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An organization’s annual fund is one of its most important sources of revenue, but it can often be one of the most challenging fundraising projects to tackle.
Nonprofit organizations like philanthropic associations, churches, universities, and more all collect donations throughout the year that are directed toward their annual fund.
This fund covers the essential operational costs of organizations, in addition to supplementing other fundraising campaigns and helping lay the groundwork for organizational growth.
However, not every nonprofit knows how to effectively fundraise for their annual fund.
In fact, one of the most common missteps organizations make is failing to plan their annual giving campaign with the same strategic approach as they would other fundraising projects (like capital campaigns).
Want to learn how to plan your nonprofit’s annual fund campaign more effectively? In this article, we’ll go over some of the key steps of crafting an expert annual fund plan that you’ll be able to use throughout the year, as well as offer up some samples of annual fund campaign planning resources.
As your organization prepares for its next annual giving campaign, your team should:
- Outline goals for your annual fund plan
- Align your solicitation strategy for your annual fund plan
- Set an annual fund plan calendar for your campaign
Ready to get started planning your annual fund more effectively? Let’s dive into these important strategies!
1. Outline goals for your annual fund plan
Just like your team would outline goals for any other fundraising campaign, your annual fund should have defined goals set in several areas that your organization will use as performance benchmarks.
These goals shouldn’t simply be monetary. In fact, if your nonprofit wants to become more successful over time, a great way to challenge yourself is by setting annual giving campaign goals across many different metrics.
Consider some of these performance areas that you’ll need to address as you plan your annual fund campaign.
Determining the budget of your annual fund campaign should be one of the earliest steps in the planning process for your nonprofit. If you don’t have the resources in line to accomplish the campaign you envision, there’s no way you’ll meet any of your other goals.
Set a campaign budget for your annual fundraising efforts. With this funding, you’ll cover the costs of expenses like fundraising events, making solicitations to prospects, and investing in tools like fundraising software.
In planning your annual fund campaign budget, don’t simply set an overall number to cover all costs associated with the campaign. Rather, set strict budgets for each arm of your organization: your communications team, your fundraising officers, your major gift strategists, etc.
This way, if your team goes over or under budget in any given area, it will be easier to see where more or less funding should be allocated in your next annual fund campaign’s budget.
When you think about setting goals for your giving campaign, your fundraising goals are likely what comes to mind first.
Since gifts to your annual fund are considered “unrestricted,” some organizations feel less of a need to outline how they’ll achieve their fundraising goal than they would with a more targeted fundraising project.
However, just as much care and attention should be paid to identifying how many gifts at each giving level your organization will need to reach your goal, as well as the timelines for attaining these gifts.
Before your annual giving campaign can begin, create a gift range chart to plan out how you’ll reach your fundraising goal.
In an annual fund campaign, your fundraising goal breakdown should approximately reflect these proportions:
- The highest 10% of gifts should account for 60% of the total goal
- The middle 20% of gifts should cover 15-20% of your goal
- The lowest 70% of contributions should help your team reach that last 15-20% of your fundraising goal.
Be sure to segment your gift range chart not just by gift size and number, but also by the number of identified prospects you plan to approach for these gifts. You’ll need to plan out how many gifts will come from individual donors, from key stakeholders like board members, from corporate partners, and more.
In addition to monetary goals like your budget and fundraising benchmarks, your team should outline growth metrics that you’ll monitor over the course of your annual giving campaign.
These metrics will help you see if you’re staying on track in areas such as donor acquisition, donor retention, volunteer sign-ups, and more.
Set goals for each metric and periodically check in throughout the campaign to see if you’re keeping pace. You’ll want to decide on what benchmarks you’ll try to reach prior to launching your annual giving campaign for the next year, and to not just hope for growth in general.
Keep in mind some of the following guidelines when setting your annual fund’s goals:
- Consider fundraising history. When setting these goals, take a look at last year’s annual giving campaign’s successes and failures. Where do these numbers indicate you need to focus? Additionally, review how your last big fundraising campaign, such as your most recent capital campaign, did in terms of organizational growth.
- Assess fundraising capacity. As you would with your budgetary and fundraising goals, you’ll want to set goals for growth that are rooted in the realities of your organization. Where do you struggle? Where do you historically see success? Where does your organization need to grow to support your fundraising efforts the most?
Take a look at this sample annual fundraising goal planning chart to get an idea of the kinds of goals an organization might outline for their upcoming annual fund campaign.
2. Align your solicitation strategy for your annual fund plan
When it comes to your annual fund, knowing what gifts you’ll need, how you’ll fund the campaign, and how you’ll grow your organization is just half the battle. As you zero in on your goals, you’ll also need to plan out your solicitation strategy for this campaign.
Asking for gifts for your annual fund can sometimes seem more difficult than soliciting contributions for other fundraising campaigns.
