Incorporating Texting into Volunteer Outreach

Posted on 08/12/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Texting is an integral part of daily life these days. Studies show that 8 out of 10 Americans text regularly. And while some non-profits have found ways to successfully incorporate texting into their fundraising efforts, particularly around natural disasters or events, many educational institutions are still figuring out how to integrate texting into their overall annual fund strategies.

As the Sidwell Friends School was thinking about how to tackle the problem of unanswered calls during volunteer phonathons, they decided that empowering their volunteers to use text as a new method of personal outreach might lead to more connections – and a better response.

The team engaged volunteers in Sidwell’s first textathon in conjunction with their Giving Day. Parent volunteers were assigned a list of potential donors and used an online program to send personalized solicitation texts throughout the day. The messages were concise – fewer than 160 characters each – and to the point, identifying the volunteer texter, the reason for the text, and the ask for support:

(Initial text): Hi [NAME], this is [Vol. name] a parent volunteer at SFS. It’s Annual Fund Giving Day and we are aiming for 50% participation today. Will you help?
(If no response text): We are XXX families away from goal – you can still help by making a gift at _______ or texting me your pledge. Thank you.

Full 10-digit phone numbers with a local area code contributed to the personalized feel. The texts included both a link to the online giving form and the option to opt-out of the texts, and recipients were encouraged to go online to make a gift directly through the link or reply with a pledge that could be fulfilled later.

According to Dia Karakantas Ruocco, Sidwell’s Director of Development for Annual Giving and Leadership Giving, the new texting approach received a strong response from both donors and volunteers. 25 percent of recipients replied to the text messages – some with pledges and some with follow-up messages confirming that the volunteer was truly associated with the school. Overall, they received 120 gifts and pledges during their first texting campaign, along with positive feedback from the community. Volunteers felt that texting was quick and easy to do and were motivated by the response rate. Parents shared that the text messages were less intrusive than phone calls, and the number of recipients who opted-out of the messages was nominal.

Thanks in part to the textathon program, parent participation and revenue is up at Sidwell Friends. Texting has outperformed the volunteer phonathon by such a large margin (400 percent) that less than two years after launching this initiative, the school has essentially eliminated volunteer calls in favor of texting. Last fall, textathon volunteers were so motivated by their past success that they organized a matching challenge to encourage more donors to give during the texting campaign.

As a communication tool, texting is quick, direct, and personal. While a phone call from an unfamiliar number may go unanswered, a text will more than likely be received. Sidwell’s experiment shows that new habits can inspire alternative approaches that are more in sync with the rhythms of modern life. If donors aren’t answering your calls, it might be time to send them a text.  

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE or AGN’s Webinar on Texting in Annual Giving.

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Making Donor Stewardship Personal with Video

Posted on 08/05/2018 - by Dan Allenby

There’s an important, but underappreciated concept in fundraising known as the “spectrum of personalization.” It suggests that the more personal your efforts to engage and solicit prospects, the more likely those prospects will be to say yes and provide ongoing support. Here’s a simple way to demonstrate how it works:

Take out a piece of paper and draw a horizontal line. On it, plot the various methods through which you can engage or solicit a prospective donor. To the left, put the mass communication channels like running an advertisement in the alumni magazine or sending a generic email blast. Then, as you move to the right, plot methods in order of increasing personalization. Examples of these might include handwritten notes, phone calls and meetings. Finally, underneath each method, jot down the response rate you might expect from that channel. What you’ll see is that, as you move from left to right, response rates will increase along with the degree of personalization.

While this may seem like an obvious concept, the challenge that many annual giving programs face is applying it when resources are scarce. Successful programs figure out how to leverage economies of scale – often through new techniques and technologies – to create the most personalized appeals possible for the greatest number of prospects.

The University of Memphis knows this, which is why they launched a new initiative to engage some of their most loyal donors through custom videos. It began with a one-month test run through their phonathon program in which student callers each shot 25 thank you videos to share with more than 250 past donors who hadn’t renewed their support during the current year. The videos were about 30-seconds long, and they were personalized by referencing the number of consecutive years of giving, the donor’s favorite fund, and even calling the donors out by name. Videos were emailed to donors along with a personal cover note that also highlighted a tangible outcome of past gifts made to the donor’s fund of choice.

