4 Tips for Your Annual Fundraising Strategy

4 Tips for Your Annual Fundraising Strategy


Adam Weinger


December 30, 2021

Last modified: 

December 30, 2021

Picture this: You’re the director of fundraising and development at a well-known higher education institution. You’ve recently had a ton of money coming in to support your larger-scale initiatives. A private grant-giving foundation is providing your team with the money required to open a high-tech computer lab, and a major donor is funding the building of a new wing at the school.

But what about your other day-to-day operations? You need funds to keep your institution above water, continue paying staff salaries, and invest in behind-the-scenes technology that allows your university to continue running smoothly. Oftentimes, major gifts and grant funding don’t cover those needs.

And that’s where your annual fundraising strategy comes in! In this guide, we’ll explore four powerful tips for boosting this particular type of fundraising. As you begin planning your upcoming campaign, be sure to:

  1. Review your previous year’s strategy.
  2. Set strategic fundraising goals.
  3. Diversify your annual appeal channels.
  4. Double donations with corporate matching gifts.

Advancement playbook

All sorts of mission-driven organizations rely on annual fundraising to help ⁠manage their in-between needs—and when it comes to university and other education-based institutions, your alumni are likely to be your biggest supporters!

Are you ready to uncover how you can position your school for the greatest annual fundraising success going into 2022? Let’s get started.

1. Review your previous year’s strategy

Fundraising organizations have learned a lot about effective fundraising strategies (and the way that they’re always changing) from the highs and lows of 2021. And before that, 2020. Going in 2022, reviewing efforts and results from previous years can give you a head start toward success.

To get started, take a look at where your fundraising flourished in the past year, as well as where you see room for improvement. If you notice that your efforts in the corporate giving arena could use some extra work, for example, consider prioritizing corporate fundraising in the upcoming year.

Here are some other key performance indicators (or KPIs) you might look at:

  • The total amount of fundraising revenue
  • Total number of donors
  • Average donation size (and average increase over time)
  • Percentage of repeat donors vs. one-time and lapsed givers
  • Donations made through your website, direct mail, in-person, phone, events, and more

As you craft your newest annual fundraising strategy, make sure to prioritize the avenues that have historically been your most profitable while also giving extra care to channels that may be lagging behind.

2. Set strategic fundraising goals

A significant element of successful fundraising involves setting fundraising goals beforehand. Otherwise, how will you determine “success” in the first place?

You’ll want to choose lofty objectives that inspire donors and fundraisers alike while ensuring you don’t aim too high that it can seem unrealistic or like a “lost cause.” To find the perfect medium between the two, the best and most effective goals often follow the SMART framework.

As you craft your upcoming objectives, make sure they are:

  • Specific. Your fundraising team (and donors) should know exactly what the goal is and how to reach it.
  • Measurable. Ensure you choose quantifiable metrics that can easily be measured to determine success.
  • Attainable. Again, unrealistic goals can set you up for failure. Make sure your goal is attainable, given your team and available resources.
  • Relevant. Your fundraising goals should be directly related to fundraising⁠—and specifically, your annual fundraising campaign.
  • Time-bound. Set a clear time period in which your annual campaign will run. This instills urgency among donors and allows you to determine whether you’ve reached your goal by the end.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal for an upcoming campaign - “To collect $10,000,000 in individual contributions to fund university operations by 12/31/2022.”

To contrast, a poorly crafted goal might look like this - “To raise a lot of money in the next few months.”

The former sample is much clearer and will ultimately result in greater success, while the latter is subjective and vague. When your annual fundraising objectives incorporate each element listed above, you can ensure your team is positioned for success.

3. Diversify your annual appeal channels

The more fundraising strategies and tools develop, the more comprehensive your campaigns are expected to be. As a result, organizations are encouraged to integrate multiple channels to spread the word about their annual fundraising efforts far and wide.

The particular avenues you choose to leverage for your annual campaign can vary depending on your donors’ preferences and your team’s strong points. However, they will likely incorporate a combination of the following:

Several years ago, you may have been able to reach your goals solely through phone and in-person solicitation efforts. Now, it’s essential that you take a multichannel approach⁠—both to meet donors where they already are and to stand out from other organizations seeking your audiences’ attention.

4. Double donations with corporate matching gifts

Did you know that more than 26 million people work for companies with corporate matching gift programs? It’s likely that many of these individuals are your alumni, donors, and other key supporters.

Before you can expect a solid flow of corporate matches coming in, however, you’ll need to enact specific matching gift marketing strategies to raise awareness of this powerful opportunity. Because although 26+ million individuals are eligible for company matches, more than 78% of this group is completely unaware.

To incorporate corporate matching gifts into your annual fundraising strategy, consider these best practices:

  • Share general matching gift information on social media.
  • Incorporate matching gift appeals in your donation solicitations.
  • Highlight matching gift opportunities directly in your online giving process.
  • Follow up with match-eligible donors after receiving their initial gifts.
  • Provide company-specific matching gift program guidelines with donors whose employers you know.

For you, matching gifts mean that your school has the potential to collect two donations for the cost of soliciting one. And for your donors, they get to know their contributions went twice as far.

You can’t do the big things (like your overall mission impact) without being able to fund the little things as well. An effective annual fundraising strategy allows your team to collect the dollars you need to bankroll every part of your school’s operations⁠—from the most glamorous of tasks to the most mundane.

Luckily, integrating these best practices into your strategy will allow you to raise more funding for your institution and better situate your team for ongoing success. Good luck!

About the Author‍

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. Adam created Double the Donation in order to help nonprofits increase their annual revenue through corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs

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