Fundraising and the Annual Giving Campaign

By and large fundraising is about identifying your fundraising assets and building on these. For example, an organization that has a history of successful fundraising events, is likely to have a significant database of attendees, who may also be willing to donate to an annual gift giving campaign. I have come across struggling organizations that have no idea what their assets are. Some were sitting on the pot of gold on the end of the rainbow while contemplating where to find it. One of the greatest assets any organization can have is an extensive mailing list, contact list or donor database.

A national organization I was contracted to help had 16,000 names in their database. All of these people had made a donation at some time, whether big or small. My starting point (after writing a Case for Support) was to develop a list of the 100 single, largest donations received by donor name and the top 100 lifetime donors. After eliminating duplications, I was left with 160 names. This was my annual gift campaign prospect list.

I set out trying to get as much information as I could about my top prospects. Management had only had direct contact with 5 or so of these individuals. There was little other information available in the database. I began searching the internet. I found no information on some, a few appeared to be deceased (after cross checking their last donation with obituaries, I considered this verified), but I learned a great deal about many. I learned, for instance, of their other donations and causes that interested them. Some, for example, gave very major gifts to their local United Ways. The giving capacity of some of these individuals was beyond expectation. It was also obvious from their other favorite charities that many had a deep interest in our mission. Furthermore, they were already linked to us by their own giving, no matter how sporadic.

The important lesson here is that this charity had fundraising assets and capacity that they were totally unaware of. A related lesson: even a small charity should know who their top donors are. Reaching out to my client’s donors resulted in gifts of $25,000, a couple at $10,000, several at $5,000 and many more in the four figure range. It returned this organization to financial health.

One does not need to have 16,000 names in a database to have success with an annual individual giving campaign. I have made impressive gains with a list of 1600.

I have also uncovered lost opportunities of spectacular proportions. The lead donor of another organization had given at least a $1,000 annually to my client. In some years it was double that amount. No one in the organization could tell me anything about her. So I started to research. I found that she sat on the Board of one of Canada’s largest private foundations (founded by her father), that she recently gave away a huge tract of land to an environmental group, and that she anonymously deposited money into people’s bank accounts because she though they may need it. This latter propensity came to light only after she passed away a few months earlier. A confidant cleared up many a mystery. I could not help but feel sad that my client had not inquired about their top donor and reached out to her personally, because I think she would have embraced them even more. There was a great fit, but an even larger flop.

Again: it is crucial to know your top donors, especially if you are a small organization. It is important to build relationships with them.

Many charities, even small ones in terms of budget and staff, have untapped fundraising assets. To a large degree this is because they have no fundraising expertise. Sometimes they just don’t have the staff time to do their homework. A consultant could help identify assets and strategies for building on them. Businesses may be interested in the demographics of your members, or your reach through social media. But first some one needs to examine your database, calculate your reach, ….


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Thomas Allgoewer
Allgoewer Consulting

Oct. 16, 2016

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