According to Rachel Brown, Director of Annual Giving at the University of Memphis, their goal was to create a campaign that really stood out from the rest while letting donors know that they really stood out from the rest. Targeted donors received no other mail or email from the university for a period of six weeks. Then, one week after the videos went out, the staff made follow-up calls to the donors to ask for their renewed support.

The personal touch seemed to really pay off. The video emails had a 41% open rate – well above typical open rates even for loyal donors – and more than 66% of donors renewed their support as part of the campaign. What’s more, many donors commented how much they enjoyed and appreciated the videos. A significant majority of those renewed donors made gifts at or above their previous gift amount. In fact, one donor decided to double support as a result.

It’s not always easy – or cost-effective – to increase the level of personalization in your appeals, but for your most committed donors, the strategy can pay dividends. Making your donors feel known and sharing how their individual support has made an impact on your institution will help lay the foundation for long-term support.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Maximizing Annual Fund Stewardship.

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A Bite-Sized Approach to Faculty and Staff Giving

Posted on 07/29/2018 - by Dan Allenby

One of the first rules of annual giving is to make it as easy as possible for your donors to make their gift. For some donors that can mean limiting the number of fields on an online giving form, and for others it might mean taking credit card information by phone. For faculty and staff donors, ease of giving could also mean meeting them where they are—or at least where they go every day.

Looking for a way to build a culture of philanthropy among their faculty and staff, the Punahou School in Honolulu launched the Hearts of Punahou Employees (HOPE) committee, which was made up of key staff members from various campus departments. As committee members were discussing how to boost employee giving, they realized that the ID cards they used daily to purchase lunch in the cafeteria could be a simple tool for facilitating donations.

For a one-month period, faculty and staff members were encouraged to make a donation to the school via their ID cards. When buying a meal, every employee had the opportunity to charge an additional $5 or $10 to their lunch account. Each person who participated received a card on which they could write their name and hang on the wall for colleagues to see. As the wall was gradually covered with cards, more faculty and staff members were encouraged to join the effort by rounding up their lunch purchases.  

According to Jill Higashi, Punahou’s Director of Annual Giving, launching the cafeteria giving program required extensive collaboration with multiple school departments. The Development Office organized the program, the Operations team entered the gifts, and Communications designed the signature cards to publicize each person’s gifts. Because all cafeteria charges run directly through the school’s Business Office, the accounting staff was also involved to allocate gift charges. And finally, the cafeteria staff helped manage the gifts and provided daily summaries of giving.

The program achieved its goal of increasing awareness and participation in giving among faculty and staff, resulting in 90 gifts in one month. Organizers also learned that faculty and staff members really appreciated the ease of giving via their campus ID cards. Punahou development leaders intend to make the cafeteria giving program an annual event to be held each May as a final push for giving before employees leave for the summer break. And next year, they plan to ask HOPE committee members and advancement staff to make their gifts in advance, so the cafeteria walls will already feature “I gave” cards on the first day of the initiative.

Faculty and staff see your mission in action every day and have a vested interest in your success. It’s a no-brainer to ask them for their support, but making it simple, interactive, and even fun can be a game changer. Their investment goes a long way in building a strong culture of philanthropy across your institution.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Faculty & Staff Giving.

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Uncovering the Hidden Benefits of Crowdfunding

Posted on 07/22/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Several years ago, when crowdfunding made its way into college and university annual giving programs, it was met with excitement from some and skepticism from others. Fast forward to the present and questions still remain about its effectiveness in alumni fundraising. Some point out that crowdfunding campaigns tend to have relatively low dollar returns but require significant staff resources to support. And while this may be true, the ultimate value of such efforts shouldn’t always be judged in just dollars and cents.

There are other “hidden” benefits of crowdfunding. For example, it can be a good way to identify alumni giving interests beyond traditional annual fund areas like greatest need, faculty support, or scholarships. It can also serve as a successful means to acquire new donors. Data shows that in a typical annual fund, most gifts are made by past donors to an institution, while the majority of gifts to a crowdfunding campaign come from first-time donors.

Another hidden benefit of crowdfunding is how it engages volunteers in the process and, even more importantly, what it can teach important groups about fundraising. When the University of Missouri–St. Louis launched a crowdfunding platform a few years ago, its initial goals were to raise money and respond to the many student and faculty fundraising requests that were coming to the advancement team each year. They came to realize, however, that their efforts paid off in other ways.

