What is an annual fund drive and how do I plan one?

What is an annual fund drive and how do I plan one?

A year in fundraising

The Annual Fund Drive is the fundraising term for your main fundraising push each year. The Annual Fund Drive is for the non-profit what an Annual Stewardship Campaign is for a Church.

Sowing and reaping

The Annual Fund Drive focuses on three primary goals or targets. Donor acquisition, donor cultivation, and donor reactivation.

1. Donor Acquisition

Every organizations needs new donors. Without new donors, your donor file will slowly dwindle through attrition until you decide to get serious about donor acquisition or close your doors forever. The donor acquisition portion focuses on presenting your story, the compelling need that only your organization can meet, to new people. Your acquisition efforts will likely cost more than what it brings in, but that’s ok. You’ll make up the difference when you begin to cultivate those new donors.

2. Donor Cultivation

Once someone has made a donation, they need to be asked to give again. Your annual fund drive will employ a series of different cultivation techniques that will present the need anew to people who have supported you in the past. Your donor cultivation might include direct mail, email, phone calls, events, peer-to-peer fundraising, or other strategies. The main point of these cultivation strategies is to reconnect with your donors and ask them to give again.

3. Donor Reactivation

If someone stops giving to your organization for a period of time (say two years) they become a lapsed donor. Donor reactivation strategies seek to reconnect with lapsed donors and rekindle the spark that made them donate in the first place. You might use a lot of the same techniques as donor cultivation, but your focus will be different.

You will need to acknowledge that they haven’t given in a while, and perhaps it’s a good time to ask ‘why not?’ Asking why donors stopped giving often gives us an opportunity to reconnect them with our mission and invite them to give again. Also, a person might have moved or had a change in financial circumstances that caused them to change their giving patterns. When you discover something like this, you can build a connection by inviting them to participate in other ways. A big thing is to reestablish the relationship with the lapsed donor and invite them to take part in your organization again.

Build you own annual campaign.

Running a full blown Annual Fund Drive can be a big job, so it’s important that your plan is big enough (or small enough) to fit your organization. This means that you will need to look at what resources you have and decide what strategies you’ll be able to integrate into your plan. Pay close attention to the cost effectiveness of your fundraising strategies. It might sound like a good idea to do a different fundraising event every month on paper. In reality, event fundraising has a much lower return on your time and money than doing direct mail or e-mail fundraising.

Start by looking at your three core audiences: new donors, current donors, and former donors. Do you have a strategy to reach each of these groups? Do you have a way to track their responses? What strategies have worked in the past, and where are opportunities to try something new? Is your list of current donors growing, or is it shrinking?

Bringing in new donors means finding ways to tell your story and your mission to people. You can do this many different ways. Learn more about Donor Acquisition.

Donor cultivation means reconnecting with former donors and inviting them to share in your mission again. Learn more about Donor Cultivation.

Donor reactivation requires a special approach. Learn more about Donor Reactivation.

Build your calendar.

Once you’ve chosen or identified your strategies for new, current, and lapsed donors, build a calendar for your annual fund drive that looks something like this:

Annual Fund Calendar
The Annual Fund Calendar helps you plan for the year!

What you see here is a basic calendar of your fundraising activities, and the strategies that you’ll be using to approach potential donors, current donors, and former donors. You can get more specific with your plan by writing out the individual activities month by month, but having something simple that lets you see your year at a glance is enormously helpful. It enables you to see where missed opportunities lie and where you should invest more energy. Including information on cost effectiveness and total amount raised for each activity makes it an even more effective planning tool.

Don’t let the number of activities on this plan intimidate you. If you’re a small food pantry at a local church, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever run a billboard campaign. But you might do an ad in your church bulletin, and you’ll definitely want to send thank you notes. Food drives could be an annual or even a monthly occurrence. The main thing is to make a plan that fits your needs and your resources. A plan that’s too big will sit on a shelf and collect dust. A plan that’s just right will stretch you just enough to help you grow, but still be manageable. Here’s what a simplified annual campaign might look like.

Small Annual Fund Calendar
This simplified Annual Fund Drive might work for smaller agencies

Volunteer Power!

Your annual fund drive is going to make a bigger splash the more volunteers get involved. It’s simple math. 10 people can do more than one person. Think about ways that you can get others involved in your fundraising. The key places for using volunteers in the plan above might be the following.

Direct Mail – Volunteers can help you stuff and seal envelopes for your mailings and your thank you notes.

Events – Events are just too much work if you don’t have a team of volunteers making it happen. Find people who love throwing parties and give them a good reason to have a lot of fun.

Major Gifts – Get your board members and existing major donors trained and excited about soliciting big gifts. This should be a major focus.

Peer to Peer Campaign – Excited volunteers are a great resource for bringing new donors to your organization. They know lots of people you don’t and will make the introduction.

Phone Campaign – Get people who love to talk on the phone to call your donors to thank them for their support and ask for a new gift. The personal feel of a phone call also works great for reactivating lapsed donors.

Looking for more articles on annual fund drives? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.

Image courtesy of Dafne Cholet, via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.