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Annual Giving

Your annual giving campaign is a set of strategic development opportunities that help you meet and exceed your fundraising goals each year. Any given annual campaign has two core objectives: (1) to strengthen donor or membership relations and (2) to sustain operational expenses. Executing your campaign from year to year takes practice, experimentation, and persistence. Read on to learn more.

Planning Your Annual Campaign

Planning a campaign requires preparation and attention to detail. You can focus on a core set of items as you begin to shape the campaign:

Set a realistic annual fund goal. This is the amount that you intend to raise throughout the year, and this guides your proposed budget, your relationship with grants and financial institutions, and potentially your ability to collect operating reserves. If you use a tool like a constituent records management (CRM) system, look at your year-over-year data to assess trends in giving and what you might expect to raise in a given year.

Analyze current prospects. Look at the individuals and organizations you would like to get to know and consider the likelihood of networking with them. Are they affiliated with a board member or one of your ambassadors? Does your staff or board have the bandwidth to meet with all the prospects you’ve outlined? Assess these topics for a better view into your prospects.

Develop a team using all resources and connections. Make sure that as a component of your annual strategy, your staff and board are receiving the support they need to go out into the community and network on your behalf. You likely have many people rooting for you and your work, and you’ll want to try and spread their enthusiasm with others as much as possible.

Solicit prospects and steward them. Have you developed an organizational brochure or case statement for why prospects should give to you? Consider how small touches, like a phone call, brochure, or invitation to coffee can all add up within the stewardship pipeline. Make sure that you and your staff practice the solicitation process and ingrain stewardship within your organization.

Develop a plan for thanking donors. All organizations know that thanking is a must-have within this line of work. This process doesn’t begin and end in the development office; rather, share the responsibility of thanking supporters across your team, inviting many to sign a thank you card, brainstorm copy for a thank you letter, or call a donor.



There are several fundraising opportunities making up your annual giving campaign. Consider these three components within your strategy and how you can start tracking their performance at your organization.

Appeals: These are the direct communication pieces to your prospects and donors that are sent via direct mail or email. An appeal should contain powerful content and educate others on your past, current, and future efforts. Most organizations create a mid-year, #GivingTuesday, and end-of-year appeal. It’s critical that each appeal increases your supporters’ connection to your cause. Head to Creating Content That Works for more advice on crafting the perfect appeal.

Events: These are exciting opportunities to expose your campaign. Whole hosting an event comes with its own challenges, some tactics can increase your odds of success. For more information, head to Events.

Stewardship: Each supporter is unique and no two like to be stewarded in the same way. You should develop a plan for communicating with donors that is broad. Since it’s easier to keep a donor than to acquire a new one, make sure that retention is a key goal within your stewardship plan. Acknowledgement through low-cost touches, like a handwritten note or even a text message, can help set you on the right path to stewarding your supporters.

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Best Practices

If you’re interested in improving your annual fundraising results, here are a few best practices to get you started.

Implement anniversary data solicitations. Within your constituent records management (CRM) system, you’ll be able to identify those in your database that have consistently given to you in the same month or same quarter and appeal to them annually at that time. Soliciting donors when they like to give builds loyalty and shows that you are paying attention. Use additional solicitations, liked mid-year or #GivingTuesday, to share big news, a project update, or just say thanks.

Test your appeals. The best way to learn what works and what doesn’t is to test your messages. Take a subsection of your list and try out a more targeted appeal. If it works, expend the experiment and watch your annual fund grow.

Don’t always ask for money. Retention is a cornerstone among successful organizations, and like new donors, loyal donors also need to be courted. Sometimes it’s useful to not ask for anything. Work on building a strong relationship over time by sending thank yous, interesting updates, or good news.

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