Soon after the crowdfunding platform went live, the big question for the team was how to let members of the campus community know about the opportunity without being overwhelmed by requests. They decided to host monthly open houses (or information sessions) for anyone who was interested in getting support for a project or simply learning more about crowdfunding. They extended invitations to leaders of student groups, clubs, teams and activities across campus. 

This approach gained a lot of interest from the very beginning, with 20-30 attendees at each meeting. The information sessions provided an opportunity to engage students and to teach them about philanthropy in general – not just about crowdfunding. They prompted a discussion about how the institution manages and allocates budgets, and uncovered fundraising opportunities and prospects that weren’t previously on the advancement team’s radar. Additionally, the sessions connected the development office with other parts of the university, including student affairs, athletics, and information systems. In many ways, they forced the advancement team to be more inward-facing.

After the open houses, interested students were invited to complete applications to be supported by the university in an official crowdfunding project. Interestingly, in many cases, it turned out that crowdfunding wasn’t actually the ideal strategy. They realized that sometimes it made more sense to address the funding need by creating a new calling segment for the phonathon or by producing an email appeal. There were even times – when a proposed project was already in line with existing priorities – that university departments were able to fund a need directly.

Jennifer Jezek-Taussig, Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Engagement at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, acknowledges that the integration of crowdfunding into their overall annual giving strategy isn’t a one-and-done process. She notes that they are continuing to refine their strategy and, in doing so, are considering the various pros and cons along the way. Overall, they feel good about launching the platform and project continued growth in the year ahead.

Crowdfunding campaigns may not be the perfect fit for every institution, but they can have benefits beyond just the funds raised for student and faculty projects. The University of Missouri–St. Louis’ experience illustrates how some of crowdfunding’s biggest benefits may not be obvious at the start. While it’s worthwhile to develop programs with a goal in mind, it’s also important to recognize that the unexpected results may be just as – if not more – significant to your team’s success.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Maximizing Your Crowdfunding Campaigns.

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Launching a Women’s Giving Circle

Posted on 07/15/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Women are earning more than ever – and taking a larger role in charitable giving. Research shows that a $10,000 rise in a woman’s income is associated with a more than 5% increase in total household giving. According to the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy, women with the top 25% of income gave 156% more than men in the same category. Even in households where the husband is the major breadwinner, women have the stronger say as to how charitable funds should be allocated. But cultivating the next generation of female philanthropists requires a strategic approach, one that appeals to their desire for personal connection with both fellow donors and with the causes that they support.

In an effort to engage more female alumni in philanthropy, Oregon State University (OSU) established its Women’s Giving Circle in 2003. Since that time, the Giving Circle has expanded its capacity and focus, raising a total of over $920,000 to fund university grants that are relevant to women. Projects include a STEM academy that recruits undergraduate women and minority students to work with underrepresented youth, and a series of financial literacy sessions for freshmen with minimal money management experience. Their flagship effort has been a multi-year pledge to support the recently-opened Beth Ray Center for Academic Support, which provides programs and services to benefit all students and aligns with the Giving Circle’s emphasis on helping others get a leg up.

Kellie Parker, OSU’s Senior Associate Director of Annual Giving, attributes much of the Giving Circle’s success to careful listening and an open-minded approach to donor ideas and interests. The OSU Foundation initially structured the group based on research studies and focus groups, but feedback from alumni and other stakeholders – including the group’s steering committee – helped refine the Group’s priorities and direction. One major challenge was finding the giving level that would most incentivize donors to participate; $100 annually proved to be too low, while $1,000 was deemed too steep of a contribution for some. Currently, the minimum commitment is a $250 annual pledge for donors under age 40, and $500 for women 40 and over, with 30% of their members making a gift of $1000 or greater to the program. While the Giving Circle has grown from 25 charter members to about 125, the membership remains fluid, with some donors moving onto other OSU fundraising efforts and others coming on board through contact via peers or interest in a particular initiative.

Another big incentive for donors is the Circle’s hands-on approach, which studies show is more important to female donors than to their male counterparts. Members vote on every program to be funded. Each year, the OSU Provost invites campus organizations to submit grant proposals. In addition to site visits with applicants, Giving Circle members prepare reports of their findings, which along with the grants themselves, provide the in-depth information and details needed to make informed decisions.

With twice-yearly meetings including an annual awards event where grant recipients make presentations about their projects, the Giving Circle has a social component as well. These functions are often intimate gatherings held in member’s homes, allowing attendees to engage with other members while also connecting with current students who will benefit from their support. Giving Circle members stay in touch through regular emails and plan to expand their social media presence to further engage younger members.

