Create a Habit of Giving Among Donors

Create a Habit of Giving Among Donors

October 4th, 2012

by Dan Schipp


For organizations that begin their fiscal year on July 1, the first quarter has already come and gone.   And so . . . how are you coming along with your annual fund?  Are you on target to meet your goals for the year?  Are you keeping on schedule with your mailings, events, e-solicitations, and personal contacts?  Are you working your plan?  Do you have a plan?

As important as annual giving is to an organization’s overall development effort, it’s surprising how many nonprofits don’t bother to put together an annual plan for their primary donor acquisition and renewal program.  Instead, they just continue doing what they’ve always done or they bounce from one activity to another without a clear sense of the direction they want to head and what it’s going to take to get there. 

The annual fund is the foundation of a quality development program.  It warrants taking time to step back and assess how you can make it more productive.  It deserves preparation of a “road map” – a well-considered, detailed, actionable plan.

An annual fund plan serves as a framework and guide for an organization’s annual giving activities.  It aims to create a habit of giving among the organization’s various constituencies. 

It is a plan of action with a detailed schedule for its implementation.  It not only identifies the actions to be taken, it names the persons responsible for the specific actions, and the metrics to be used in measuring progress and success.

What are key elements of an annual fund plan?  I suggest the following:

  • Goals – What role do you want the annual fund to play in your overall development program?  What is the total gift income you seek to raise in annual giving?  What percentage of participation do you want from your various constituencies?  How many of your annual donors will you call on in person?
  • Constituencies – What groups of stakeholders will you approach with your annual giving program?  Are their segments within constituencies that you will want to approach in different ways?
  • Vehicles or Methods of Solicitation – How will you use various solicitation vehicles — personal visits, direct mail, e-solicitations, phonathons, special events, and social media?  Will you use some methods for some constituencies but not for others?
  • Timetable – How will you sequence your annual fund activities?  How often will you approach your donors and prospective donors and on what schedule?
  • Assignments – Who will be responsible for doing what?  What actions will be expected of staff and what actions will be asked of volunteers?
  • Metrics – How will you measure success?  What performance indicators will you consistently track?  Besides total gift income raised, will you track the number of renewals, number of upgrades, results per method employed, and cost per dollar raised?

If your organization has an annual fund plan, I hope you are well on the way to successfully implementing it.  If you do not have a plan, it’s not too early to be thinking about a plan for the coming year or too late to compile one for the second half of the current fiscal year.

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