10 Ways to Get More Out of Your Annual Fund

Date Published
Debbie Merlino

This is the first in a series of two blog posts of actionable and practical ideas you can implement right away to generate more Annual Fund gifts.

  1. Use a Matching Gift Challenge to boost response – Challenge monies can come from your Board or a single major donor. Donors like to participate in Challenge Matches because their dollars go farther. A Challenge appeal also has an inherent sense of urgency, which boosts response.
  1. Make it easy to donate online – This is not the time to be concerned with branding standards. Make sure there’s a big, bold donate button on your home page. And keep the number of “clicks” and required fields to a minimum.
  1. Don’t use volunteers for fundraising calls – Paid professional callers won’t be put off by the first “no” they get while many volunteers will be. Professional callers are also more adept at negotiating for the gift. But volunteers are exceptional at making Thank-you calls – use them!
  1. Add a Direct Mail Follow-up – Generally a direct mail follow-up that drops 14 to 30 days after the first hit will yield an additional 40% to 65% in gross revenue. This is one of the simplest and perhaps the most impactful thing you can do right away to get more out of your Annual Fund effort.
  1. Try Mobile Pledging at your next event – Increase event revenues with the convenience of mobile donations and real-time results displayed on screen.
  1. Institute “Midnight Renewals” – If you manage a membership-based program, send an E-Renewal the day the donor’s membership expires with the subject line “Your Membership Expires at Midnight.”
  1. New donor acquisition must be an ongoing commitment – It will be like pushing a rock up a hill if you’re trying to raise more revenue from a shrinking donor base.
  1. Every E-Appeal is an opportunity to test – Focus your tests on subject lines, time of day, day of the week, and a call to action
  1. Get specific with the ask amount – Donors want to know how their gift will make a difference. Tell them in no uncertain terms.
  1. A simple letter will almost always generate the most revenue – More than self-mailers…more than drive to web postcards. A letter is the next best thing when you can’t sit across the living room from someone and make a personal ask.

What changes have you implemented in your Annual Fund program that boosted response?

Debbie Merlino
About the Author:
Debbie Merlino
President, Agency Services

As President of Agency Services, Debbie is responsible for overall client satisfaction. She works to ensure AFG’s winning strategies are being shared throughout the organization for the benefit of all our clients. Debbie is frequently out on the road sharing insights with others and listening to your challenges so we can develop solutions.

What excites you about your work at AFG?

I get to meet the best people and hear their stories. Hardly anyone says they planned to work in development. Learning how our clients found themselves in this profession and hearing the stories of the people they serve is inspirational.

If you weren’t at AFG, what would you be doing?

Attempting the life of a freelance journalist, working in a bookstore, and/or doing a podcast for my own enjoyment.

What are your hobbies/interests outside AFG?

Making people laugh. It’s thrilling! Especially when done purposefully and I’m on stage ; ) I also enjoy yoga and a well-crafted cocktail.

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