OSU’s Women’s Giving Circle is harnessing the power of an important – and growing – donor segment in a way that resonates with their interests and connects them with their impact. And in the end, that’s strategic engagement that builds a solid foundation for long-term support.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Transitioning Annual Donors to Major Donors.

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Creating RFM Scores for Donors

Posted on 07/08/2018 - by Dan Allenby

It’s one of the most important and fundamental principles of annual giving: last year’s donors are the most likely prospects to give this year. That’s why maintaining a strong donor retention rate is so critical and should be a focus area of any annual giving program. And while it can be appealing to base your strategies on these prior-year donors, lapsed donors also have a strong likelihood of renewing their support – with the right approach.

One way to evaluate your past donor population is to employ a marketing technique called an RFM score, which stands for Recency, Frequency, and Monetary value. RFM analysis assesses how recently a donor made a gift, the frequency of their giving over a period of time, and the amount of money they have given in that period. Each variable can be an indicator of a donor’s propensity to give in the future.

For example, a donor whose last gift was two years ago is more likely to give than one who most recently gave five years ago. A donor who gave four out of the past five years is more likely to give than one who gave two out of the past five years. And a donor who gave $500 in the past is more likely to give again than one who gave $100. Applying this kind of analysis to your alumni provides additional perspective on donor tendencies for segmentation purposes.

The Westminster Schools in Atlanta recently used this approach to refresh their segmentation strategy and help refocus their volunteers. While the school saw a higher than average donor retention rate year after year, the annual giving team felt that their appeal strategies and volunteers were too heavily focused on LYBUNTs (i.e., prior-year donors). They wanted a tool that would help add insight to alumni propensity beyond just last year’s gift and the most recent gift amount, with the goal of converting more of their lapsed donors.  

To tackle this, they conducted a simple RFM analysis and created a score for all of their past donors. This score was based on donor giving frequency and total giving amount for alumni who had made at least one gift during the past five years.  The frequency score was a letter: A if the alum had given in each of the past five years, B if they gave four out of the five years, etc. The generosity score was a number based on the alum’s total giving during the five year period: 1 if the alum had given $25,000 or more over five years, 2 if the alum gave between $10,000 and $24,999, etc. Put into practice, an alum who had made a single $100 gift in five years would be rated an E5, while an alum who had given a total of $20,000 in four out of five years would be rated a B2. They then incorporated these ratings when reviewing a list of prior-year donors, noting that an A or B donor has a stronger likelihood of continued giving compared to a D or E, even if they all made a recent gift.

Ann Giornelli, Westminster’s Assistant Director of Alumni Annual Giving, notes that the scoring system makes it easier for them to identify and focus attention on the consistent donors. They can focus leadership appeals on alumni with a 1, 2, or 3 rating as opposed to just using their most recent gift amounts. She adds that, beyond appeal segmentation, the scores can also be used to develop lists for peer-to-peer solicitations by volunteers.

A simple data review in the form of an RFM analysis can give you perspective beyond the LYBUNT list and allows you to create a rating that assesses giving behavior, prioritizes segments, and allocates valuable resources. While focusing on last year’s donors should always be a priority, an RFM score provides insights into behavior that can drive more complex segmentation and successful outreach strategies for your annual fund.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Data Mining for Annual Giving.

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7 Tips for Beginning a New Fiscal Year

Posted on 07/01/2018 - by Dan Allenby

For those who work in annual giving, things are always moving. There’s always an upcoming appeal to produce, another phone call to make, or a thank you note to write. There’s always a prospect who has yet to connect (or reconnect) with your institution. There are always reports to run, pledgers to remind, and volunteers to support.

Even though the annual fund doesn’t stop, it’s important to pause now and then in order to hit the reset button. And there’s no better time to do that than at the beginning of a new fiscal year. With each cycle comes the opportunity to make a fresh start. And while there will likely be big things you’ll want to accomplish in the months ahead, it’s often the little things you do in the first week or two of a new fiscal year that can really set the tone for a successful campaign.

So, before you close the books and head out for that well-deserved summer vacation, here are 7 small – but significant – things you can do to get the new year started on the right note.

