How to Grow your Annual Fund? Answer – Follow the Money!

by L. Gregg Carlson of member firm IDC Fundraising Division, Harris Connect

The infamous crook, Willie Sutton, when reportedly asked, “Why do you rob banks?” …answered…. “Because that is where the money is.” Simple and straight forward thinking, for sure.

So, how do we grow an Annual Giving program in today’s dynamic environment? Answer – we go to where the philanthropic money is.

 But where is that – what are sources of philanthropic support in the U.S.? Is it the big companies like Ford, Apple and Google that give the most – you would not be alone if you thought so. Or is it the big foundations like Bill & Melinda Gates or the Kresge Foundation’s of the U.S. that give the majority of support. Again, based upon the press they get you might agree.

 However, according to the Giving USA Foundation, the vast majority of giving comes from people, or “individuals” – many that look like you and me.

 Specifically, 75% of the $300 billion (yes, that’s “billion”) given in 2009 was by just everyday folks. Upon closer analysis, individuals give even more when you consider that Bequests (8% of giving) are granted by individuals upon their death and most Foundations (13%) are controlled by founding individuals (if still alive) who make many of the gifting decisions. Therefore, one can conclude that approximately 95% of total giving is by you, me and-yes-the person in the big house in town.

 Okay, if the philanthropic money is with individuals, how do we increase solicitation of individuals – and be more effective? Answer – through the 5 Right Rule…

  1. Have Right Person…
  2. Ask the Right Prospect…
  3. Using the Right Case…
  4. For the Right Gift…
  5. Through the Right Channel!

 The key to increasing Annual Giving lies in the strategic application of the 5 Right Rule – so let’s look at teach step.

1) Have the Right Person – who is the best person to tell your compelling story? Answer – usually a key donor.

 2) Ask the Right Prospect – where should you focus your limited solicitation budget? Answer – individuals who look, statistically speaking, a lot like your best donors (as defined through modeling).

 3) Using the Right Case – what story/need will resonate with this prospective donor? Answer (this one’s tricky) – best to present different opportunities/needs and “ask” through visit/phone/internet what is important to them and why.

 4) For the Right Gift – what is the right amount to ask for? Answer – use gift history/constituency type/wealth screening/life stage profiling to determine the suggested ask amount. Note: don’t just assume what they’ve given year over year is what they’re capable of giving. Most can give more or more frequently if they’re asked.

 5) Through the Right Channel – how do I make this solicitation? Answer – through a combination of multiple communication strategies, deployed at the right time to the right person via the medium they want to participate – namely, face to face/Phone/Mail®/internet/social media/mobile.

 So, why grow your Annual Fund through solicitation of individuals through the 5 Right Rule? Answer …”because that is where the money is.”

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