10 More Ways to Improve Your Annual Fund Results

Date Published
Debbie Merlino

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

  1. NCOA your file – On average approximately 11% of the US population moves in any given year, and reports it to the US Postal Service. Ensuring delivery of your direct mail appeals through National Change of Address is the first step in getting the best Annual Fund results.
  1. Use telemarketing as a sweep to your direct mail campaign – Since telemarketing is more expensive than direct mail, use it after you’ve already picked the low-hanging fruit. Try telemarketing with these three key audiences: renewal-resistant donors, those who have given via telemarketing in the past, and new donors.
  1. Send a mail acknowledgment for every gift (even gifts made online) – Acknowledgments should be sent within a week of receiving the gift and should be a letter that reinforces the impact of the donor’s gift, not a financial statement. Consider including a reply envelope to encourage subsequent giving.
  1. Don’t overlook lapsed donors – Are you analyzing lapsed donors by recency? How deep can you mail into your file and still achieve break-even? Are long-lapsed donors giving to other organizations but not yours? Consider testing these engaged deep-lapsed donors.
  1. Focus on proven ideas (not just the newest shiny object) – Add new channels to your fundraising mix, but don’t abandon the tried-and-true. Direct mail is still the biggest source of revenue for most organizations. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), 53% of all people respond to direct mail by going online.
  1. Get the donor’s experience for yourself – Are your response rates slipping?  Make a gift to your organization and other nonprofits as well. How do you treat your donors? How does “the competition?”
  1. Target your E-solicitations just as you would direct mail – Develop a mindful, targeted E-communication strategy. Donor fatigue is real. Don’t thoughtlessly mass E-mail donors because it’s “free.”
  1. Add a lightbox to your web site – This technique is especially successful at calendar year end, when you’re counting down to a Matching Gift deadline and at fiscal year end.
  1. Hold a “Town Meeting” – Donors routinely say they want more transparency from the organizations they support. Arrange a conference call with your executive director once or twice a year. This is a particularly nice benefit for your mid-level and major donors.
  1. Add a “Pillar Theme” to your next campaign – Quickly understandable campaign themes like Annual Fund, Matching Gift Challenge, and Donor Drive tend to yield higher response rates.

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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