One of the most important by-products of a well-run fundraising campaign is the establishment of deeper and more engaged relationships with your donors, which in turn can help move smaller, annual fund donors up to major, multi-year contributors.
In order to do this effectively, a few key questions should be kept in mind:
(1) Should you separate the annual fund from your capital campaign or conduct a comprehensive campaign?
(2) How do you protect and enhance your annual fund during a campaign?
(3) Can you initiate a "legacy gift" conversation during a campaign solicitation?
Annual Funds and Campaigns
The first rule of campaign fundraising should always be: "First do no harm to the annual fund!" It does you no good to have a $10,000-per-year annual fund donor pledge $50,000 to the capital campaign over a five-year period if they stop giving to the annual fund. To avoid this, many organizations have moved to comprehensive campaigns, where everything counts. But this can lead to the same result. The key is to have good communication with your donor and to be sure they understand that the campaign "ask" is above and beyond their regular support. This is an opportunity to reinforce how important their annual support is, which is always a good idea.
More often than not, once the announced campaign goal is reached many organizations declare victory and go home, without taking advantage of the opportunity to involve smaller donors. The public phase of your campaign is an excellent opportunity to upgrade smaller annual donors and engage new donors. The smaller donors you bring on board at the end of the campaign are your "seed corn" for your next major funding initiative, and your larger, loyal donors like to see that you are developing new support and not just leaning on the usual suspects.
Relationship Management Cycle
Maximizing donor support and engagement is best accomplished through a cyclical relationship management approach. Smaller annual donors (who are often identified and renewed through direct response initiatives) will often, with reasonable cultivation and engagement, support the organization on a larger scale. Once they become larger donors, good donor stewardship can lead to a deeper relationship and more meaningful gifts. Campaigns provide an excellent opportunity to move more annual donors into the major gift relationship management cycle.
The Role of Analytics
Many of your annual fund supporters don’t have the capacity or the inclination to become major donors. If you have been keeping track of your donor histories, (of course you have) you have compiled valuable information on giving patterns and interests. Data analytics professionals can help you develop a predictive model based on your typical major donor that prospects with a high major-gift likelihood. Additionally, age overlays coupled with a loyal giving history can help reveal prospects ready for the "legacy giving" conversation, which can be brought up as part of a campaign ask or in the process of regular stewardship calls.
At the end of a well-executed capital campaign, it is common to see at least 15 percent to 20 percent increase in your annual fund efforts, often much more. You will have many more donors giving at major gift levels, and your ongoing and effective stewardship of these relationships will yield significant benefits for your organization for years to come.
Jeff Wilklow is Vice President at Campbell & Company. He has more than thirty years of development experience working with a diverse range of nonprofits across the country.