Many schools, non-profits, 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 non-profit institution, making annual fund drives and appeals an important non-profit 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.
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 collect all throughout the year or it can be associated with a specific campaign or campaigns, including direct mail, email, Social Media and fundraising events. Annual fund drives are often kicked off at the end of the year, as part of GivingTuesday campaigns and year-end appeals. Hosting specific events and drives will certainly help your organization reach your annual fund’s fundraising goals and increase your success.
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. Making a personal connection with your donors is key to the success of your annual fund appeal.
Annual Fund Appeal Guidelines
Below are some basic guidelines for hosting an annual fund drive:
- 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 you need. Visit our fundraising tips for more ideas.
- Sit down with members of your organization to identify your cause and communicate exactly what the raised funds will be used for. For example, instead of just raising dollars for your organization, 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.”
- Write a donation request letter that kindly requests financial support. For example, send supporters an end of the year fundraising letter. 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. Create an email variation of the letter that can be sent through email. This allows for a more viral approach, as this email request letter can include live links to donation sites, and can be forwarded from your contact list to other potential donors.
- Make donating as easy as possible. Create a website using fundraising software so people can make safe, secure online donations, and include a link to this website in your email letter and on your organization’s website or social networking pages. Offer additional ways for donations to be received (i.e. mailing a personal check or calling with a credit card number).
- 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.
- Always remind donors that annual fund gifts are tax deductible in accordance with IRS guidelines.
Hosting Annual Fundraising Events
All 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 event and ask for their donations and/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 do decide to host an annual fundraising event, be sure to consider a non-profit 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. (See more event fundraising ideas.) Fundraising events also offer other revenue-generating opportunities like hosting a fundraising raffle or silent auction. Mostly 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.