Annual Giving Strategies for 2021

by Suzanne Battit and Tara DiDomenico

Posted August 19, 2020

Back in May, we sat down with advancement leaders from multiple nonprofit sectors to discuss the annual fund strategies that were working—and those that weren’t—as they solicited support during the pandemic. A few months later, garnering support for your annual giving program remains as important as ever. The good news: for those on the front lines of battling COVID, nonprofits have experienced incredible increases in their annual funds, and a recent survey indicated that 58% of donors plan to give at the same level as they did last year, while 13% plan to give more.  

With 2021 just around the corner, now’s the time to plan for your annual giving goals and strategies in the new year. Here are a few pieces of advice to consider:

If you have a significant number of new donors, take the time to conduct thorough prospect research to identify those who could be giving more and may be inclined to do so.

During our recent coffee talk with heads of fundraising at community hospitals, one participant shared that their team had been taking the time to look at real estate value and patient experience of all new donors as an “easy” way of qualifying them. The total number was overwhelming, and this helped determine each new donor’s potential giving capacity – as well as how they should be engaged and considered in the future. Consider whether you can adapt this approach for your own new donors to gain a better understanding of how to categorize them and set goals for 2021.

Segment, segment, segment, and tailor your messaging to each segment so that they feel you are truly speaking to them.

Give extra thought to how you speak to new donors that gave in response to COVID. Instead of exclusively focusing your messaging on your COVID response, make sure to incorporate your organization’s core messaging. To ensure long-term support and investment, annual fund donors need to understand why and how your organization is impactful every day, within and outside of the pandemic.

Donors crave inspiration and impact.

It’s a truth we all know: donors want to be inspired and feel like they are truly making a difference. So, make sure your messaging achieves that! And remember the advice we shared in our recent blog Fundraising During COVID: Full Steam Ahead: a successful appeal is not a desperate one! Rather, help your donors understand your destination and their role in getting you there. Of course, you can—and should—outline what you accomplished during COVID but also share what’s to come.

Don’t neglect the power and potential of a strong digital presence and online giving.

More and more, annual fund donors are giving online and/or via text due to an organization’s digital presence. Brittany Shaff, Asst. Vice President of Philanthropic Giving + Digital Engagement at University of Miami shared a number of annual giving digital initiatives that have proven successful for the institution during the pandemic, including a campaign that encouraged alumni to send a note of encouragement and a commemorative tassel to 2020 graduates, which would then be mailed to them. The campaign had a dedicated landing page where alumni could write their notes in the process of making their gift, and the advancement team helped publicize the campaign through social media as well as Google and Bing ads. They ultimately raised hundreds of thousands in a matter of months, and thanks to this initiative, as well as others, they saw a 5,000% growth in their social media engagement! Clearly, a solid digital presence and an online giving experience that is intuitive and seamless goes a long way!

All of us here at Development Guild recognize the critical role our friends and clients are playing in supporting the most vulnerable among us during this crisis. As we face these uncertain times together, it is our top priority to support you. Visit our COVID-19 Resources page for useful information and insights.

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