5 Online Strategies to Grow Your Nonprofit’s Annual Fund

The annual fund campaign is a cornerstone of most nonprofit fundraising strategies.

Annual fund campaigns refer to a set of strategies that nonprofits implement to raise the funds needed to cover their operational expenses. Generally, they’re made up of three main components:

The unifying thread of these components is donor stewardship.

Because annual giving is a more extensive effort, it’s the perfect opportunity for organizations to focus on building the meaningful relationships with their donors that will lead to higher retention rates and better fundraising results in the future.

In the context of modern annual giving, that means thinking about how you can optimize your online strategies to be thoughtful, convenient, and relevant to your donors.

However, because the world of online fundraising is constantly evolving, some organizations are at a loss as to how to do this as effectively as possible.

If you’re one of those organizations, you’ve come to the right place. Here I’ll cover 5 of the most effective online strategies to develop your annual fund.

These are the topics we’ll explore:

  1. Create a page on your website dedicated to your annual fund.
  2. Segment your list.
  3. Include multiple gift amounts on your online donation form.
  4. Feature recurring giving as an option on your online donation form.
  5. Participate in #GivingTuesday.

While these strategies should help you get more for your annual fund, remember: while the methods of annual giving has changed, but the goals haven’t.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

1. Create a page on your website dedicated to your annual fund.

One of the best places to feature your annual fund campaign online is, of course, your website.

Your website is the home base of your organization and how many donors will first encounter your organization online. It would only make sense that it feature all of your important efforts, especially one that is directly tied to your organization and its operations!

Seeing as your annual fund will be one of your organization’s most extensive and crucial efforts, your organization should consider creating a branded page on your website dedicated entirely to this campaign.

Your annual fund campaign page will be a place where you can list all important information related to the campaign. For example, it could include:

  • A short blurb or video about your organization and its overall mission.
  • A description of the campaign and what specific goals you hope to achieve. Here it can be more difficult to be precise, considering that annual campaigns can be a little less directed in nature than shorter, more targeted campaigns. Focus in on how the money you raise from the campaign will help facilitate your operations so you’re better able to help those you serve.
  • A tentative campaign calendar (make sure to feature this as early as possible if you’re hosting events!).
  • Progress updates throughout the campaign.
  • Shoutouts to donors who have helped you make big strides towards reaching your goals.
  • Photos and stories from your campaign events.
  • And more!

Most importantly, make sure to feature a campaign-branded donation form in a prominent place on your webpage, so donors can give specifically to your annual fund.

How does this strategy help you grow your annual fund, exactly? Overall, it comes down to marketing and convenience.

Having one page dedicated to your annual fund makes it easy for your organization to advertise your campaign and easier for donors to access the information they need. All you need to do is share a link.

Plus, when donors want to make a donation, they’ll know exactly where to submit one!

In other words, when it’s as convenient as possible for donors to find the resources they need about your annual fund, your organization will see more donations.

The takeaway: Building a page on your website for your annual fund makes marketing the campaign more straightforward for you and makes online giving more convenient for your donors, which should result in more donations.

2. Segment your list.

Your campaign will see much more success if you cater your communication strategies to each donor instead of subjecting them all to the same one-size-fits-all approach.

When you use your donors’ preferences to guide your communication, it ensures that your outreach will always be relevant and meaningful. It also shows donors that you regard them as individuals and are paying attention to their unique relationship with your organization.

When your donors feel personally valued, they’ll not only respond more warmly to your annual fund outreach, but they’ll also be more likely to become recurring givers. That means you’ll get about 42% more value from just one donor alone!

While you can’t get to know all of your donors on a personal level, there are certainly some tools out there that can help you target your outreach, especially when it comes to online fundraising strategies.

What I’m mainly referring to are nonprofit donor databases (if you’re shopping, make sure to check out Double the Donation’s product guide). For those of you unfamiliar with these platforms, they allow nonprofits to centrally track all donor data throughout the span of the donor’s relationship with the organization.

