11 Steps To Boost Your Annual Fund
It is the year’s busiest #fundraising month and charitable giving season. No matter whether your #nonprofit's fiscal year ends on December 31st, soliciting donations and closing the last tax-exempt gifts by the end of this calendar year is critical.
Small fundraising teams and nonprofit organizations can boost this year’s philanthropic income and Annual Fund by focusing on the most impactful ways to invite smaller and mid-sized donors to make a gift by year-end. Don’t wait for the last donations to come in. Take charge with a few easy steps that require little planning and preparation.
Go with the 3P #fundraising approach: Prioritizing, Personalization, Piloting - set priorities, make it personal, and pilot.
Here are 11 easy steps to put the 3 Ps into action. Little prep is needed!
Step 1: Prioritize year-end giving and take advantage of the last few days in this charitable giving year. Choose to become an active relationship builder and solicitor of the final year-end annual fund gifts. It all starts with intentionality and commitment. And if needed, set specific criteria for your organization’s Annual Fund. It will guide you throughout your fundraising year and help you maximize the annual year-end giving season.
Step 2: Clear your calendars and reschedule any non-urgent meetings. Do the same with your to-do list. Make sure you have the time to immerse yourself in putting your Annual Fund donors front and center fully. It will not only give you the time you’ll need to reach your donors, it will also help you stay focused and get into the energy of your personal year-end giving campaign.
Step 3: Set strategic and realistic goals for what you’d like to do between now and December 31st. You will not be able to do everything. You will not be able to personally ask all your Annual Fund donors to make a year-end gift. What can you achieve with the time and resources you have available? Choose and decide to keep your Annual Fund donor outreach efforts focused and to stay positive.
Step 4: Segment your Annual Fund donor list; for example, look for those donors who have not yet made a gift this year and zoom in on donors who have been committed to your organization for many years. Consider focusing on Annual Fund donors who might be most likely to be interested in upgrading their giving.
Step 5: Go with Annual Fund donors you can easily reach. Build your list focused on donors for which you have phone numbers (cell phone numbers are the best), and email addresses. Make it easy and efficient. This is not a time to be going back and forth looking up phone numbers or email addresses.
Step 6: Divide and conquer. Divide up the Annual Fund outreach list, and get everyone involved. Invite non-fundraising staff and board members to participate in this year-end soliciting effort. Even if you only have a few days - take advantage of those. Reaching out to your Annual Fund donors over the course of 2-3 days, for example, is better than not contacting anybody at all.
Step 7: Let quality trump quantity. The quality of the final Annual Fund outreach is more important than reaching everyone on your list. Yes, you can do your last-minute e-solicitation blast and invest in personal Annual Fund donor outreach at the same time. Set priorities that reflect a personalized approach.
Step 8: Create a positive and opportunity-led message for your donors. You are reaching out because you invite your donors to this amazing impactful giving opportunity. Share with your Annual Fund donors how much a year-end gift would mean to your organization and the people you serve and the impact it will have. And there is no better way of reaching out to your donors with a personal holiday message as well or with a thank you for their past support.
Step 9: Develop a conversational outreach script with a few bullet points for your phone calls, text messages, personal emails, and Whatsapp messages. Use language that you may have used in your year-end campaign. Keep it short and action-oriented. It’s not a marketing language; it is personal. Make it easy for your donors to donate.
Step 10: Make your donors feel special. You are not a telemarketer company calling; you are not a robocall, an automated text, or WhatsApp message. Lead with positivity. Use a friendly and more casual tone to communicate with donors that you are reaching them personally, which is not a standard mass donation appeal. Connect your donors to your mission, and do not be shy to remind them about this wonderful opportunity to do something for a cause they care about. Giving is highly emotional, so make it personal.
Step 11: Enjoy piloting. Test new ways of connecting with your donors. Never texted or Whatsapp-ed your Annual Fund donors before? Think it is too intrusive? Test it. Give it a try, and learn from the experience. You will be surprised how many people you will reach and build a relationship with via the more informal and personal route. And remember, you are trying something new. It might be the way you’ll connect with Annual Fund donors at this time of the year; it might be your consolidated effort to bring in the last gifts. It can only help you be more effective in sharing your organization’s giving opportunities. And next year, you'll already be better prepared and motivated to dive into year-end fundraising.
Last but not least: have fun! I know it is stressful to think about closing the final gifts for this season. Move your worries aside for now. Donors sense when you are anxious or desperate. Positivity is contagious. You are offering donors an opportunity to end the year with a meaningful gift. You remind them of what is important and impactful, and you invite them to become part of something larger than themselves during this year’s holiday season.
Tanja Sarett, MA, CFRE, CVF, is a global fundraising consultant, facilitator, and executive coach based in New York / New Jersey. She activates team-centered innovation and creative and synergistic solutions for visionary organizations and philanthropies. Tanja is an onsite and virtual facilitator, trainer and executive coach, an AFP Master Trainer and a 21/64 Multigenerational Giving Advisor. She brings to her work a wide range of collaborative and creative techniques from IDEO Design Thinking, Liberating Structures, the Technology of Participation, and the Agile community.
Synergies in Philanthropy Consulting (Synergies) provides strategic and team-centered solutions to increase nonprofit innovation, revenue, and effectiveness in a changing and competitive 21st-century philanthropy and fundraising environment. Synergies specializes in major gifts | fundraising campaigns | donor engagement | transatlantic fundraising | virtual events and programs | facilitation | impact planning | board development | leadership training and coaching.