The Secret of Annual Giving: Specificity | npENGAGE

The Secret of Annual Giving: Specificity

By on Jan 11, 2011


“So what will you do with $1000 if I give it to you?”  Strange question?  Not really.  It should be the first thing your donors ask when you present them with an Annual Giving upgrade request.   Many organizations are guilty of one of the most common annual giving mistakes:  Lack of clarity as to what the Annual Fund supports.  Think about all of the clichés that come to mind when you think of what annual gifts to your organization fund.  Scholarships?  Salaries?  Light bulbs?  Or, perhaps the granddaddy of clichés:  “annual operating support”. 

All of these are true, of course, but what do they really tell the donor about what their $50, $100 or $1000 gift will do for your organization?  Donors want to know how they can make a difference.  It can be difficult to feel that one $50 gift is making much of a dent in a multi-million dollar budget.  With this in mind, your job becomes easy.  Make it tangible.  Be specific about what a particular size gift will fund.

Great examples of this abound.  Some organizations have made a science out of giving donors keen insights into the positive effect gifts at any level will have.  This was made crystal clear to me several years ago when my then 8 year old daughter came to me with a simple request.  She wanted to know if she could have $20.   I asked her why and she replied, “Because it will buy a poor family a flock of chicks so they will have food.”  She had seen a commercial for Heifer International  and had learned what an incredible impact this amount of money would have.  It was tangible.  It was real.  And she wanted to make a difference.

Similarly, I recently received an annual giving request from Marian High School, a Catholic high school in South Bend, IN.  Not only had they made several giving level suggestions on the response card, but they had clearly indicated what each one would fund.  For example, a gift of $25 per month or $300 annually would buy one student books for a year.  Or, $10 per month ($120 annually) would pay the technology fee for one student for a year.  It might not seem like a huge gift, but knowing exactly what could be done with it truly made a difference.  I just emailed the Annual Giving Director and told her my check was in the mail.

So, make sure you answer the question before it is asked.  Next time you extend a request to your donors for gifts at a particular level,  have a clear, tangible and specific answer to exactly what you will do with that $1000 if they give it to you.  You might just be surprised at how many envelopes you have to open.


Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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