Article

7 Annual Giving Campaign Ideas & Best Practices

Having worked at a nonprofit that raised a majority of our funds with an annual campaign, I know first-hand how powerful a strong annual giving campaign can be.

I’ve seen first-time donors become recurring donors.

I’ve noticed a positive response from donors after they see the difference their gift helps make in the community over the course of a year.

I’ve known some donors who grew to major gift donors to board members because they felt invested in our cause based on their annual gift.

Yet, despite all the benefits of an annual giving campaign, many of us in the nonprofit world tend to think of them as a traditional fundraising method reserved for larger organizations.

However, at CauseVox, we truly believe that any nonprofit or charity, regardless of size and budget, can successfully run an annual giving campaign.

Whether you’re new to the concept of annual giving or if you’re looking to grow your campaign, here are some ideas and best practices that can help you plan a successful annual giving campaign.

What Is Annual Giving?

Most organizations use an annual giving campaign to raise unrestricted funds for basic operations and programming. In general, annual campaign funds aren’t used to carry out specific projects, but to promote and ensure that the organization’s mission is met.

As an example, let’s think of a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth. You’d use a traditional fundraiser for to raise money to help sponsor a child in one of your programs (meaning the food, shelter, clothing, education, etc. needed), but you’d use annual giving campaign funds to cover all operational expenses (staffing, transportation, paperwork).

What Are The Benefits To An Annual Giving Campaign?

There are a number of benefits to running an annual giving campaign. These benefits include:

  1. Consistency: An annual campaign occurs year after year, meaning it is not only a consistent source of income for your organization, it’s also a consistent place for your donors to give.
  2. Donor Retention: Following the donor engagement and retention cycle is key to keep your donors involved and active in your organization. With an annual giving campaign, you can guide your donors through this cycle in a systematic, organized fashion.
  3. Flexibility: After years of running an annual campaign, your nonprofit should have a good idea how much in unrestricted funds will come in year after year, which allows you to shift resources to develop programs that are working.

Above all, your nonprofit has the ability to customize your annual giving campaign to meet the needs of your organization.

You can focus on reaching your supporters through direct mail, email, or even social media. Or, run your annual giving campaign completely online like thousands of other nonprofits and charities using crowdfunding software.

Take a look at these 7 annual giving campaign ideas and best practices to begin planning for your annual giving campaign.

1. Start With Your Nonprofit’s Friends

Best Practice: Use the power of your connections to develop a plan and begin fundraising

As with all fundraising, it’s best to start with who you know. After you develop a campaign theme, discuss the project and get the input of your board of directors and other key supporters. They’ll likely have some great ideas about campaign sponsors, pools of prospective donors, and how they’d like to see the campaign run (for example, online annual fundraiser vs. direct mail based).

And don’t just stop at input, ask for a financial commitment to help kickstart the campaign. If you’re running an online campaign, then this is the time to recruit your closest supporters to become personal fundraisers for a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Your closest supporters will have the greatest insight into what makes your message compelling. The more you can involve these people in your outreach, the more powerful your messaging will become. 

Carlisle Family YMCA has been using personal and team fundraising to boost their annual campaign for years. The team at Carlisle Family YMCA knew that by just engaging their board to fundraise for their annual campaign, they’d be able to get a head start. 

carlisle-family-ymca-annual-giving-campaign

They encouraged their board members to make the first donation to the campaign to help them get the campaign off the ground and then asked that they then share their pages with their networks.

Plus, they were able to use the same message they’ve been using for years in their traditional annual giving campaign to promote their online campaign. So far, they’ve raised over $72,000 for their annual campaign, while adding new donors and raising more funds than in the previous year using team and individual fundraising.

At CauseVox, we believe that incorporating peer-to-peer fundraising into your annual campaign can help you reach more donors. When you use your supporters as the backbone of your fundraising campaign, you’re empowering them to take ownership of your organization’s future.

2. Kickoff The Campaign Right

Best Practice: Consider launching your annual giving campaign on #GivingTuesday or an awareness day.

