Annual Giving: 7 Ideas for This Year

Have you finalized your annual giving plan for 2020-2021? Before you do, cross-check it with these seven considerations.

Focused Messaging. Annual gift invitations are notoriously vague due to the broad distribution of requests and unrestricted nature of most gifts. The problem is, people are already dealing with too much uncertainty. This year, focus your messaging on how annual support keeps the mission moving forward amid the challenges of the pandemic. “This year, your support will help us [list 2-3 examples].” Provide different examples in each message.

Emphasized Leadership Giving. Pareto’s Principle (the 80/20 rule) will apply more than ever this year. Increasingly, the success of annual giving programs hinges on 20% of your donors who give 80% or more of your annual giving totals. If you haven’t yet gone line-by-line and determined goals for repeats, upgrades, and new $1,000+ gifts among your constituents and developed personalized approaches for achieving these giving goals, this should be your first step. Customize your gift invitations as much as you can with your leadership donor targets.

Automatic Recurring Gifts. Anticipating that giving will be more challenging for some this year due to increased unemployment and decreased market activity, seek ways to make it easier. Example: Invite donors to join your leadership giving society or renew their membership through an automatic recurring gift (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually). Helping donors “set it and forget it” through monthly installments makes giving easier and also makes membership in your leadership giving society more attainable.

Matching Gift Program. For some generous supporters, there may be less to give this year because of layoffs, temporary job loss, or even pay reduction. If some are forced to reduce the number of charitable causes they support, why not stand out through a matching gift offer? Would your Board be willing to designate an extra portion of their giving this year as a match? Are you aware of someone who has done well that could take advantage of the CARES Act incentives and give more this year in the form of a matching gift?

Persistence with Phonathon. Calling and asking for annual support is still the second most personal method of inviting gifts, behind personal meetings. But this fall, your phonathon will need to be more diligent than ever because of election-related robocalls. Factor into your plan more call attempts and earlier/more frequent voicemail messages. Concentrated calling after November 3 is also a good idea. If your program relies on student callers, be ready with a remote work plan in case the virus spikes and stay-at-home orders are issued again.

Second Gifts through Giving Day. Day of Giving events are starting to take hold in many annual giving plans. Many institutions realized record results for Giving Days deployed during the pandemic. If you haven’t yet added a Day of Giving to your plan, you might consider it. But schedule it for the spring so you have time to renew and upgrade those targeted gifts and position your Giving Day for second-gift support. An added bonus: With events mostly sidelined, a Day of Giving will provide your volunteers with a rare opportunity for meaningful service and engagement this year.

Business Support. Do you have a strategy for inviting businesses to provide annual support? If not, consider it this year. A recent report by CAF America revealed that since the onset of the pandemic, 72% of responding businesses increased their contributions to charities. Also, almost half of businesses plan to give as much in 2021 as 2020, and 49% indicated that nonprofits could use those gifts for operational support.

Each year, it’s important that annual giving professionals try at least one new approach. This year, several new approaches may be necessary. Hopefully, this list prompts one or more new ideas to try.

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