I’ve noticed annual giving is sometimes treated as an afterthought. Sometimes, it’s not even a small part of an organization’s fundraising program.
Some organizations prefer fundraising events or foundation grants to communicating with individuals. And some depend on government reimbursements for most of their income.
Fundraising events might have their place. But they’re expensive. You don’t think so? Are you counting all the time your staff spends? You should be.
Board members often like events. They feel donors are getting something in return for a gift, so it’s easier to ask. Or they’ve put on events in the past, so it’s comfortable.
For busy executive directors, writing a grant seems to be a better use of time. After all, if that grant comes through, it’s more money than most donors give. But that’s IF the grant comes through. And how much time and effort does writing those grants take?
An annual giving program does not consist of one mailing a year. Without a plan to engage people in your work throughout the year, you don’t have a program.
And that is a mistake. Here’s why I think so:
You can’t have enough friends
If the government covers 90% of your expenses, that’s wonderful. Truly – many organizations would love to be in that position.
But fundraising from individuals isn’t just about the money. It’s more about widening the circle of people who are committed – like you – to your mission. You involve them by communicating, offering opportunities to see the work, and asking for their support.
People who know their help is needed and welcome give. They volunteer. They also talk… your reputation in the community might depend on how these people feel about you.
People who feel important to your work become your board members. They work at the corporations you want as sponsors. They sit on the foundation boards that make decisions about where the money goes.
It always comes down to people. So you should make room in your fundraising program for people.
It’s hard to balance on a point
If most of your funding comes from a few sources, you’re one big change away from disaster. Consider individuals your insurance policy.
Is budget season at your state legislature a time of fingernail-biting? Every. Single. Year?
Does worry about changing priorities at your one big foundation funder keep you up at night?
You’re not alone!
But the answer is a much broader base of support. Diversification is smart.
Besides, those friends I mentioned above? They all have legislators they can contact.
Funders of all kinds like seeing broad support. It tells them you’re being smart. They don’t want to see you disappear!
All fundraising is personal
So what’s holding you back?
- Do you or your board feel awkward about personal fundraising?
- Does it feel like a lot of work to create a fundraising communications calendar and plan?
- Are you unsure where to start or how much it will cost?
(I can help you with all of that, by the way.)
It’s not that hard. It’s not that expensive. And it is something you should be doing.
Because ALL fundraising is personal.
Your government or foundation or corporate funders are staffed with people. You are already seeking funds from people.
You have a mission. You believe, heart and soul, in that mission.
So why do you think someone else wouldn’t feel the same way?
Donors like to give.
It makes them feel good. If your mission is compelling, and you communicate that well, people will want to help.
You’re not just taking something from them. You’re also giving them something valuable.
The feeling they matter. Confirmation that they’re good people. The sense that they belong to something larger than themselves.
That’s powerful stuff. And you miss it if you overlook annual giving.
A diversified program is more stable
When you don’t depend on a single funding source, you’re better able to withstand external challenges that you can’t always foresee.
With a base of individual donors:
- When your community foundation changes its giving priorities, you’ll have a tough few years – but your organization will still exist .
- When the budget session in you state legislature means sudden cuts in your program reimbursements, you won’t have to turn people who need your services away.
- If the stock market tanks, a broad base of support can help you smooth out the gaps.
- And if your organization has depended on the largess of one or two major donors, you won’t have to weigh mission against stewardship.
An annual giving program needs time to grow.