So, once you’ve got your first round of donations reflected on the online campaign site, you’re ready to get started with the wider launch of your campaign.

Of course, you’re going to want to make a big splash the day of your annual giving campaign launch.

If your annual giving campaign falls at the end of the calendar year, consider using GivingTuesday as the launchpad for your larger year-end fundraising campaign.

For GivingTuesday itself, you can launch your campaign with a clear fundraising goal for the day, but use language on the page to pitch how this initial push figures into your larger annual giving goal.

If your annual giving campaign falls at another time, try finding a related awareness day to launch on, or simply hype up your launch date ahead of time.

Make it clear that while the first step is definitely launching your fundraising rocket, your goal is to get it to the moon.

Tip: One way to make your launch extra special is by securing a matching gift for your launch date.

3. Run Your Annual Giving Campaign Online And Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Best Practice: When running an online campaign, you’ll need donors to either act as personal fundraisers or be willing to share your crowdfunding campaign with their networks.

Fundraising has always been about connecting with people and building relationships, which is why peer-to-peer fundraising is a great technique to incorporate into an annual giving campaign.

Faith in Action is a great example. 

This faith-based organization ran their annual campaign as a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign through CauseVox. They engaged 92 people to fundraise on behalf of the organization, asking friends and family to make gifts.

Faith in Action invested in their community by providing weekly email and a fundraising toolkit to help guide them on how to best fundraise within their communities. They encouraged each person to share a personal story about why they’re fundraising for the organization.

annual-giving-campaign-peer-to-peer-fundraising

One of their supporters, J.D. Klippenstein, told a personal story about two friend who were experiencing homelessness who tragically died one cold winter. His own powerful story related to the cause moved his friends and family to donate $4400 to Faith in Action.

Your supporters have their own powerful stories to draw from. By giving them the opportunity to share their own stories connected to your cause, you’re empowering your network to feel closer to your organization and become a fundraising powerhouse for you.

An online annual giving campaign is a perfect way to engage your current supporters (board members, volunteers, donors, staff) by having them share your campaign and serve as personal fundraisers.

And at CauseVox, we give you the tools you need to develop an easy-to-use, shareable campaign so your supporters don’t have to worry about sending out receipts or troubleshooting IT issues. Instead, they can focus on what they do best — connecting with others.

4. Take A Multichannel Approach

Best Practice: Engage your audience both online and offline to maximize results.

You’re probably used to writing up your annual appeal letter, getting your year-end brochure printed, and getting the mailers sent out to your audience.

And that’s fantastic. Keep doing it.

While having an online fundraising campaign to make it easy for your supporters to fundraise for you and for people to donate, it’s great to approach your annual giving campaign promotion through multiple channels.

To optimize your fundraising, consider:

  • Mailing out your traditional year-end appeal letter- just include a link to your online fundraising campaign so people can choose to donate online.
  • Adding any cash or check donations to your online fundraising site as offline donations, so they reflect towards your campaign total. This keeps everything centralized online.
  • Doing a series of emails to supplement your mailer and link back to your online fundraising campaign.
  • Featuring your online campaign on your website, linking your page directly on the home page
  • Posting a series of social media posts that point back to your online fundraising campaign.
  • Having an in-person event to kick off or end your annual giving campaign and accept cash, checks, and online donations through your online fundraising campaign.

With this kind of blended online and offline approach, you’ll be sure not to alienate your existing donors while easily reach new donors.

Plus, this kind of approach helps ensure you’re touching your audience enough to compel them to make a donation. E suggest it takes between seven and 12 “touches” to compel a donor to support a nonprofit organization.

By surrounding your donors with different forms of communication, you’ll be set to stand out and get more donations for your annual giving campaign.

5. Spread The Word On Social Media

Best Practice: Never forget the power of social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and even Snapchat can all help you to reach a broader, newer audience.

Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine a time before we had social media to update our supporters on our organizations. Before, we had to promote heavily through local media outlets, mail out a letter, or send out an email that may or may not be opened. Reaching our donors took time!

Today, your supporters are just a screen click away with social media, which is great when you want to share news about your annual campaign.

