentum before it even gets off the ground. Instead, use these goal-setting tips to set ambitious but achievable targets.

2. Invest in a donor management system

For most organizations—even small start-ups—using a donor management system (i.e. database) to store and sort donor information is a must. Tools like Excel are not robust enough to support all of the info that needs to be tracked and retrieved. Remember this post on how to alienate donors with a single keystroke? Avoid this and other mishaps by investing in a donor database system.

3. Provide easy, clear ways to give.

If you want people to send in checks, include a return envelope and an easy-to- navigate donation card in your annual fund mailing. Extra points if your return envelope has pre-paid postage.

If you want people to give online, set up a simple, clear donation page on your organization’s website that can accept credit card transactions. And, don’t make your would-be donors search all over your site to find the Donate Now button!

Streamlined, well thought out processes for accepting donations give supporters confidence in your organization, and in your handling of their money. 

4. Create a plan that involves a calendar.

I am a big fan of backwards planning. First, decide when you want your annual fund letter or email to land in donors’ mailboxes. Then build your timeline of tasks backwards from that date. If there’s ever a good time to make a step-by-step, super-detailed plan, this is it. You don’t want to miss the all-important year-end annual fund solicitations because you didn’t start early enough!

5. Have an idea of what comes next.

While you might get lost from time to time in the minutiae of annual fund planning and execution, try to step back and remember that there’s both a short game AND a long game to your annual fund. In the short term, you need to bring dollars in the door for your current fiscal year. 

Over the long term, you are building a base of loyal donors who feel appreciated, confident about your organization, and excited to tell their friends about you. In other words, stewardship matters. Your annual fund campaign isn’t over until you’ve thanked every donor in a timely manner. And in the back of your mind, start planning how you’ll steward them in the coming 12 months so you can count them as donors again next year!

Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click). 

Do you have tips on how to make your annual fund a success? Please share in the Comments box below.