How Does Your Annual Fund Grow?
Your success is defined by you, your board and leadership, but when it comes to an annual fund campaign in a small organization there are primarily two markers of success: increase in participation and increase in dollars raised. Most small schools and non-profits have a one-person shop…it’s all you, which is fantastic for the entrepreneurial, self-starter. It can be lonely, it can be energizing, but your perspective and your degree of savvy will give you and your org an edge in your annual fund campaign. Here are 6 steps to your successful annual fund campaign.
One: Gather your committee. Your committee should include board members, the Executive Director, and volunteers with development experience. You work together to establish realistic goals for annual fund participation and amount to be raised. Trustees and the Executive Director must be comfortable raising money or at the very least, willing to enthusiastically support you in your endeavors. If that’s not the case, that is the first order of business.
Two: Recruit a team. Create an annual fund management team with liaisons for each grade, alumni group, or affinity group who will help you make individual asks. Lovingly recruit them, train them, lead them, feed them, communicate with them, support them, rejoice in their success, celebrate them…they are the key to your successful campaign.
Three: Marketing materials. It’s likely that you don’t have a marketing or communications director on staff if you are working at a small organization. But, you have intellect, you have skills, you have resources, and you have people in your community with skills. Work to create great marketing materials that don’t cost a fortune. Expensive materials are wasteful and unnecessary in the age of online printers and design software. Donors respect your attention to detail and mindfulness of budget.
Four: Make a Big Pitch. At a school, you would make a big Back to School Night pitch with a flashy power point delivered by awesome, friendly parents with a sense of humor; parents, ideally trustees, who you have also recruited to chair the annual fund. If your school leadership is not on board with this, stage a revolution. Seriously. You can increase participation and dollars with a school-wide commitment to the annual fund, and not before. If you are at a non-profit and have board members who are not fully understanding their role in fundraising, this sort of pitch can be made at a board meeting or at a yearly awareness event, with your Executive Director joining you in giving the presentation.
Five: Chart your progress. Statistics are your friend. Even in a small organization with limited resources you can track your appeals and marketing efforts to gauge success against each other, and year to year. Even as low-tech as counting how many gifts came in the week after the big pitch versus last year (when there was no pitch) are helpful as you build your portfolio of successful initiatives.
Six: Call in reinforcements. As a savvy leader, you know when you need some outside insight. Sometimes the task is too large, the zeitgeist needs to change, or you are in uncharted waters. Talk to other development professionals, attend a conference, host an un-conference, or consider hiring a consultant. We all need a little help from our friends.
A version of this post first appeared on www.inspiredsm.com in 2015