5 Must-Haves for Annual Giving Success

by Joe Garecht

5 Must Haves

Guest Post by Kathie Kramer Ryan

When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, a robust annual giving program is one key to overall success. When done right, your annual giving program will provide a steady stream of donations to your organization as well as prospects for your major gift program.  Here are 5 must-have tools to build a successful annual giving program:

1.  Case for Support

The case for support is the compelling story of why your organization exists. It is an important tool in your fundraising toolkit and serves to inform all fundraising communications, including annual giving appeal letters, emails, website content and more. To get started on yours, read How to Write a Case for Support for Your Non-Profit.

2.  Database (and Donor Segmentation)

A good database can help you streamline fundraising efforts, become more donor-centered, and ultimately raise more money for your organization. Your database will track all donations, including annual giving. Segmenting donors for annual giving appeals allows you to send targeted communications and solicitations to each of your key donor groups, personalizing suggested giving levels based on past gifts.

3.  Direct Mail

A vigorous direct mail program allows you to keep loyal donors AND attract new ones, both of whom are critical to annual giving success. Be sure to include current, lapsed and prospective donors in your mailings. Key aspects of direct mail campaigns that you’ll want to optimize include:

  • The design of the envelope (or subject line of email) – these first impressions help ensure your piece will be opened.
  • Spelling – correct spelling of donor names is arguably the most important thing to get right! Donors often say they discard any appeal that misspells their name.
  • Who makes the appeal – who signs the letter (or sends the email) matters. Consider your board chair, CEO, and other VIP-status folks with name recognition.
  • The letter (or email) itself – make sure your content is donor-centered and includes a suggested gift amount. Here’s where your database information comes in handy – never ask for less than your donor’s current giving level.
  • The response card – include suggested gift levels and how donations at each level will be used.
  • The reply envelope – consider a Business Reply Envelope to increase response rate.

4.  Website

Your website serves as a gateway to your organization for prospects and donors. Make sure it communicates your mission and how gifts to your organization are used. Tell your story from the perspective of donor impact and use photos and videos as much as possible. Share links to your organization’s social media to drive better interaction and relationship building. And don’t forget to include a “Donate Now” button and a place for donors to opt-in to your mailing list.

5.  Prompt Gift Acknowledgment

Prompt gift acknowledgment is the first step in an effective stewardship program and can help you move minor donors to major donors quickly. A prompt thank you note sends the message to your donor that you value their support. Keep up the communication throughout the year to build an ongoing relationship. Don’t make the mistake of contacting donors only when it’s time to ask for another gift!

Kathie Kramer Ryan has 15 years of frontline fundraising experience. A former development director, Kathie enjoys sharing her knowledge of nonprofit management and development with other fundraising professionals. You can learn more and find fundraising tips from Kathie at ArroyoFundraising.com.

Photo Credit: Squidish

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