Elements of a Strong Annual Giving Program

Annual giving is an initiative used to raise funds from chapter alumni and parents. It’s commonly adopted by chapter house corporations and educational foundations. It’s an ideal method to raise funds to cover operational costs, make capital repairs, increase scholarship funds, and more.

If your chapter is already doing an annual fund, great! The information shared below should merely serve as a reminder to prepare for the next campaign. If your chapter is not currently seeking annual contributions, know that it’s very important that your chapter ask for gifts annually from alumni/ae and parents. Annual funds provide the chapter with critical funding and they are a measuring stick for how well cultivated your alumni/ae and parents are. Below are seven steps to a successful annual giving program:

    1. Ensure that your chapter has an effective alumni/ae and parent relations program in place before you begin asking for gifts. This involves a focus on improving records, a quality website, social media, e-news, newsletters, alumni/ae and parent events, and a recognition program.
    2. Enlist an alumnus to talk to your new members and graduating seniors each year sharing the importance of their lifetime commitment to your chapter, national organization, and university. Feel free to use our “5-Finger Lifetime Charity Plan.” Ask your members to always keep your chapter as one of their five most important charities in their lifetime as it relates to investing their time and/or dollars.
    3. Establish goals for the annual fund plan. Review past giving history if you have asked for gifts in the past. If this is your first time asking, set an initial goal of receiving gifts from 5% of chapter alumni/ae and 10% of parents (parents might be a little more likely to give as their son or daughter will be immediately impacted). Consider setting goals for: number of gifts, dollar amounts, new donors, average donation amount, and improved contact information (e.g. new email and phone numbers).
    4. Develop a strategy to help reach those goals. Keep in mind, to reach financial goals the top 10% of gifts should account for around 60% of the goal; the middle 20% of gifts should account for around 20% of the goal; and the lowest 70% should account for the remaining approximately 20% of the goal. Plan to receive one contribution for every three to four prospective donors approached. Consider personally contacting (by phone or visit) the top 10% prospects. The next 20-30% of your prospects should receive a phone call and individual emails and letters. The remaining 60-70% of prospects should receive emails, mailings, social media postings, and texts.
    5. Set a budget for annual fundraising efforts. Know what the chapter can afford. It’s easy from a budget point of view to remove any mailings. However, it’s strongly recommended that you continue to do some mailings, even if to a more targeted group.
    6. Develop a calendar that will help reach the annual giving goals. Consider something like this:
      • August: ask all chapter volunteers to make a gift; ask all undergraduates to contribute between $1-$5 (ask graduating seniors to setup a re-occurring credit card gift of; $10-$25 per month); ask all past donors to give (use email, letters and calls).
      • September: make personal visits and calls to the top 10% alumni/ae prospects; ask parents for a gift via emails and phone; ask volunteers to share emails and texts with their circles of influence.
      • October: send emails and letters signed by a few alumni/ae to the next 20% of alumni/ae prospects (include goals and what the funds will be used for as well as a list of donors and dollars raised to date).
      • November: send emails and letters to the final 70% of alumni/ae; ask undergraduates to make calls to a 3-5 year period of alumni/ae to text the success of this (if successful, the next year you can expand).
      • December: host a day or week of giving; send an email and text that includes a list of donors for the year. Sending a final request prior to the end of the calendar year might also generate a few contributions.
    7. Make certain to thank all donors. Every donor should receive a written thanks within 1-2 weeks of receiving each gift. Additionally, a list of all of donors should appear in the chapter’s newsletter in initiation or graduation year order. The top 10% of donors should receive a call from one of the chapter’s alumni/ae volunteers. If someone makes a more impactful gift of $1,000 or more, try to meet with them in-person. Finally, consider having a display in the chapter house which lists all donors for the past year.

Well executive annual giving programs can generate significant funding to advance chapter operations, capital needs, and scholarship funds. The increase in alumni/ae and parent support can easily result in new volunteer leadership and event attendance.