  1. Take a moment to let your colleagues in advancement services know how much you appreciate their help and support throughout the year. Bring them bagels and coffee one morning. They entered a lot of data and processed a lot of gifts to complete the cycle of your appeal efforts.
  2. Reach out to a few peer institutions to find out how they did in donors and dollars compared to the year before. Ask each to share a success and a failure from the past 12 months. Offer the same in return.
  3. Call at least five of your most committed volunteers. Let them be the first to hear the year’s final results. They’ll appreciate the inside scoop.
  4. Send handwritten thank you notes to your top ten leadership donors. Make sure they know that they are among the relative few who provide a large portion of the annual fund’s total support.
  5. Calculate the ROI (total revenue – expenses / expenses) for your phonathon and direct mail program. Think of ways you can improve each next year. Share them with your boss.
  6. Put together a simple email to all of your alumni and donors wishing them a “Happy New Year!” In it, highlight a few of the exciting things that happened on campus as a result of annual giving. Check out BU’s postcard (below) for inspiration.
  7. If you haven’t already, get started on that annual fund plan. Remember that one of the secrets to annual giving success is to plan your work and work your plan.

When you find yourself at the beginning of a new fundraising year, be sure to stop. Take a break and clean the slate. Because when you come back, it starts all over again – and you’ll be ready.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Designing a Winning Annual Fund Plan.

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Coordinating Annual Giving in Complex Organizations

Posted on 06/24/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Coordinating annual giving efforts in complex organizations, especially those that are large and decentralized, can be a challenge. In such environments, different units often operate as completely separate entities with their own constituents, goals, and cultures even though they’re all part of one umbrella institution. For those who work in the central annual giving department, the day-to-day tasks of getting appeals out the door while offering valuable support to the various units might feel a bit like herding cats.

A quintessential example of a successful central effort within a complex and decentralized organization can be found at Cambridge in America. Known as CAm, this US-based nonprofit is responsible for coordinating fundraising and alumni relations in the US for the 800-year-old University of Cambridge and its thirty-one member Colleges “across the pond” in England. Each College is an autonomous entity across which more than 18,000 students live, work, and study, all spidered throughout the ancient city of Cambridge, England. Each one has its own development office and director, with staffs ranging from 2–12 dedicated full-time employees. Along with their own histories and ways of doing things, these Colleges have their own fundraising needs and goals and have established their own internal procedures to meet them.

But even the most prestigious institutions must deal with time and change. In recent years, the need for fundraising has increased in order to support research, posts, and facilities and to help meet the increased shift of tuition and other costs to students. Until the late 1990s, tuition and fees had primarily been the purview of the government; since then, however, they have been steadily rising to a current price of £9,250 per year per undergraduate student. To help generate private support and offset these increasing expenses, the University undertook a £2 billion Dear World, Yours Cambridge capital campaign.

In aid of annual appeal efforts in the US, Joseph McDonald, CAm’s Director of Communications, Marketing, and Appeals, reached out to College development teams. He worked with each team to learn about their unique organization, challenges, and culture. He asked them what had worked for them in the past and what success looked like for them going forward. Together they assessed various pain points while searching for commonalities and exploring new ideas.

McDonald worked to develop a centralized communications model at CAm for US-based prospects so that the great value of these diverse strategies, schedules, and efforts could be coordinated and optimized. CAm was able to view the various fundraising efforts of the University and Colleges in aggregate for this vital segment of the alumni base. They could see what worked and what didn’t, make recommendations, and then share results and ideas back with other units. The various partners gained knowledge on both individual and collective best practices while each one developed a fundraising program best suited to its needs in the US.

In just a few years, this approach contributed to better fundraising results from US alumni and friends across the board, with the number of donors and dollars under $10,000 increasing by 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively. While annual giving in complex, decentralized institutions can undoubtedly be challenging, CAm’s approach of cross-pollinating “best of” strategies, ideas, and efforts across Colleges has provided notable success.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Strong Teams and Collaborations.

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Using Teasers to Increase Appeal Response Rates

Posted on 06/17/2018 - by Dan Allenby

There’s an old saying in direct mail: “An envelope has two jobs. The first is to get delivered to the right mailbox. The second is to get opened.” Getting prospects to open the envelope is a key step in having them read what’s inside and, ultimately, make a contribution.

The best way to get your alumni to notice (and want to open) the envelope is to capture their attention and make them curious. One way to do this is to use envelopes that stand out because they are unusual in size, shape or color or because they are creative or eye-catching in some other way. Using standard #10 envelopes for mailings may be easy and cost-efficient, but doing so also increases the risk that your appeal will be overlooked.

