Wait, can you make sure that my donation isn’t being spent on the ladder? I want most of my money to go to the cat!
By Casey Therrien
Associate Director of Philanthropy, Triangle Land Conservancy
One of my favorite things to do when I’m having a rough day is to head over to Vu Le’s NonprofitAF Instagram page and watch his reels. Take a look at this one from February that cracks me up every single time. Although funny, it hits a painful truth about the view donors can have on supporting non-profit annual funds.
An annual fund that supports general operating expenses may not always be seen as being high-impact like programs or projects can be, but a robust annual fund is essential to the functioning of any nonprofit organization. Annual funds provide the unrestricted money that nonprofits need to keep the doors open, staff paid, and essential services going. The hard question is how can we keep our donors engaged with funding these key operating expenses vital to enacting our mission?
Claire Axelrad, in her blog post, How to include relevancy and urgency in your fundraising appeal, shares key strategies on how to tap into donors’ emotions and create messaging with relevancy that can yield results. For example, the Triangle is the second fastest growing metro area in the U.S. With our population booming more resources are needed to meet the needs of the people moving into the area along with those who are benefitting from services now. Population growth puts pressure on the need for green spaces, housing, food support, animal welfare concerns, and many other missions that can be used in messaging that is relevant to every organization.
Last month, the AFP blog post written by Mina Kobayashi, introduced us to Community Centric Fundraising resources. CCF, also known as Equity Centric Fundraising, talks about fundraising from a lens of equity and community, versus the white dominant “hero” space many organizations have used as a point of view.
When I attended AFP ICON this past spring, one of the sessions was led by Jarrett Way, Content and Digital Marketing Manager at Mighty Citizen, a marketing company that helps nonprofits, governments, associations, and universities increase their impact and revenue by creating deeper connections with their audiences, Jarrett asked us “Who is the hero of your organization?” Many of us said the donor and some said the organization, but Way said that we were wrong – it’s the beneficiary of the donation. For example, Bella, a first-generation college student, receives a full scholarship so she is not burdened with repaying student loans once she has graduated, helping her break the cycle of poverty…. Bella is your hero.
Thinking about what Axelrad, Kobayashi, and Way have shared, here are things you may want to consider when thinking about fundraising campaigns to support your general operating funds:
- Equity Centric
- The hero of your story
When planning your annual fund, you will want to be sure to use a variety of different methods of reaching out to your donors aligned with how they prefer to hear from your organization. At my organization, we have people who respond to direct mail appeals and those who respond more frequently to email appeals. Other organizations find success with social media appeals or text-to-give campaigns. You’ll want to experiment with a variety of methods and keep careful metrics to know the methods that work with your donor segments.
Also be sure to analyze, reevaluate, and pivot your efforts at least quarterly when results, donor responses, and donor stories are fresh in your mind. What worked? What didn’t? How can you improve for the next quarter and beyond? Averill Solutions has a great campaign guide you may find helpful as you plan your annual fund campaign. If you have not yet started your annual plan – today is a good day to begin!
Best of luck during the fall campaign season and beyond! You’ve got this!