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Annual Fund Campaigns

  • Builds nonprofit relationships

  • Requires finding donors

An annual fund or annual appeal is the backbone of many successful nonprofit fundraising programs. The term "annual" obviously denotes the frequency of the appeal but today, "recurring" solicitation is probably more accurate for a year may be too long to wait to communicate needs to donors and ask for financial support.

The effect of an annual or recurring fund is that it establishes long-term relationships with donors and the organization. As donors become regular respondents to recurring solicitations, they become invested in the organization and the stewardship of these donors can yield great dividends in the future. Reviewing a history of donations can reveal certain giving patterns and clues to what is important to particular donors. These patterns of behavior can be monitored and used to target marketing materials to precisely match a donor's interest and ability.

In order to reach out and make a solicitation for support, you have to have names. Where do these names come from? List brokers exist who can sell you just about any information you could want but I believe it is worthwhile to build your own lists no matter how difficult it may seem.

Building your own list of potential donors forces you to get involved with all sorts of people and build connections with those who ultimately support the organization. Start with your own name; add 10 or 20 of your friends and family or those who will make a gift because of a relationship with you. Have other organization leaders do the same with 10 or 20 of their family members and friends. Not everyone will donate, and some may do so grudgingly, but a few will not only give but will also become interested in the work of the organization. These people are key donors because they are the next step toward an additional 10 or 20 people. As new donors become interested in doing more than just making a financial gift, continue to ask each to invite others to join them in their support.

Let's do some math. Say you have 5 key organization leaders. Each solicits 20 people and 12 of 20 make a gift. Just 2 of these 12 donors decide to invite 20 more people to participate and they experience the same level of success. From just the work of the 5 organizations leaders in the first appeal for funds, you have received 60 donations and now have 60 names on the list. Since 10 additional people from this group ask their friends and family to get involved in the next appeal, their work will add another 120 donors. Of these donors 20 agree to contact their family and friends for the third appeal and they add 240 more donors. In just three solicitations, five people have developed 420 donors, 70 of which are actively recruiting more people to help.

The quality of these donors is good due to the fact that they were all personally solicited by someone with whom they had a relationship. Some people may scoff at this approach as simplistic, but fundraising is a business of relationships. When an organization is just getting started, you have to count on personal relationships rather than counting on people who believe in your cause to step forward on their own. People don't give to causes. People give to people in support of causes. Generally speaking, if there is no relationship, there is no donation.

Once you obtain donors, never let them go. The first gift is the hardest to obtain and it is far easier to increase a current donor's level of giving. Take the time for a personal note of appreciation, even if it's just hand-written on the bottom of a form letter. Let donors feel that their gift is essential. As the organization grows, personal relationships tend to shrink so be certain to segment donors into manageable groups and assign someone the task of maintaining good relationships
 

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