Another way to increase the chances that your envelope gets noticed is to use teasers (i.e., short eye-catching messages or images) that lure alumni to look inside. A good place for teasers is between the recipient’s name and address (usually in the middle of the envelope) and the return address (usually in the top left corner of the envelope). These are the first two places people’s eyes go when they look at an envelope, and your message will stand out when their eyes move from one to the other.

A teaser should try to tap into the prospect’s emotions, regardless of its placement. For example, “Find out why your gift could help our rankings!” might evoke a sense of pride or connection. “Is your name on this list?” could make recipients curious (and possibly concerned) that they might be left out of something if they don’t act. Don’t be afraid to try humor now and then. The University of California, San Diego used a teaser that read, “OPEN ME. Seriously, I can’t open myself. I don’t have hands because I’m an envelope.”

No matter how compelling your enclosed appeal is, if it goes straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin, the envelope has not performed its job – and you’ve missed the opportunity to engage the recipient and obtain a donation. At the end of the day, when your prospect is flipping through a stack of junk mail, a funny or intriguing teaser might just make the difference.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Rethinking Direct Mail Appeals.

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5 Elements of an Effective Annual Fund Plan

Posted on 06/10/2018 - by Dan Allenby

Earth is approximately 93 million miles from the Sun. It’s in constant motion, traveling 67,000 miles per hour along a 584-million-mile path known as its orbit. As it moves through space, the planet also spins around a tilted axis. Because of this tilt, different parts of Earth point toward the Sun at different times, changing the amount of light and warmth it receives and causing seasons to change every few months in some areas. It completes its orbit every 365 days—one full year.

An annual giving program is also in constant motion. There’s always an upcoming mailing to produce, another phone call to make, or a new thank you note to write. There’s always a prospect that has yet to connect with your institution. There’s always a series of reports to run, donors to remind about pledges, and volunteers to support. As soon as one fiscal year ends, the next one begins.

The cyclical nature of annual giving is often an attractive characteristic to those who work in the field. Unlike major gift fundraising, which tends to operate over a longer, less-defined period of time, the annual giving cycle resets every 365 days. There are clear starting points and clear ending points—and a lot of work to do in between. For that reason, developing a plan for each fiscal year becomes a necessity. When structuring your plan, be sure to include these 5 elements:

  1. Executive Summary. This should be a brief narrative (no more than one page) that includes bullets to call out the most relevant points. Make it the first thing people see when they open the document. It should explain the current situation and address important challenges and key strategic questions. How has the program performed over the past few years? What trends stand out within your own program or across the industry in general? Are you in a campaign? What are your biggest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? How are the institutional environment and the economy? Have there been any significant leadership or staff transitions recently? Don’t just answer these questions but explain what they mean for the annual giving
    program going forward.
  2. Projections. Describe how you will measure success at the end of the year. Overarching goals are important (e.g., “increase alumni participation by 1 percent”), but it’s also important to have goals for specific programs (e.g., phonathon, direct mail, online giving), constituencies (e.g., young alumni, students, reunion classes), and donor segments (retention, reactivation, renewal, leadership).
  3. Budget. Specify how you will allocate your resources, identify any financial shortfalls and note where you would spend additional funds if you had them. Make sure your spending aligns with your priorities. For example, if alumni participation is a priority and email has been generating an increasing number of alumni donors each year, make sure you’re allocating a larger portion of your budget to support email. Address short-term needs (e.g., increasing participation, generating revenue) and long-terms needs (e.g., staff retention, professional development). Leave a cushion for any unexpected needs that arise.
  4. Calendars. Provide a timeline for your appeals, events, and other important activities. It’s sufficient to include a summary calendar in the body of the planning document that provides and highlights key dates. Detailed production calendars are also important; however, they may be best included in the appendix.
  5. Appendix. This is the place to include any additional information or detail needed to support your strategy that would clutter the body of the planning document. It might include detailed production timelines, organizational charts, job descriptions for staff or volunteers, or samples of collateral from other programs that you wish to emulate. If you’re not sure where it belongs or if it’s too specific to include in other areas, then it is probably a good idea to put it in the appendix.

Having a well-structured planning document will not only ensure that everyone is on the same page at the beginning of the year, it also gives you something to reference throughout the year and after the books have closed. This will help with accountability and will also provide a good starting point when it comes time to draft next year’s plan. And that will be here before you know it.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Designing a Winning Annual Fund Plan.

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