A Realistic Look at Annual Funds
5. Recognize that you must also replenish your donorbase with new constituents. Your loyal constituents are human – i.e., they are mortal and at the mercy of the elements of change. Figure out whom you most need to acquire and whom you have the best chance of acquiring. For higher education this is often the graduates of the last decade group. Build specific strategies for these younger people. Here is where social media mighty be most helpful. But persuading your new grads to join your online community — in addition to Facebook, LinkedIn and others they may already be using — might be more challenging than we realize. This is a video-oriented crowd but not necessarily an e-mail-active crowd.
6. And build your real case. This is not about money. Nor is it about what the donor can do for the institution. It’s about the value that the institution contributes to the community. All giving is, or wants to be, about making the world a better place.
- Talk about outcomes — not simply the outcomes from the gift, but the institutional outcomes. Be specific; be quantitative. If you can, tell a story. If you tell a story, tell a short one.
- Remember how much time and attention your program can capture — it’s very, very small — and work accordingly. Try to “brand” the annual fund. This means that you find a very brief, pithy, memorable mental image. Stick with it; let it evolve very slowly such that the continuity is sustained. (See the Reed College example of the “Lemming Society.”)
- You can produce a splashy new image each year in the acquisition program, but ask yourself how well you think this will serve your loyalty focus. If it serves that focus well, do it. If it undermines that focus, go back to the drawing board.
The amount of time and attention you are able to secure from your constituents is what makes the difference in the kind of donors they will become for your organization. Manage your annual fund for loyalty and attention. The annual-giving program is not as much a fundraising program as it is a donorbase-management program. Think about it and manage it from this perspective.