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Your Nonprofit Organization Needs Annual Giving Campaigns

Many time people will ask the question:  Should we conduct an Annual Campaign?

The Answer is YES, YES and YES!!!

But, we are a really small organization: YES

But, we are a really large organization: YES

But, we are a new organization: YES

But, we are a long-standing organization: YES

I hope at this point I have communicated that organizations large and small, new and old should conduct an Annual Campaign. It has been my experience that organizations sometimes look for excuses not to conduct a campaign. I have heard everything from “we are understaffed,” “we already have 8 events” and, my personal favorite, “our community is different.” All of these reasons prevent growth and tend to keep an organization in a reactive mode of development as opposed to a proactive mode. Perhaps the idea of an Annual Campaign can be overwhelming and somewhat daunting. In this article I hope to reveal to the reasons why an organization should conduct a campaign.

Annual Campaigns can be defined very differently. In the context of this article, however, we are referring to an Annual Campaign as a board-driven fundraising effort or appeal that seeks unrestricted operating funds from primarily individual donors, but also from foundations and corporations.

I believe that when talking about Annual Campaigns and seeking gifts one should first consider from where the money is currently being given. Looking at the chart it indicates that nearly 75% of all philanthropy comes from individual donors.

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This is an under-solicited donor base in many organizations. How many times in your organization do you seek corporate sponsors before individual donors? We believe that in order to have a diversified annual campaign your funding chart should be similar to the pie chart listed above.

The Annual Campaign allows an organization a unique opportunity to target individual donors and receive funds from this donor group that without a campaign would be difficult to reach. Prior to beginning a campaign, it is of critical importance to recognize that the majority of solicitations will be directed towards individual donors as this group makes up the largest segment of the donor population. Now that we have established where the funds are located, let’s discuss why an organization would want to conduct an Annual Campaign.

Sell the Mission!
Annual Campaigns provide an organization the opportunity to sell the mission– not a ticket. Too often in smaller nonprofits a society of ticket buyers is created rather than a society of donors or investors. Nonprofits sell tickets to a gala, some organizations sell raffle tickets and others sell foursomes for a golf tournament. These groups generally do a good job in selling and yet the only mention of the organization is “it’s for a good cause.” Through these opportunities and experiences donors or “ticket buyers” never connect to the mission or the vision of the organization. They play in a tournament, have a nice dinner or simply toss away raffle tickets. They seldom really learn of the good an organization does for the clients they serve or the impact the organization makes in the community. The Annual Campaign allows an organization to connect donors to their clients, their programs and, most importantly, their mission. Through personal face-to-face solicitations for unrestricted gifts a dialogue can occur and the donor has the opportunity to learn why they should make a gift and the value of that gift to the organization and the community. When a donor fully understands the mission, the impact, and the case for support, a sacrificial gift will be made.

Move donors up the giving pyramid!

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Having an Annual Campaign and taking the time to connect donors to the mission will allow the organization the opportunity to move donors up the giving pyramid.

At the bottom of the pyramid is “events”– this is often where donors enter the giving cycle. These are the people that attend an event for an organization and make a token gift. Once someone has attended an event, it should be the goal to convert the event attendee into an annual donor. This takes cultivation and stewardship. Once the donor has been secured as an annual donor, time should be spent on developing a meaningful relationship. Over time and as the donor’s relationship with the organization deepens these donors often become major or capital donors and will hopefully one day make a planned gift to the organization. A planned gift is the pinnacle of effective development. Individuals only make planned gifts to organizations in which they feel a deep and meaningful connection. Donors don’t often move directly from an event attendee to a planned gift donor; time must be spent fostering a relationship and moving the donor up the pyramid. It should be the goal to move all donors up the giving pyramid in a manner that would lead to a planned gift. The Annual Campaign is the perfect vehicle for driving that process.

Cost- Effective! Annual Campaigns are the most cost-effective form of development.

Because an Annual Campaign relies on face to face solicitations, there is little cost associated with conducting a campaign. It is not necessary to spend an enormous amount of money on expensive solicitation packets. An organization only needs a carefully outlined case statement and intent to give or pledge forms. Unlike events, where an organization has to spend $30, $40 or sometimes $60 per attendee, the annual campaign does not have these associated expenses thus allowing more of the gift to be directed to the organization and clients. Also, because Annual Campaigns are board driven, an organization operating with a small or non-existent development team should be capable of conducting a campaign.

Why Not? 

Why would organizations not provide individuals in their community the opportunity to invest in the organization? Both board members and staff members are likely proud of the organization and feel great about the services the organization is providing. If that is the case, they should invite others to invest and give. While fundraising is a little of art and a little of science one truth remains constant: If an organization does not ask for gifts, an organization will not receive gifts.

After reading this, it would be my hope that you cannot wait to begin your campaign! The benefits of conducting a campaign by far outweigh any potential negative consequences. If an organization is truly planning for the future an annual campaign is not optional; it is essential. The campaign will allow an organization to focus on the mission and connect with donors while developing meaningful relationships that will lead to long-term success and sustainability.

** The above information was provided by Misty Cato, Vice President, Diversified Nonprofit Services, LLC. You can also contact her by calling 910-540-2593.

Additional Resources:

Many campaigns fail to meet their goals because they fall behind, get off track or people do not do what they plan to do. One way to avoid this trap is to use the systematic approach.

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What Diversified Nonprofit Services Delivers

The Annual Campaign subscription gives your organization unlimited access to the DNS campaign procedures and tools for 1 year. Further your organization is given access to a private intranet for your agency that allows you to share news, monitor campaign milestones, schedule meetings and events, share files, and contact a DNS consultant online.

Training is done by a DNS consultant in key phases of the campaign (such as planning, prospecting, leadership recruitment, and solicitations). Likewise, scheduled campaign status reviews conducted by a DNS consultant as well as up to 20 hours of additional consulting support. This support also includes detailed research on your top 25 donor prospects. The DNS team of professionals teach countless nonprofits to understand what it takes to be successful in running a nonprofit business from the ground up.

Using Non Profit Software to Manage your Annual Campaign

In addition to the many fine nonprofit consultant groups out there, you should also consider investing in Nonprofit CRM Software.  DonorPerfect Fundraising Software is one of many software packages that helps track and optimize ongoing communications with constituents, existing and potential donors.  The more of information you are tracking about your constituents and members, the more likely you are to run a successful annual campaign.

Be sure to explore what features and tools matter most to you.  For instance, you may START looking at software to manage an annual campaign, but you should keep in mind that it may have capabilities that will help you manage fundraising events (auctions, golf outings, walk-a-thons, etc), online merchandise stores, newsletter signups and much more.  Compare some of the many options on our Nonprofit Software information page.  Learn about the wide range of functions and features available in nonprofit fundraising software at the Fundraising Software Guide.

Many nonprofit consultants can work with any software package you may have, but others will recommend their personal favorites.  If you already have a fundraising software system in place, you should confirm that any consultant you hire is familiar with how it works.

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