The primary purpose of your nonprofit’s annual fund campaign is to raise the money necessary to cover your organization’s operating expenses, like your facility’s utilities and your staff’s compensation packages.
In other words, your annual fundraising campaign helps you keep your doors open and makes it possible for you to continue making a difference in your beneficiaries’ lives.
However, with so many other campaigns, events, programs, and projects going on, it can be challenging to find the time to sit down and identify the strategies that will help your annual campaign start strong.
This quick guide identifies three surefire annual fundraising strategies that will help you successfully fill your annual fund:
- Set an annual fund goal based on past performance.
- Customize your campaign to meet your supporters’ needs.
- Work with a fundraising consultant.
1. Set an annual fund goal based on past performance.
Several months before you launch your annual fundraising campaign, you should set your initial fundraising goal. However, to make an informed decision about where you want to go with your campaign, you have to look back on where you’ve been. In other words, you should begin your goal-setting process by evaluating your past campaign performance. To do so, take a look at your nonprofit fundraising metrics, such as:
- Total amount raised last year: Reported as a whole number, you can compare this number to the annual fundraising goals you’ve set for the past several years. Use the information to help you set your initial fundraising goal. For example, if you consistently raise more or less than your goal, you can land on a more accurate goal for your upcoming campaign.
- Cost per dollar raised (CPDR): To find the CPDR of your past annual fundraising campaign, simply divide your expenses by the revenue you brought in. This way, you’ll know whether you raised money, lost money, or broke even. This can help you plan your campaign so that you have a greater chance of raising money with your campaign.
- Average gift size: This metric tells you the average gift amount given during your last annual fundraising campaign. To find it, you simply divide the total dollar amount of gifts received by the number of gifts received. Doing so can give you insight into the amounts you should seek out for your next campaign.
You can also ask your supporters to provide feedback about previous annual campaigns. Create a short survey to send via email or to post on social media that asks questions about your supporters’ experience with your campaign and what they would like to see change in the future.
Once you have a clear picture of past successes and shortcomings, set your initial fundraising goal. But remember, you can be flexible with your goal and adjust it as you get closer to actually beginning your campaign. From there, you’ll prepare your campaign assets, such as a gift range chart, case for support, and solicitation plan.
Next, you’ll conduct a planning and feasibility study, ideally with a fundraising consultant (more on this later!). According to Averill Solutions, these studies involve interviewing your stakeholders to get their perspectives on your initial goals, plans, and campaign assets. You’ll use their feedback to fine-tune your campaign plan, and then get started filling your fund!
2. Customize your campaign to meet your supporters’ needs.
Since you’ll be relying on your supporters to give to your annual campaign, you should design your campaign so that it will resonate with it. When you make your campaign more meaningful to the people that will be supporting it, you’ll not only be able to meet your annual fundraising goals but also strengthen your relationship with the individuals who care the most about your cause.
So, use what you know about your community of supporters to:
- Personalize campaign communications. Use your supporter data to automatically populate campaign messages with information like your supporters’ names and details about their past contributions. Remember to adhere to your supporters’ communication method preferences by segmenting them based on the most-used channels and customizing your messages accordingly.
- Host engaging events your supporters will want to attend. Different groups enjoy different types of fundraising events. For example, church supporters might enjoy a choir concert or other faith-focused activity, while families in your school’s community might be eager to attend a family movie night or carnival. If you have a widespread supporter base, hosting an online auction for your nonprofit can be an effective way to maximize your fundraising event’s reach.
- Offer multiple ways to give. Make it easy for your supporters to give in a way that is easy for them. Offer the option to give online, over the phone, or through the mail. In addition to offering multiple giving methods, educate your supporters about an easy way they can double their gifts’ impact without reaching back into their wallets—through matching gifts! Encourage them to find out if they’re eligible for a matching gift program through their employers and to submit their matching information.
In addition to these customization practices, ensure that you have a robust recognition plan in place. In addition to personalizing your thank-yous and taking things to the next level with small gifts (like branded merchandise) or gestures (like adding supporters’ names to a virtual contributor wall), ensure that you send out your recognition messages soon after a supporter has made their gift. Doing so will help strengthen your supporters’ connections to your nonprofit as you demonstrate that they are seen and valued by your organization.
3. Work with a fundraising consultant.
If you want to give your annual fundraising campaign an edge and a great chance of success, consider working with a fundraising consultant.
These experts can provide you with an outside perspective on your campaign plans and help you fine-tune them according to the freshest industry best practices. For example, a consultant might help you strengthen your approach to prospect research, assist you in interpreting past campaign data, or give you suggestions for honing your marketing plans.
The important thing to remember when you decide to work with a fundraising consultant is that the hiring process should be taken seriously. Averill Solutions’ fundraising consultant hiring guide outlines the following process for hiring a consultant that can be a true partner to your organization:
- Identify your goals and the services you need. Determine what you want out of an engagement with a consultant and why your nonprofit needs support. Then, make a list of the services you need to improve your annual fundraising efforts, like conducting a planning and feasibility study.
- Use your network. Next, ask trusted colleagues in the nonprofit space about the consultants they’ve worked with before. This, on top of your own research, can help you narrow down a list of potential consultants that you want to work with.
- Meet with your top candidates. After you have an idea of a few consultants you’d like to work with, meet them in person or speak to them over the phone. Ask them about their fundraising philosophy, the work they’ve done with similar organizations, and how they think they could help with your specific campaign. During this conversation, get a feel for how the consultant might fit into your nonprofit’s internal working culture.
- Request proposals and check references. Draft up a request for proposal (RFP) to get a fuller idea of how an individual consultant could help your organization raise money for its annual fund. Submit your RFP and wait for the consultant to get back to you with a completed proposal. Then, evaluate the proposals and request any feedback (this is critical for seeing how flexible your consultant is). Check your consultants’ references to ensure they have a track record of success.
- Sign a contract. It’s time to choose your consultant and make it official! Sign a contract that outlines the expectations, timeline, and budget for the engagement, and then get to work.
To get the most out of your experience working with a consultant on your annual fundraising campaign, prioritize open communication. And remember, at the end of the day, you’re the expert on your nonprofit’s operations. While you should remain open-minded when working with an outside expert, don’t be afraid to push back on suggestions or recommendations that you know won’t work for your organization.
Your annual fundraising campaign is the campaign that makes the rest of your work possible. Without this recurring campaign to cover your essential expenses, you wouldn’t be able to keep your facility open, run your volunteer program, gather gifts, or deliver services to your beneficiaries.
This is why you need the best strategies on your side for filling your annual fund. Use the three strategies we’ve walked through in this post to get started planning your next annual fundraising campaign plan today. You can do it!