This week at the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Hampton Roads luncheon, Kurt Worrell, general manager, Fundraising Solutions Division at Harris Connect, presented on the topic of annual giving. Kurt began with the statement that running a successful annual giving program can be time intensive and costly. However, he continued, it’s an integral part of any fundraising program as it allows a nonprofit to identify and acquire new donors. Annual giving creates a pipeline of major gift and planned gift prospects that help ensure a nonprofit’s sustainability.
Two key pieces of a well-executed annual giving program, Kurt stressed in his presentation, are tracking everything a nonprofit can on a donor and second, stewarding those who give. On the first point, collecting data on your donors and noting every single touch point with that individual allows a nonprofit to better communicate on a personal level and therefore establish a stronger relationship. If a donor says she particularly enjoys a specific program your nonprofit runs, make note of that in your donor database and include an update on that program next time you speak with her. Or if a donor lets you know he prefers to receive hard copies of your annual report, be sure to mail him one versus sending it electronically. It shows you are listening to the people who support your organization.
Secondly, stewardship cannot be over emphasized in any development program and Kurt spoke about it in regard to annual giving. Those who donate to an annual campaign should be thanked and communicated with throughout the year before they are asked again. Remember, you are establishing an on-going relationship with your donors, not a once-a-year transaction. Kurt recommended a nonprofit’s stewardship plan should includes six touch points across a calendar year in between annual solicitations. This could involve biannual newsletters, an executive director email update, a phone call from the development director, an in-person visit from a board member. (If the person is considered a major gift prospect, an in-person, non-solicitation visit is very important.) A nonprofit that follows the six touches across a year rule is fostering a strong connection with its donors. Then, when the nonprofit does ask its donors to support the organization with an unrestricted gift, those individuals will be ready to donate and feel good about making the investment.