Summer Annual Fund Checklist

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Say Thank You

Share good news about your recently completed fiscal year with the people who made it happen. Send celebratory thank you postcards or email messages to your donors.

Analyze the Results

  • Look at dollars raised and percent participation for all key constituencies, particularly your board and key committee members.
  • What percentage of your Annual Fund came from leadership gifts?
  • What percentage of major gift prospects contributed to the Annual Fund?
  • How many of your donors from FY03, did not give in FY04? And what was the total dollar value of the gifts you missed?
  • How many donors between FY98 and FY02 did not give in FY04? And what was the total dollar value of their last gifts to the Annual Fund?
  • How do your results with last year donors and lapsed donors compare to prior years?
  • If you are at an educational institution with a class-based giving program: What percentage of your total came from reunion classes, pre-reunion classes, and post reunion classes? Are your post reunion classes performing better than they did as pre-reunion classes (e.g., does going through a reunion “push” elevate giving levels in a way that can be sustained after the reunion year?)
  • By looking at 5, 10, or even 15 years worth of data, you can see how your program is growing and identify pockets of opportunity to improve your results in FY05.

Establish Your Annual Fundraising Priorities

Use your findings to establish your FY 05 plan.

Set a Timeline

Develop a calendar of solicitations, working backwards from your anticipated drop dates for mailings or start dates for calling programs. Set deadlines for essential tasks such as script or letter drafts, data selections, and recruitment of volunteers.

Create Themes and Messages

Give your Annual Fund program a distinctive marketing identity with a particular theme or set of messages each year. These should reflect organizational priorities and help you frame a coherent sequence of Annual Fund communications that will build on each other throughout the year.

Set Ask Amounts

It’s labor-intensive to identify, confirm, and record individualized ask amounts for the first time. But once you have set them, ask amounts can be merged into appeals or phonathon “lead sheets.” They can also help drive your segmentation for solicitations, events and more. If the job seems too daunting, start with ask amounts only for your leadership gift society prospects. For other prospects, you can define criteria for merging a ‘ladder’ of asks into letter text or onto reply forms.
If you have specific ask amounts for each donor, work with your data management staff to globally update them. Then review the amounts and make necessary adjustments. Involve prospect managers, board members, or volunteer solicitors in double-checking the proposed amounts for people they know.

Identify Personal Solicitation Strategies

 Once you have identified top asks for your Annual Fund for FY 05, you can begin to work from the top down in developing targeted cultivation and solicitation strategies for key prospects. Who is the best person to solicit Jane Doe for $5,000? When should the approach occur?

Develop Plans for Donor Visits

If your prospects are not just local, look at the top of your pyramid of asks by geography. Where will major gift and annual fund officers be traveling this year? What gaps need to be covered?

Schedule Events and Individual Cultivation Plans

Will someone be visiting the area where Jane Doe lives whom she might be interested in meeting? Is a beloved Art History professor traveling to a certain city for a conference? Would he be willing to attend a luncheon with local alumni while he is there? Find out where your program staff, curators, faculty or other staff of interest might be and ask if they’d be willing to add a day to their trips or spare a luncheon or dinner while they are in town.

Solicit Your Board

What if you could announce in your fall appeals and at your fall Board meeting that 75% or even 100% of Board Members had already pledged? Work with your Board leadership to set this expectation and carry out solicitations to make it happen!

The Woolbright Group’s services include counsel in strategic planning, board development, leadership and team building, capacity building, training in effective fundraising and solicitation skills, and more. For more information, please contact us.

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