One of the biggest fundraising milestones of the year—December 31— has come and gone.
Now, with your 2016 end-of-calendar-year reports in hand, it’s time to take a deep breath and confront your first-half benchmarks: Did you gain 65–70% of your fiscal year goal? Are you on track to hit your annual giving targets?
I hope most of you are, in fact, nodding happily. But if your answers suggest your fund is lagging (or if you are doing well but are fired up to surpass your goals), I’m here to offer three tips that will help you to finish strong this spring and kick off a successful 2018.
1. Align with new institutional priorities
January is a time when our colleagues throughout the university are evaluating their fiscal year goals. These analyses often lead to shifts in focus and priorities—shifts that require you to adjust your fundraising strategy.
As part of a dynamic, interconnected institution, you must listen for changes in your university’s needs and align your goals accordingly.
In my previous role as associate vice president of development at the University of Richmond, an annual fund director on my team brought this scenario to life for me.
At a former institution, his advancement office entered the spring season committed to improving participation rates and donor acquisition numbers. However, then he learned of a critical gap in the university budget, and his team had to quickly alter its messaging to increase unrestricted revenue. His flexibility was essential to ensure the success of his most important mission: supporting his institution.
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2. Get into the nitty-gritty report details
Today’s development offices have an abundance of data at their fingertips. Annual giving shops can rigorously parse this information to target potential donors, forecast major giving, and promote consistent contributions—data-driven insight that was unavailable to industry veterans, such as myself, even just ten years ago.
Whether you are reporting up to an AVP, your VP, or your board—or launching a spring campaign—I encourage you to harness the power of the information you have on hand.
I also hope you will pay special attention to year-over-year comparative giving and campaign-specific reports because they are the tools that best project performance and identify potential problems as they arise. These reports give you an opportunity to implement changes that will have a big impact on participation rates and revenue.
Donor performance reports are also valuable tools to identify which individuals and constituencies are renewing (and not renewing) their contributions. These reports will allow you to allocate your resources to have the largest impact.
3. Don’t forget the value of the basics
If you had a lackluster first-half, you might be tempted to look for fancy, new tactics to acquire donors and revenue. However, don’t lose sight of doing “the basics” well as you incorporate new strategies that improve your long-term development plan.
We’ve seen that leveraging simple best practice direct marketing tactics can lift response rates up to 24%. Some of these best practices can be as simple as how you align your text and incorporate italics.
Whether you’re entering the second half of the school year feeling behind already or are hoping to surpass your goals, these strategies can energize your annual fund this spring and help you hit your targets.