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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Why Focus On An Online Annual Giving Campaign?
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 6 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.
At CauseVox, we believe in people-based fundraising and your annual campaign is no different. 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. Run An Online Campaign Using The Voice Of Your Current Supporters
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.
Carlisle Family YMCA has been using personal and team fundraising to boost their annual campaign for the past few years.. The team at Carlisle Family YMCA knew that an online campaign would help them tap into their target prospective donor population: millennials.
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. In the end, they added new donors and raised more funds than in the previous year using team and individual fundraising.
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.
3. Host A Kickoff Party
Best Practice: One way to engage your donors is to celebrate with them, but make it an educational party! Show your donors the impact you plan to have.
I have to admit that, as a fundraiser, one of my favorite events of the year was our campaign kickoff. We’d invite donors, business owners, volunteers, and even the local media to celebrate the beginning of what we hoped was a fruitful venture.
Now, a kickoff party doesn’t have to be big or elaborate– it doesn’t even have to be in-person! If you can gather all your donors in one place, then set up a speaker to talk about the impact the annual campaign has had/will have in the community.
We also know there are times and situations when a huge party just isn’t feasible. If this is the case for you, host an online party. For example, you can plan a social media party where you ask donors to share a post about why they are a part of your organization on your Facebook page or Twitter.
4. 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
— UnitedWayABC (@UnitedWayABC) September 16, 2016
5. 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.
6. 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.
If you’re ready to start, we’ve got some more great resources for you as you take a leap into annual giving campaign planning:
- Those looking to run an online annual giving campaign may find some inspiration with this guide: How To Plan A Nonprofit Crowdfunding Campaign.
- To learn more about donor retention and engagement after the initial gift is made, check out: Donor Engagement & Retention Playbook.
- This webinar has some great tips about how to use social media to help ensure a successful campaign.