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Building a Robust Annual Giving Program

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

It has been a while since I have last worked on this blog, so I thought I would come back and write about something that every small shop fundraiser should care about – annual giving! An annual giving program establishes and nurtures donor support to ensure the fulfillment of your organization’s mission. It is the backbone of small shop fundraising.

For this blog post, I wanted to share with you a real-life example. This is about the organization I work for, and how we have grown our annual giving program from 320 gifts totaling $42,041 in 2015 to 302 gifts totaling $84,587 in 2019. Yes, you read that right. A well-functioning annual giving program does not happen overnight. So, I want to share with you what we did to make this happen…

  1. I came to my organization in October of 2016. At the time, there were over 750 names in our donor database, with no gift history attached to them. So, I decided that I was going to start with direct mail. I wrote a letter explaining who I was, a brief overview of my work history, and why I cared enough about my cause to write them. And, I sent it to every name in that database, with a donation response envelope attached. Over 250 envelopes came back, and I was disheartened by the amount of postage that I had just wasted, but on the bright side, 29 people had sent back donations of all shapes and sizes totaling $7,500. That meant that 29 people cared enough about our cause enough to respond, and I made sure to mark each one of these people in my database. With these 29 people, I decided that I was going to write each one of them a personalized “thank you” note and I told them that I would call them the next week – and so I did.

  2. Next, I turned my attention to #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, driven primarily through digital media. That first year, I did not spend a lot of time crafting strong messaging or branding, instead, I focused on educating our Facebook audience and e-mail audience on what #GivingTuesday is, and how the modest goal of $1,500 would help our patients and their families. 11 donors made this goal a reality, and helped set the stage for the next years to come.

  3. As the year came to a close, I looked at how much we have raised and it totaled $9,000. I had not set any specific goals for that first year, so I thought to myself, you know what, I think we can raise $1,000 more and finish our year strong. Although it is important to segment your donors (I will discuss this in a later blog post), it is even more important to pay attention to the donors that come through when you need them most. This is definitely one of those times. So, I decided that, again, I was going to call and send a “thank you” note to each donor.

  4. The last thing I looked at for the end of that first year, was our monthly giving program. At the time, it was nonexistent. I was determined to get to that $10,000 mark, so I set my sights smaller. I felt that I may have already exhausted our small base of support with the direct mail campaign and #GivingTuesday campaign. So, I thought, I needed 10 people to pledge $25 a quarter for the next year. I happened to have small coffee cups leftover from an event, so I offered this small little trinket as an incentive. For the monthly giving program, I looked specifically at the special events that we have had in the past. I segmented out the donors who have been to any of our events more than two years in a row, and I mailed them a special letter and stated that I would call them to follow-up in two weeks. This method helped bring on two monthly donors, and as I promised, I followed up with a call asking for a monthly pledge, and we were able to bring on three more monthly donors. These total pledges surpassed our original goal of $1,000.

This is just one story, and only one year of work. I said it before, and I will say it again: your annual giving program will be the backbone of your small shop nonprofit. If you would like to discuss your annual giving program further, I would be more than happy to discuss any ideas you may have. Leave me a comment!

Shelby Moore - MPA, CFRE

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