Advancement Blog

6 questions to ask when you're considering outsourcing annual giving


You have a to-do list a mile long. I don’t need to be looking over your shoulder to know that. I talk to a lot of advancement leaders, and it’s one thing everyone has in common. With tuition revenue pressure and state funding cuts, there is an increasing burden on advancement to take up the slack. That means more pressure and more work—and often with the same size staff to do it with.

In this environment and with limited resources, it’s critical to focus your efforts on the things that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, such as cultivating relationships with important donors, fostering affinity programs, and pursuing major gifts. In a list prioritized by immediate return on effort, annual giving would probably fall toward the bottom.

Your annual giving strategy is probably something you should be handing off to someone else.

The benefits of delegating your annual giving outreach

There are a lot of reasons why a partnership approach to annual fundraising beats going it alone. The first reason is resources. If you’re like most organizations, your advancement team has a lot of priorities and never quite enough time to dedicate to all of them. Annual fund campaigns take a lot of time—time that you could be spending on activities more in line with your experience and likely to bring in high-dollar gifts.

The second reason is depth of knowledge. Working with a partner who lives and breathes annual giving and data across a spectrum of colleges and universities increases your effective knowledge base exponentially on topics from segmentation to trend and behavioral analysis to designing and executing proven, high-impact creative. In addition, you benefit from lessons learned as a result of all of the campaigns that partner has already completed at other colleges and universities around the country.

Another benefit of partnership is scale and being able to A/B test a variety of strategies and tactics to determine the most effective course of action and continually improve outcomes. Few organizations have the volume to do this sort of thing with any statistical significance. Not so for the right external partner. For example, at Royall & Company we conduct more than 300 of these tests every year with more than one billion donors and students in higher education.

Of course, these kinds of partnerships don’t come free. But if you add up the amount you are already spending to support your in-house staff and mail shop, you might find that you’ve already got the budget. And that’s just the cost side of the equation. Our partners have found that the additional revenue and enhanced donor pipeline they get from working with a proven expert easily outweigh the costs associated with the partnership.

Is the hand-off right for you?

When people ask me whether the partnership approach I’ve outlined is right for them, I suggest that they consider the following questions:

  1. Are you achieving your participation and revenue goals?
  2. Do you have the time and resources required to carry out all of the heavy lifting to meet those goals?
  3. Do you use historical analysis and predictive modeling to segment your alumni and create personalized strategies to uniquely engage each segment?
  4. Does your team have expertise in statistics, data security, print mail, email deliverability, digital marketing, predictive modeling, and actionable analytics?
  5. Are you able to test, read, and implement different strategies continually to inform and improve your segmentation, timing, and creative?
  6. Do you have an innovation agenda to create new best practices and enhance the ones you are using?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, finding a partner to develop, implement, and execute your annual fund strategy is likely to improve your performance significantly.

My colleagues and I wake up thinking about annual fund growth and success every day. You could do that too, of course. But given the other things on your to-do list, do you really want to?

Want to learn more?

We reveal the behaviors of a particularly elusive audience—young donors—and why it’s important to engage them in fundraising in our webinar "Kids These Days: What You Don’t Know About Your Youngest Donors". Watch the webinar.


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