Kara Redoutey, MBA
Development requires constant learning and ongoing education, and one of the first things you will learn about at Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy’s Principles and Techniques of Fundraising course is the Four Legged Stool (seen pictured below). It basically conveys the importance of building the 4 pillars of a successful development program: Annual Fund, Capital Campaign, Major Gifts, and Planned Giving Programs. A strong development foundation is built by having all four programs, but the base of all giving starts with an Annual Fund Program, which is why we will discuss its importance first.
What are the barriers to an Annual Fund Program?
An annual fund program requires a lot of management and oversight. This can be challenging in small shops with limited staffing. If the purpose of the annual fund and the case for fundraising isn’t communicated well on a regular basis, donors won’t support the fund. Ongoing evaluation is required to ensure that modifications are made every year to improve the annual fund program. This requires planning, a focus on results and goal setting, and board members and employees alike to be committed to the success of this leg of fundraising. It all starts here, and if the annual fund program isn’t successful, the organization may see similar results in the other legs of the stool.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
The annual fund program helps the development team to begin building relationships with donors who are new to the institution or donors who have recently made a connection with your institution. The development staff often works to build upon those connections and these donors continue to support the organization for years to come. They become brand advocates, and for our marketing folks out there, we know how important it is to have folks outside of the organization who consistently support your organization and share information and stories. The annual fund program also helps to build financial support for the areas of greatest need in the organization. Undesignated funds are the backbone of an annual fund program, allowing the organization to allocate the funds when and where they will have the greatest impact, responding to challenges and new opportunities as they arise. Another important reason for the annual fund program is the ability to deliver a consistent message to our donors, sharing information about the organization’s needs, growth, and accomplishments.
How can you help?
- Seek to learn more about your development foundation’s annual fund program goals.
- Share with coworkers and community members what you learn.
- Give back to the areas or programs for which you are passionate. When you talk about fundraising and development, your credibility is strengthened when you are a donor as well. And remember, donors should always give the amount that makes sense for them. There is no minimum amount to give and there are no expectations.
Do you have any ideas or advice for building a strong Annual Fund Program?