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Year End Giving and Your Capital Campaign - Partners Not Competitors

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

The holidays are here, and excitement is buzzing as we set-up decorations, visit our loved ones, find the perfect gift, and snap the family holiday card. But all this holiday cheer is also coupled with sheer exhaustion.

In the season of giving, are we asking our donors to give to too many initiatives, particularly if we’re in a campaign? And how do we make sure our capital campaign doesn’t cannibalize our annual giving—the lifeblood of most organizations?

In this month’s blog, we’ll prove the symbiotic relationship between annual and campaign giving. We’ll show you how to grow your campaign by embracing the annual fund—and vice versa. We’ll demonstrate ways to effectively capture new donors, move mid-level annual donors to major campaign donors, and how to ensure annual giving grows after the campaign ends. In short, we’ll convince you that these two initiatives together make the perfect holiday card.

The annual fund is the driving force behind any organization, providing unrestricted funding to support its mission. It is also a powerful tool that’s often overlooked by fundraisers who see it as too pedestrian. They fail to grasp its power as a tool to develop a donor’s journey from new to major giver.

Annual fund appeals reach your broadest audience because the wider the net you cast, the greater the potential for gifts. The annual fund keeps you at the top of the donor’s mind. It’s the gateway—a way a donor can test the waters of supporting your university or organization—while making contributions to a good cause. So, in the midst of the holly jolly frenzy, it’s always important to encourage your donors to make a year-end gift.

When a school, university, or nonprofit launches a campaign, the annual fund too often becomes an afterthought. Too many organizations develop a silo mentality when it comes to annual giving during a campaign. They neglect to see the annual fund as the strong silent partner it is, and they fail to capitalize on using it to feed major donor prospects into the pipeline, before and during the campaign.

Wofford College effectively used annual giving to deepen their campaign prospect pool—and stimulate annual giving. On the heels of announcing its $300 million For Wofford capital campaign, the college hosted A Day for Wofford, its first large-scale public effort. Amanda Richardson, Wofford’s Director of Annual Giving, summarized the impact. “Over 650 donors contributed nearly $260,000 during the 24-hour giving event, including 109 first-time donors.” These dollars, largely allocated to The Wofford Fund, were crucial to the campaign’s success as well as the college’s operation.

Another strategy is developing a mid-level program for donors—a stepping stone toward major giving. We factor mid-level annual fund donors into campaign strategies because we know they have a tremendous potential for leadership giving during a capital campaign.

There are key indicators and attributes we analyze and consider when identifying major giving prospects from mid-level annual fund donors. With the right personalized strategy, our clients’ campaigns have benefited. It’s important to recognize that these stewardship strategies must be scalable, tiered, and targeted to strengthen relationships and advance mid-level donors through the pipeline.

If donors are properly stewarded throughout a campaign, an organization will see a swell in annual giving after the campaign ends. Harvard University’s record-setting capital campaign raised over $7 billion in four years. According to The Harvard Crimson, “The campaign has substantively increased Harvard’s annual revenue from gifts. From 2010 to 2012, before the public launch of the campaign, the University’s average revenue from gifts was roughly $628 million. Harvard soon started to haul in far more every year, raising a record-high $1.19 billion in fiscal year 2016.”

Below are some tips to unite your annual fund and capital campaign so both profit:

  1. Forge an understanding within your organization’s development/advancement team so they see the annual fund and capital campaign as interdependent. Help them recognize the opportunity for mutual opportunities that enhance both goals.

  2. Recognize that the annual fund is your organization’s top indicator of a donor’s propensity to give to the campaign.

  3. Make the case to your donors for giving to both the annual fund and capital campaigns.

  4. Make a dual ask during the campaign solicitation that requests annual support in addition to a campaign gift. Sophisticated donors understand the importance of supporting both the annual fund and campaign. You have an opportunity to educate newer donors about diversifying their investment.

  5. Fundraising is circular, not linear. Once you close a gift—annual and/or campaign—immediately begin the stewardship process. This will help ensure your donors (especially the new ones) continue to give even after their campaign pledge is fulfilled.

  6. Say thank you within 48 hours. Timing is important, especially if the thank you is a cultivation touch for the next, larger gift.

  7. A campaign is all about vision. Donors are making an investment because they want to be part of something big. Make sure the new donors you attract feel appreciated, and your existing donors feel they’ve made a difference.

  8. A capital campaign increases your organization’s visibility with media coverage, major gift announcements, and groundbreakings. Make sure to capitalize on this heightened awareness with strategic asks and new donor cultivation.

When organizations embrace the potential for mutual benefit, they can increase annual and campaign giving. Take advantage of year-end giving now and see both your annual fund and capital campaign grow.

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