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Annual Fund Drives and Appeals

Learn the Basics of Annual Fund Drives
Target Your Message to Specific Donors
Raise More by Adding an Annual Event


Annual Fund Drives

Many schools, nonprofits, churches, and other community organizations host an annual fund drive to raise money for developmental projects and programs. Annual giving is the backbone of any nonprofit institution, making annual fund drives and appeals an important nonprofit fundraising strategy. Without the support of local businesses and community members, these groups would no longer be able to provide the numerous services, resources, and activities that are important to their community. Therefore, hosting an annual fund drive provides a great way to bring in additional revenue, as well as an opportunity to inform people about the importance their contributions have on the future of their community.

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What Exactly is an Annual Fund?

Annual fund is a term that generally refers to the funds raised to support an organization’s annual operating budget. An annual fund can work as either a general donation appeal and collect all throughout the year or it can be associated with a specific campaign or group of campaigns, including direct mail, email, Social Media, and fundraising events. Annual fund drives are often kicked off in the last quarter of the year, as part of year-end giving and appeals.

Hosting special events and donation drives will certainly help your organization reach your annual fund’s fundraising goals and increase your success. many organizations do this as part of GivingTuesday fundraising.

How Do Organizations Run Annual Fund Drives?

An annual fund drive or appeal can be conducted by reaching out to local businesses and community members and asking for donations, at least once every year. This is typically done through writing donation request letters or hosting an annual fundraising event.

Annual Fund Appeal Guidelines

Below are some basic guidelines for hosting an annual fund drive.

Making a personal connection with your donors is key to the success of your annual fund appeal.

Making a personal connection with your donors is key to the success of an annual fund appeal.

Let your supporters know how important they are and why you especially need them to take action this year. Segment and personalize the annual appeal to your audience.


Set fundraising goals for the annual fund.

Set fundraising goals!

Look at your accomplishments from previous years and try to break records. Monitor your progress on your website so employees, participants, and donors can see how close you are to reaching your goals. This might give people an incentive to kick in a little bit more. If you have not yet met your goal towards the end of the fundraiser, send out a reminder stating exactly how much additional funding your organization needs. Visit our fundraising tips for more ideas.


Address specific needs.

Address specific needs.

Sit down with members of your organization to identify the annual fund cause and communicate exactly what funds will be used for. Instead of just raising money for your organization’s annual budget, state exactly what the money raised will fund, i.e. “Donations will be used to purchase new books, computers, and resources for our new community library.”


Craft a strong annual fund appeal.

Craft a strong annual fund appeal.

Write a donation request letter that states the need you identified above and kindly requests financial support. State what the funds will be used for, and explain how each community member can make a difference through their donation. Be sure to include instructions for how people can make donations. This is often sent by mail as an end of the year fundraising letter. Create a shorter variation of the letter that can be sent through email as well. This allows for a more viral approach, as this email request letter can include live links to donation sites, and can be forwarded to other potential donors.


Make donating easy.

Make donating easy.

Create a beautiful website using our fundraising software so people can make secure online donations. Include a link to this website in the email letter and on your organization’s website and social media networking pages. Offer additional ways for donations to be received as well, i.e. mailing a personal check or calling with a credit card number.


Always thank donors.

Always thank donors.

Be sure to recognize donors for their contributions by sending a thank you letter, listing donor names on your website, and recognizing them at fundraising events. Remind donors that annual fund gifts are tax-deductible in accordance with IRS and CRA guidelines.

Personalize Your Annual Appeal

Prospects for your annual appeal should include everyone associated with your organization. However, this doesn’t mean that you just send one letter to everyone. You will need to segment your audience and target donors appropriately. Major gifts donors do not want to see the same information as new supporters. If they do, they may just turn into $50 donors.

As well, you need to know the demographics of your donors, since different age groups like to donate and engage differently.

Millennials Fundraising Trends

Millennials Fundraising Trends

These young donors are most likely to donate via mobile giving and to friends, via peer to peer crowdfunding campaigns. They are ultra-connected to their devices, and as such, they respond to text to donate campaigns and are active daily on social media.

Generation X Fundraising Trends

Generation X Fundraising Trends

These supporters are most likely to fundraise on behalf of your organization and volunteer in other ways. They respond to email, phone calls, and text campaigns.

Baby Boomers Fundraising Trends

Baby Boomers Fundraising Trends

These donors are most likely to make larger and/or recurring gifts. You may wish to contact them via phone calls and they also check email regularly.

Donate Anytime

Greatest Generation Fundraising Trends

It’s no surprise that age 67 and up donors are most likely to respond to direct mail campaigns and give by check. Many also own smartphones and donate by credit card, but direct mail campaigns should still be used to target these older donors.

Hosting Annual Fundraising Events

host annual eventsAll of these same guidelines can be followed for hosting an annual fundraising event, and events allow you to really get in front of your donor. You’ll still want to send a letter or communication to inform people of the fundraising campaign and ask for their donations or participation. Providing a link to a fundraising website is not only a great way to collect registrations, sponsorship sales, and donations, but also to share information about your event including date, time, location, and other important details such as entertainment and food.

If you decide to host an event, be sure to consider a nonprofit crowdfunding event where your supporters can fundraise and become actively involved in your organization. Remember, besides raising money, raising awareness is a key component in annual fund drives. Walk-a-thons and race fundraisers are a great option, as are bike-a-thons and spin-a-thons. Great fundraising events also offer additional revenue-generating opportunities like hosting fundraising raffles or charity auctions.

Most importantly, make the event fun! Provide entertainment, food, games, and contests to draw in a large audience. If your event is a success, people will look forward to coming back year after year, and your event may also look appealing for sponsorship from local businesses.

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