Don’t look past social media when you start planning your communications for the annual giving campaign. In fact, it’s best to use social media in conjunction with mail, email, and in-person asks. Here are some quick suggestions:

Facebook: Post links to the campaign donation page. Also, post regular updates, stories of impact, and powerful, emotion-evoking images and videos.

Instagram: Highlight stellar fundraisers/donors, client, etc. through pictures, photos and Instagram stories.

SnapChat: Reach millennials and give a backstage look at your organization.

Twitter: Send out quick quips, quotes, and links to campaign-related sources. Also, don’t forget to retweet posts from donors sharing your campaign and their stories with their networks.

Thanks to all who helped us celebrate Campaign Kickoff at the Salvage Station! What an EPIC… https://t.co/4XqjNd4iPR

6. Put A Face Behind Your Organization With A Good Story

Best Practice: Your story defines your organization, so put stock in it.

Your organization has an amazing story, and it’s your responsibility to tell that story well. It could be about a client who’s life was changed, a piece of land saved because of advocacy efforts, or an animal taken off the endangered species list.

As with all nonprofit storytelling, remember that you don’t just want to tell your audience about a problem, you want to show them that there is a solution and they can be part of that solution.

And with CauseVox’s built-in storytelling tools, you can easily create and share the story you want to tell with your audience.

Baycat is a fantastic example. This active and passionate community organization is working to tackle the lack of women and diversity in media. Using CauseVox, Baycat built a campaign page that jumps right into the fray, getting people of under-represented demographics to talk about how it feels to be excluded from mainstream media. 

baycat-annual-giving-campaign

After all, why tell your supporters third-hand about lack of representation when you can place the people you’re working to help right into the limelight? Baycat’s story-driven campaign wasn’t just about the idea of diversity. It was about  peoples’ personal experiences of exclusion. 

Baycat was able to show its supporters firsthand what destructive stereotyping feels like, and the empathy that created provided great impetus for more people to stand up and pledge their support. 

7. Close The Campaign The Right Way

Best Practice: Celebrate the end of the campaign by thanking your donors and showing them the impact of their gift.

Once your annual giving campaign is wrapped up, the work is far from over. Now, it’s time to share your results and impact with participants. Here’s are a few key tasks that you’ll need to complete to wrap up your campaign:

  • Say “Thanks”: First, send out your “thank yous”, because even your loyal, recurring annual donors deserve a personal, heartfelt note of appreciation.
  • Report Results: Let your donors know if you’ve reached your goal and the anticipated return on investment of their gifts (for example, you can report the number of lives changed per average gift).
  • Compile Donor Data: Input all donor data onto your nonprofit CRM and fundraising database. That way, you’ll know who to reach back out to in a year for the next campaign.
  • Plan Engagement Opportunities: Don’t just reach out to donors when you need a contribution. Instead, plan engagement activities such as webinars, networking events, and volunteer opportunities to keep your donors active with your organization.
  • Celebrate: Celebrate the contribution of your donors, the effort of your fundraisers, the work of your nonprofit staff with a party. Again, it can be online or offline. If you have any nonprofit swag, vouchers for local restaurants, or even images of client being served, now is the time to share this with those that worked hard for a successful campaign.

At CauseVox, we know that organizations can’t just rely on a number of small fundraisers to meet the ever-growing needs of the average nonprofit. And yes, annual campaigns can be a lot of work, but they are well worth the effort. So we’ve tried to simplify and streamline your workload by automating receipts and “thank yous” and making it easy to manage your fundraising site from set-up to finish.

When you work with CauseVox to run your annual giving campaign, we‘re there to support you on the backend, so you have more time to connect, share your story, and engage with those that matter most—your donors.

Raise More With Less Effort For Your Annual Giving Campaign With CauseVox

Fundraising for your annual giving campaign takes a lot of time, energy, and organizational resources. 

By using CauseVox for your annual giving campaign, you’ll save yourself time and frustration, so you can raise more with less effort and uncertainty.

This post was originally published on 4/12/18 and was updated on 10/9/19.

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

    Easy-to-use Free to get started Cancel anytime