Salisbury School had a goal – to increase annual giving by young alumni. “Our young alumni participation rate was very low, well below industry standard”, said Susan Auchincloss, Director of Annual Giving, “and we wanted to find a way to increase it without sacrificing the amount of money we raise.” She knew this would be no easy task in a world where people (especially recent graduates) are “hard to reach, attention spans are limited, and competition for charitable donations is fierce. “
Susan and her team decided to partner with BCG Connect, the direct marketing group at Boston Color Graphics,specializing in annual fund strategy, to design and execute a month-long campaign targeted at young alumni. They named it “The February Faceoff Challenge” and it included three critical ingredients: competition, integration, and personalization.
- Competition – During the month of February, gifts from the classes of 2000-2012 to Salisbury’s Annual Fund were recorded and displayed along with the comparable class results from six of Salisbury’s peer schools. Using “Us vs. Them” as a slogan, the challenge tapped into the school’s competitive spirit. Each class also designated a “captain” to ignite some internal competition between classes and build a strong network of volunteers to spearhead the challenge.
- Integration – Over the course of one month, every recent graduate received a carefully orchestrated wave of appeals using new (email, social media) and traditional (direct mail, phone) media. The goal was to make it easy for alumni to contribute in a way that was convenient for them.
- Personalization – Starting with a postcard (which contained a QR code) and followed by four weekly email appeals, alumni were driven to a personalized online giving page (i.e., a PURL) which contained specific pre-determined ask amounts based on giving history, class year, and estimated giving potential.
The February Faceoff Challenge proved to be a huge success as Salisbury’s young alumni participation rate doubled from 8% (in the previous year) to 17%. The amount of money donated to the Annual Fund by young alumni doubled too with nearly 43% of donors contributing $100 or more. And, if that’s not impressive enough, the campaign inspired an anonymous donor to make a $10,000 gift in honor of the challenge.
Click here to view the challenge website. For more information contact:
Susan Auchincloss at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Zimmerman at email@example.com
* above artwork by Julie Hammill www.hammilldesign.com
Building a household budget is a relatively simple task. First, you set aside money to live on – for rent, food, utilities, and (hopefully) a little fun. Then, you put aside money to invest in your future – for education, retirement, and other life goals.
Developing a budget for a nonprofit organization is not all that different. Like individuals, nonprofits need money to grown on. Often, this comes from endowment or capital gifts used for long-term investments or for specific building projects.
However, nonprofits also need money to live on. Typically, this comes from dues, tuition, and other fees. Unfortunately, this is rarely enough to fully support an organization’s operating budget, which is why annual funds are so important.
There is no single or universal definition of what should be counted in an annual fund. In fact, as the above chart demonstrates, organizations choose to define their annual funds in many different ways. What is universal, however, is that nonprofits don’t just need money to help them grow. They need money to help them operate, to run, to work, to function. They need money to live on. They need annual giving.
They call her Ugly Betty. And, while she may be lacking in fashion sense, she knows a thing or two about renewing gifts from prior donors.
Who is she? She’s a no-frills direct mail package that’s gaining popularity among annual giving programs. She doesn’t contain a wordy case for support or compelling pictures. In fact, she looks more like an invoice than a traditional fundraising appeal.
There’s a lot of noise out there” says one annual fund manager referring to mailboxes cluttered with charity appeals and consumer offers, “and Ugly Betty helps convey our most important message in a succinct way. In addition to our more traditional letters, we send as many as four Ugly Bettys to our recently lapsed donors each year.”
Megan Doud, Director of Annual Giving at The University of Michigan, describes Ugly Betty as one of their most successful appeals (see sample below.) “On average, we see a 14% response rate for prior year donors and 3.5% response rate for 1-2 year lapsed donors. Some schools and colleges see response rates from priors of around 20-25%!”
Today’s donors are busy. Even those who are committed to supporting your organization can use a little reminder now and then. Ugly Betty may not be the best approach when it comes to acquiring new donors, but she may be able to help you convey an important message to your most loyal supports – it’s time to renew your support!
There are so many things to love about annual giving. For starters, it’s full of juxtapositions. It’s an art and a science, fundamental and complex, perennial yet always full of surprises.
It’s also easy to love the people who work in annual giving. They’re so often curious, venturesome, and eager to make the world a better place. But how do you show these special people how much you love them? The answer is so simple that even children understand – you tease and annoy them.
