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Designing Your Annual Fundraising Campaign: 3 FAQs 

Designing Your Annual Fundraising Campaign: 3 FAQs 

Your annual fundraising campaign is your organization’s largest and most important fundraising campaign, one that takes place every year to help your nonprofit cover its operating expenses. 

However, despite the importance of annual fundraising, some nonprofits struggle to carry out their campaigns and successfully pull in revenue. After all, these campaigns often run in the background of your nonprofit’s other campaigns, initiatives, and programs. 

In this guide, we’ll help you prioritize designing your annual fundraising campaign. To help you lay a solid foundation for a winning strategy, we’ll answer three frequently asked questions: 

  1. What is an annual fund, and why is it important for my nonprofit? 
  2. What does the timeline of an annual fundraising campaign look like? 
  3. What types of gifts should my team seek for our annual fund? 

While gathering more knowledge about annual fundraising campaigns will certainly help you fine-tune your own approach, consider getting more personalized assistance from an experienced fundraising consultant. A consultant can assess your annual fundraising strategy from an outsider’s perspective and then make tailored recommendations for improvement! 

Ready to change how you raise money for your annual fund? Let’s begin. 

FAQ #1: What is an annual fund, and why is it important for my nonprofit? 

Your annual fund is the money set aside to cover your organization’s operational expenses and supplement ongoing campaigns. You raise money for your annual fund all year long, and the gifts made to your annual fund are considered unrestricted funds, meaning that your nonprofit can use the money as it sees fit. 

Aside from helping your nonprofit stay open and continue to serve its beneficiaries, there are a few other reasons that make your annual fundraising campaign so important. Namely, through annual fundraising, you can:  

  • Boost awareness for your cause and organization. Every fundraising campaign gives you the chance to spread the word about your nonprofit. Use your annual fund campaign to let your community know about the issue your organization is trying to resolve and how they can help. Inviting support through your annual campaign will lead people to become invested in your work and give to other campaigns! 
  • Strengthen relationships with your supporters. Your existing supporters are invested in seeing your organization succeed, and your annual fund campaign presents a regular opportunity for you to communicate with them and secure their support. Leverage these chances to report on how their past support has helped your nonprofit serve its beneficiaries, and how sustained support will empower you to continue moving forward. 
  • Test new solicitation and stewardship strategies. While you want your annual fundraising strategy to be efficient and successful, the ongoing nature of annual fundraising allows some room for experimentation. For example, you might try sending new and improved gift solicitation letters. If your new letters are successful, you can use them in other campaigns. 

Your annual fundraising campaign is more than just a checklist item that helps keep the lights on. It provides a regular opportunity to check in with your community and keep your fundraising skills sharp. Viewing it in this way will help you design a successful annual fundraising campaign every year. 

FAQ #2: What does the timeline of an annual fundraising campaign look like?  

Without a clearly-defined timeline for your team to follow, your annual fundraising campaign can quickly take a backseat to everything else your nonprofit has going on, making it harder to fill your annual fund. 

Avoid this issue by planning your campaign around these three distinct phases: 

Phase 1: Planning Your Campaign 

This phase will take place a few months before you launch your annual campaign. During this phase, you’ll develop a working campaign plan with your team and create assets such as a case for support, a gift range chart, and a solicitation plan. 

You should also conduct a planning and feasibility study, interviewing your stakeholders to get feedback on your initial campaign plan and then refining your plan based on that feedback. According to Averill Solutions’ guide to planning and feasibility studies, a fundraising consultant can be especially helpful with this step, as stakeholders are more likely to provide honest feedback on your campaign to someone who isn’t an insider at your organization. 

Phase 2: Implementing Your Plan 

After you finalize your campaign plan, it’s time to begin fundraising! This phase will be the longest of your campaign, but you should still take special care to make every effort count. Leverage your organization’s favorite fundraising tools and strategies to work toward your annual fund goal. This might include sending gift request letters or using online fundraising tools. Take the approach that best resonates with your supporters and make sure that the gift-making process is simple, fast, and convenient for everyone. 

Ensure that you’re also prioritizing strengthening relationships with your organization’s supporters. A strong relationship with an individual that is passionate about your cause will be much more valuable in the long run than a one-time gift to your annual fund, so keep this big picture in mind. Take the time to get to know your supporters, and, when the time comes, sincerely thank them for their gifts. 

Phase 3: Campaign Wrap-Up 

In the last couple of months of your campaign, you can begin to wrap up your annual fundraising activities. Many nonprofits’ annual campaigns match up with the calendar year, so it may be time to make a final push for gifts through an end-of-year initiative like a Giving Tuesday campaign. Once you meet your goal, you’ll also need to begin your follow-up activities, creating personalized thank-you messages for every supporter who gave to your fund. 

Once you’ve worked through these three annual fundraising campaign phases, make sure you celebrate your success with your team! You should also take stock of what went well for your campaign this year, and what you can change in the future to see even more success. After all, your next annual fundraising campaign is just around the corner!

FAQ #3: What types of gifts should my team seek for our annual fund? 

Like any large-scale fundraising campaign, you should go into your annual fundraising initiative with a clear plan for what gifts you’ll be seeking and from whom. To help you create a gift range chart and build out the solicitation strategy you’ll use during the implementation phase, let’s explore the three types of gifts you’ll be seeking throughout this process: 

  • Major Gifts: Gifts from major givers will make up 60% or more of your annual fund goal, and 10% of the total gifts you seek during your campaign will fall into this category. To identify individuals to solicit major gifts from, conduct wealth screening using your supporter data, and leverage prospect research to find new potential supporters that you can turn to for gifts down the road. 
  • Mid-Range Gifts: Gifts from this tier of giving will make up 15-25% of your annual fund goal, and 20% of the total gifts you seek during your campaign will fall into this category. The mid-range tier can serve as a fallback for givers who aren’t yet ready to make a major gift; when a supporter says no to giving a major gift, you can counter with a mid-range amount. 
  • Lower-Level Gifts: Lower-level gifts will make up 15-25% of your annual fund goal, but 70% of the total gifts you seek during your campaign will fall into this category. This means your nonprofit should cater to supporters who want to give lower-level gifts by leveraging a variety of fundraising tools and strategies throughout your campaign. 

Though your gift solicitation process will look different when you seek gifts at each of these three levels, universal best practices will still apply. For example, make sure to be deliberate in how you share your organization’s story, explaining to your supporters why giving to your annual fund is important and what it allows your organization to do for its beneficiaries. 

Additionally, make sure to educate your supporters about matching gifts. According to Re:Charity, you can help your supporters tap into gift matching opportunities by helping them determine their eligibility and begin the process. This will usually involve partnering with a matching gift database provider and embedding their tool on your nonprofit’s giving page. You can make this even easier for donors by investing in a tool that offers auto-submission

Getting Started

To learn more about how you can use online platforms to host successful fundraising events, sign up for a free demo of Paybee’s fundraising software. You’ll get to put yourselves in the shoes of your audience by seeing how user-friendly our online platforms are, participate in a fun live auction, and ask all of your questions to our staff of experts. Come see which of your fundraising events you can enhance by signing up for a free demo today!

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Bob Happy

Bob Happy brings nearly 35 years of experience providing expert leadership and direction to clients across the not-for-profit sector to his current role as President of Averill Solutions. Before forming Averill Solutions, Bob served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s largest fundraising firm. He has mentored hundreds of professional fundraising practitioners and many have joined him at Averill Fundraising Solutions.

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