Since these gifts typically fund internal operational expenses (such as the cost of maintaining your headquarters, payroll for your staff, etc.), some givers may be more reticent to contribute to this campaign than one with a more outwardly apparent tie to your mission.
However, if your nonprofit can’t cover the basic costs of operating, you’ll never be able to achieve your mission and uplift your community. For this reason, it’s key that your team carefully plans out who you’ll approach for gifts, when you’ll do so, and how you’ll make your ask.
Start by assessing your existing pool of donors. You can get the ball rolling by asking your team some of the following questions:
- Do you already have enough prospects for necessary gifts?
- How well can you rely on these relationships for the gifts you need?
- Are any of your donors primed to be “upgraded”?
Once you better understand the state of your donor community, start planning out how you’ll solicit gifts for your annual fund. You can do this by creating an annual fund planning calendar in which you set dates for when you’ll reach out to prospects to encourage them to give (see the next section for more ways to plan your annual fund calendar).
Your team might use some of these engagement strategies to connect with donors during your annual campaign:
- For lower-level gifts, you’ll want to periodically make our ask on multiple channels of communication to reach the largest pool of donors possible. Be sure to clearly state your giving needs and to show donors how their gifts will be implemented. Include visual content such as photos, videos, and other graphics that help illustrate who your organization is and how you help your community.
- For major and mid-sized gifts, you’ll likely want to make in-person asks, or at least communicate with prospects via phone. In your calendar, set dates for when to make first contact, when to extend your ask, when to follow up after the ask, and more.
After you receive gifts from donors, be sure to send them a personalized thank you message no matter the size of their gift. Don’t immediately follow up with another ask! Make sure your donors know how appreciative your organization is of their contribution, and then you may follow up with an additional request after some time has passed.
Finally, don’t be afraid to hold fundraising events to boost giving to your annual fund campaign. While most fundraising events are typically associated with your more targeted fundraising campaigns, holding events for your annual fund can still be fruitful.
At these events, you can collect gifts on site using a payment swiper or via your donors’ phones using mobile giving software. If you enable text-to-donate capabilities for your supporters, they can even donate to your campaign by texting your branded giving keyword.
Your organization should create a chart like the sample below to outline how you plan to make solicitations for different gifts you’ll need to reach your annual fundraising campaign’s goal.
3. Set an annual fund plan calendar for your campaign
One of the most important parts of planning for your annual fund campaign is setting your annual fund plan calendar.
In this calendar, you’ll outline things like when you’ll make solicitations to donors, when you’ll hold fundraising events, and other important dates. Take a look at some of these other key areas of your annual fundraising plan your team should map out on your calendar.
As discussed in the last section, your annual fundraising plan calendar is an excellent resource for planning solicitations. In your calendar, your team can:
- Set dates for initiating a solicitation
- Plan when to follow up if a solicitation isn’t immediately successful
- Identify when you’ll follow up with a thank-you after receiving a gift
- Plan when to solicit gifts after a volunteer gives their time to your organization
- Strategize when to reach out to donors who have already given for another gift
Your team should broadly plan out when these outreach events will occur, as well as who will be responsible for carrying them out.
One great way to boost gifts to your organization’s annual fund is by emphasizing corporate giving during the campaign planning process.
There are many ways corporate giving can help your team reach your annual giving goals. One way to do so is by partnering with a corporate sponsor to host fundraising events on behalf of your organization.
Your partner can provide the venue, entertainment, food, and more. In exchange they’ll gain free advertising as well as a reputation among consumers for giving back to the community.
Additionally, your team can leverage corporate giving programs like matching gift and volunteer grant programs to help maximize the impact of your supporters’ efforts.
In a corporate matching gift program, businesses agree to match employee gifts to the organization of their choice. Similarly, in a volunteer grant program, a company will contribute a monetary donation to an organization when their employees volunteer there.
As your team outlines your annual fund planning calendar, be sure to mark off dates related to your corporate giving strategy. These might be when you plan to approach companies for partnerships, when you plan to promote corporate giving programs to your supporters, and other important dates.
The more detailed your calendar, the more useful it will be to your team as the campaign progresses!
Check out this sample annual fund campaign calendar to get an idea of how an organization might mark off the major dates for their annual fundraising campaign.
Does your organization have a plan in place to achieve your annual fundraising goals? With this overview in mind, it’s time to get started planning your next annual fund campaign!
- Annual Fund Campaign Guide. Excited to learn more about annual fund campaign fundraising? Check out our extensive guide to learn all about raising money for your annual fund.
- Annual Fund: The Ultimate Guide. Can’t wait to learn even more? Double the Donation’s ultimate annual fundraising guide has even more information on annual fundraising for your team.
- 21+ Annual Fund Strategies. Want to hone your annual fundraising strategy? DonorSearch’s top annual fundraising strategies can help take your annual fund to the next level.