Here are 10 ways to annoy an annual giving professional and show him/her how much they mean to you:
- Code all managed prospects “do not solicit”
- Hide the call center headphones
- Forget to use an appeal code
- Don’t fulfill your pledge
- Mail in a credit card gift and leave the expiration date section blank
- Add the President to the appeal seed list
- Call them a “friend-raiser”
- Take vacation during the last week of the fiscal year
- Collate before the ink is dry
- Increase their denominator
The term alum refers to any of various double sulfates of a trivalent metal such as aluminum, chromium, or iron and a univalent metal such as potassium or sodium.
While I imagine that alum may be quite interesting to a chemist, it’s not clear how useful it is to people who work to advance the mission of educational institutions.
On the other hand, an alumnus (male) or alumna (female) is a former student (often a graduate) of a school, college, or university. The term alumnae is used to describe a group of female former students and the term alumni describes a group of male former students or a group of mixed sexes. Typically, alumni are both interesting and useful to education advancement professionals.
Many thanks to Gabe Bolio for sharing this great chart and for understanding that, while words matter, pictures always help.
1.) Tell them what to do.
2.) Give them the tools to do it.
3.) Acknowledge when they’ve done it.
Unfortunately, donors don’t grow on trees. But where do they come from?
According to our 2012 Survey, which assessed the characteristics and trends of annual giving programs at more than 260 nonprofit institutions, 60% of organizations receive the majority of their donors as the result direct mail appeals. This may (or may not) be surprising to many annual giving program managers who have, in recent years, witnessed a decline in prospect contact rates through their call centers and an increasing level of comfort among donors to donate online.
Similarly, 73% of organizations receive the majority of their annual fund revenue from direct mail appeals. This may be due to the common use of direct mail as a cost effective way to renew, reactivate, and upgrade past donors. In contrast, many annual giving programs report that call center and online appeals (i.e., email, social media) can be effective means for acquiring new donors.
Regardless of how your organization compares, it’s important to understand where your donors and dollars are coming from, so that you can make the best decisions about how and where your resources (staff, volunteers, budget) are spent in the future.
To learn more about (or to participate in) this year’s survey of annual giving programs, click here.
Has the unrestricted gift lost luster with donors? This chart suggests that may be the case.
If your annual fund isn’t performing at the level you expect (or need), then it may be time to rethink your strategy. Start by asking a few basic questions:
- Do you only count unrestricted gifts in your fund totals? If so, why?
- Is your approach institutionally-centric or donor-centric?
- Does your case for support highlight generic needs or specific priorities?
- Would your donors be more inclined to provide regular support if they had more control over how their gifts were used?
It may be time to stop stressing the importance of unrestricted gifts and, instead, to encourage donors to support those areas within your organization that matter most to them. It’s really their institution. It’s your job to remind them that their institution can be as great as they want it to be.
Major giving doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes years, often a lifetime, between a donor’s first gift and the time they decide to make and a major philanthropic commitment.
The right fundraising strategy will always depend on the size, scope, and mission of each individual organization as well as the unique characteristics and experiences of its constituents. And while there isn’t any one single set of steps, suite of tools, or timeline to describe the best way to identify, cultivate, and solicit prospects, the this chart suggests a common model.
It also underscores the important role that annual giving plays in the development pipeline. Beginning with prospect identification through research, annual giving programs use a wide array of tools to acquire new donors, encourage loyalty, raise sights, and reward leadership.
Annual Giving isn’t just one part of the development pipeline. It’s many parts. BIG parts.
CASE Conference for Senior Annual Giving Professionals
The field of annual giving has rapidly evolved into something big. While many factors are converging to challenge traditional annual giving programs—new media, information technology and an uncertain economy—they are also providing new lenses through which we can view our industry. This conference will bring those lenses to bear on current trends and best practices. It will give advancement leaders the tools and perspectives they need to design a distinctive and robust annual giving strategy—one that works uniquely well for their unique institution.
Meet the faculty, learn more, and register here.
Benefits of Attending
- Learn proven, effective strategies from knowledgeable faculty with extensive annual giving and development experience.
- Examine current trends and best practices in annual giving.
- Get specific examples from a variety of annual giving programs that can be immediately integrated into programs of all sizes.
- Explore ways to effectively manage relationships with your supervisors and those you manage to enhance teamwork and personal professional growth.
- Network with peers from around the world.