By housing all of this information in one place, you can easily segment your donor list based on any of the criteria you have included in the platform. This way, it’s much easier to approach donors with more personal outreach strategies.

Managing diverse outreach strategies has never been easier, and your donors are sure to respond with more fervor than if you were sending them all the same, tired template!

The takeaway: Segmenting your donor list is the most efficient way to manage multiple outreach strategies. When you approach your donors with individualized communications, your annual fund is sure to see more growth.

Bonus: For this strategy to work best, you’ll need to start with a clean database! Check out some of my tips on database de-duping.

3. Include multiple gift amounts on your online donation form.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your online annual fundraising is to optimize your online donation form.

How is it done? Start by including multiple gift amounts.

When donors are uncertain about how much others are giving, they feel less confident giving themselves, because they worry they might donate too little. Having gift amounts suggested to them gives donors a better idea of how much is expected, which makes many feel more comfortable contributing.

Presenting gift options also make it more convenient for donors to give what they want. Many donors will even give slightly more than they were planning to when they first landed on your form.

When determining which gift amounts to include, keep in mind:

  • Average gift size: Most of your donors will be giving around the average gift size. Calculate this number to figure out what the median gift amount should be. Push your gift sizes just a little higher to encourage donor upgrading.
  • Your annual fund goals: You’ll need a certain amount of gifts to achieve your annual campaign goals, so make sure to factor these goals into your suggested amounts.
  • Other donation forms: What are organizations like yours requesting from their donors? Try to set your gift amounts at a comparable level to remain competitive.

Offering multiple gift amounts is an easy way to increase online contributions to your annual fund.

The takeaway: Including many gift options on your online donation form results in more and bigger gifts to your annual fund. Consider your base and the needs of your campaign to set your options at the most appropriate level.

4. Feature recurring giving as an option on your online donation form.

Another way to improve your online donation form is by giving donors the option to set up recurring giving.

While this strategy is pretty straightforward ( to include a recurring giving option somewhere on your form), the challenge is making sure you have everything set up internally to process recurring gifts as efficiently as possible.

Many online donations platforms should allow your organization to store donors’ payment information and automatically charge them once their gifts are due.

By featuring recurring giving on your online donation form, it will be clear to donors that this is a very convenient option. Not only that, they’ll know exactly how to get started, which should result in higher recurring giving rates across your base.

The takeaway: Recurring donors give more than one-time givers, but some donors might not be aware of how to get started with recurring giving. Eliminate any uncertainty by featuring recurring giving as an option on your online donation form.

5. Participate in #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday is one of the biggest trends in online fundraising.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, #GivingTuesday is a philanthropic response to Black Friday and occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. During #GivingTuesday, organizations post on social media and encourage their supporters to help them reach a certain fundraising goal before the day is up.

The hurried and high pressure of #GivingTuesday can be a great incentive for donors to give outside the annual campaign.

That’s because the aims of the annual campaign are usually a little less directed. Since the organization is requesting money for its operations instead of requesting money to fund a project, it can be harder to compel donors to give.

#GivingTuesday provides donors with a clear and definitive goal, which can make them feel more comfortable when it comes to donating.

To get started, your organization will first want to get a team together and register as an official #GivingTuesday partner (http://www.givingtuesday.org/join/), so information about your organization and where to donate will be listed in the online directory.

Aside from that, what this strategy takes is some intense marketing.

Start getting the word out early and through as many channels as possible. The success of #GivingTuesday basically relies on how far you can stretch your social media reach, so the more supporters that hear about your campaign, the better.

Once the day after Thanksgiving rolls around, start posting your online donation page and encouraging your followers to share. Then, watch the online donations add up!

Tip: Not sure of the best way to ask for donations through social media? Check out this helpful resource from QGiv.

The takeaway: The definite and urgent nature of #GivingTuesday is highly incentivizing to donors. Incorporate it into your online annual giving strategies to raise more from your campaign.

What online strategies have helped your organization grow its annual fund?

Share them in the comments below!

John Haydon