Looking back, moving forward – reflecting on your annual fund

Tim Sarrantonio

This is an excerpt from our new eBook: The Fundraiser’s Guide to the Annual Fund. To learn more about starting an annual fund, download the free eBook here.

In my previous position, I ran an annual fund that aimed to bring in nearly $1 million over the course of 365 days. Around the second month of the new fiscal year, we’d reflect with our team on successes, failures, and ways to improve our processes. In our final installment of this blog series, we will engage a proper wrap-up of your annual fund and looking to the future.

What did you do right? What can you do better?
If you look back to the original plan you had put together, start with your SWOT analysis. Did you play to your organization’s strengths and mitigate your weaknesses? Did you capitalize on opportunities and identify and neutralize any potential threats to your success?

This is the time to celebrate, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, the focus should be creating a framework that can be built on year to year and not tearing down your committee or coworkers. Be constructive in criticism and use that to adjust your annual fund’s structure into something even better.

Revitalize and reward the team
The annual fund that I helped run cycled out the chair and vice-chair every year. The chair would get a nice send-off at the celebratory party at the conclusion of the annual fund, and the vice-chair would be elevated to the leadership role for the coming year.

While you don’t need to use this exact same model for your organization, be on the lookout for signs of burnout for your committee members and other stakeholders. Keeping the team excited is absolutely vital for your success. Otherwise, who will help stuff those envelopes and do those phone calls?

Remember when I mentioned the celebratory party? Make sure to have one of those! Use it to celebrate major donors, committee members, volunteers, and of course your own work. Annual funds aren’t on the same marketing level as galas and other flashy events, so adding a little pizzazz once it’s over will make folks excited for the coming year.

What will you do NEXT year?
There are parts of your annual fund structure and plan that will work year after year, but every year your organization should take stock (literally and figuratively) of what will help you for the coming year. A few things to think about:

  • Where does your annual fund fit in with your calendar year annual report in terms of donor stewardship?
  • Is your letterhead reusable? If not, can you find a better vendor or deal?
  • Are there any major donors that can be softened up for an appeal early on? Consider a dinner to thank them for their previous year’s support and avoid an ask for now.
  • What impact did the previous year’s annual fund have on your mission? Quantify AND qualify.

We want to thank you for going through this journey on the different components that your organization will engage as you plan your own annual funds. We wish you great success in growing your own amazing missions! If you want to begin at the beginning, we’ve put the entire series together in the bottom of this post.

Got a question, comment, criticism, or concern? We’re here to listen, we’re here to help, and we’re here to learn. Leave something below or reach out to me directly at tim@z2systems.com. I look forward to continuing the conversation!

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