Getting Back to the Basics with Your Annual Fund

A football team blows the big game. A promising business venture struggles and sputters. In the days that follow, more often than not, you will hear these words: “Let’s go back to the basics and learn what we’re doing wrong.”

In professional fundraising, there is often benefit in “going back to the basics” with renewed scrutiny and emphasis. And “the basics” in fundraising are annual giving programs. Seasoned professional Fritz W. Schroeder describes annual giving as the foundation of every successful fundraising program. That’s no exaggeration or overstatement, especially for smaller and/or emerging nonprofits. And recognizing this reality is important as well with large, established annual giving efforts.

Too often, development officers want to skip past “tried and true” annual giving strategies to pursue the big major gift. It’s true that major giving efforts are essential in raising significant amounts of money, but a less-than-stellar outcome in securing such gifts is sometimes an indicator of annual giving program neglect.

Fundraisers should never forget the benefits of a well-established and consistently executed annual fund. An annual fund solicitation is generally the first time a new prospect is introduced to the nonprofit organization and encouraged to support its worthy efforts. Without acquisition of new donor prospects, fundraising success will stagnate. Valuable information is gleaned from annual fund programs. It is at this stage that basic donor information, including personal interests and fiscal capacity, is secured. It is here that a donor’s giving consistency and willingness to increase his or her gift from year to year is learned. And ideally, an annual giving program should afford opportunities to encourage and enlist an individual’s volunteer participation in activities that will go beyond writing an annual check.

And certainly annual fund revenue provides those all-important dollars that not only will fund the greatest needs of the nonprofit but can also be used to expand the operational, stewardship and growth efforts of the entire fundraising enterprise.

Fundraising basics matter, and nowhere is “going back to the basics” more important than annual fund programs and initiatives.

About the Author

Tom S. Landrum has more than 40 years experience in institutional advancement, including work in communications, fund raising and alumni relations. He has been involved in four comprehensive capital campaigns, and led a fund raising team at the University of Georgia that set records by raising more than $100 million a year. Tom serves as a senior consultant for the Lighthouse Counsel team.