There are a lot of ways to get these two terms muddled together and confused. Having worked at large state-supported universities for most of my career, I'm guilty of using the terms "annual fund" and "annual giving" interchangeably.
Here's the crucial difference: some institutions need unrestricted funding in order to make their operating budget and provide basic services to meet their mission. They have an annual fund, which is unrestricted. And while these organizations accept and appreciate designated gifts to programs and named funds, they still require a certain amount of unrestricted giving. There is a laser focus on unrestricted giving. The pitch is all about the importance and uniqueness of that organization's mission in our world. The need for support is tied to the worthiness of the institution itself.
Other organizations just want loyal donors to make a gift of any level, every year. This is annual giving. Usually, it is not fund specific. For instance, at most large universities, the goal of the office of annual giving is to boost alumni participation rates and the ability to designate that gift to a niche department, program or scholarship is part of the pitch.
Why would an institution that doesn't need operating dollars run an annual campaign? There are many reasons but here are a few:
I now work for an institution that needs operating dollars and "annual fund" doesn't just mean "small gift amounts". Major donors play a big role in helping our organization to meet our goals. I had to completely clarify in my mind the differences between raising money for the "margin of excellence" versus raising money to meet our budget. Unrestricted giving isn't value-add at many small non-profits and smaller institutions of higher education; it is a necessity.
Deeply understanding that there are two very different approaches to annual fund/giving is essential if we are to communication effectively with our colleagues at other institutions. Make sure to ask questions about whether the annual fund is unrestricted giving only, whether it includes major gifts and whether your goals are calculated by what you can raise or by your budgetary needs. Finding a colleague at a similar institution is helpful if you are hoping to craft a perfect pitch for your annual campaign.
Do you work for an annual fund institution or an annual giving institution?
“Predictive Modeling” sounds intimidating, right? It sounds technical and complicated. You probably think you should hire a consultant to help you create a predictive model for your organization.
Well, let’s all agree together to take the bite out of this phrase. I like Wikipedia’s uncomplicated definition of predictive modeling as a system that “uses statistics to predict outcomes”.
Creating a predictive model is merely using statistical educated guesses to build projections and then work with those projections dynamically throughout the year. Projections is a version (model) of what you think will happen in your program this year (predictive).
I’ll discuss here how to build you’re your projections and next week, I’ll post about how to work with your model dynamically throughout the year as the actual results impact your ability (for good or for ill) to reach the projected goal.
For this exercise, you will need:
You’ll building each segment into your spreadsheet like you’re building a house: brick by brick, cell by cell. This takes a long time but it is the essence of predictive modeling. It must be detailed to be relevant. Once done, you’ll have a powerful tool for the entire year.
So, let’s take an example or two (see the chart above): Let’s say you want to know how your fall direct mail will likely perform. You estimate from past results and database reports that you have 1,156 lybunts (last year's donors) and 567 sybunts (donors who gave 3-5 years ago) to send a letter to this fall. Looking at past years, you see that your response rate has been between 8-10% for lybunts and 4-7% for sybunts. You feel like playing it safe so you put in the low-end values.
Using formulas (see my video on that topic here), the information you have put in so far tells you that you can expect 92 gifts from the lybunts and 24 from the sybunts. Based on past reports and your best guesses, you put in $135 for a lybunt average gift and $87 for sybunts. This makes your likely total dollars $12,484 from the lybunts and $2,096 from the sybunts.
Now, assuming those were your only two segments for fall direct mail, you can then total up the letters, gifts and dollars and you know what to expect. Your models might include just one vehicle (direct mail, phonathon, email solicitations, etc.) or it might include everything your shop plans to bring in. Your model might have hundreds of segments or be exceedingly simple. The point is not to be baroque but specific enough to be valid predictions of results.
This method is powerful because you’ll be able to see immediately which segments have a negative return on investment and can decide actively whether they merit sending the letters anyway to acquire the donors. You will also know exactly where you fall short if results don’t live up to these expectations, which enables you to course correct in future projections and change strategy for the rest of the year. I’ll show you how to do this in next Wednesday’s post – “Demystifying Predictive Modeling, Part 2”.
Don't ever be intimidated about predictive modeling again. In fact, because of your knowledge of your program, you are the best person to build and adapt your predictive models. You can do this!
I was a bullet journal skeptic. Lots of smart friends that I respected seemed to be jumping on this bandwagon but it seemed to me to be a way to waste a lot of time color coding with fancy pens.
So, I asked on Facebook for someone to explain to me what all the hype was about. If you aren't familiar with the concept of a bullet journal, watch this video below. Then you can read about my conversion to bullet journal or bujo (as the bullet journal junkies call it) below the video.
After reading comments from my friends and watching this video and others, I decided to try using a bullet journal as a way to help me organize my work more effectively and to integrate my home life and work life. I've been doing it now for a little under a month and I'm a fan. Here are some reasons why I recommend you experiment with this method.
If you love your bullet journal, let me know why in the comments below. If you want to try it out, do so and report back here to tell us how it's working for you!
Fundraising is about relationships. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that, I wouldn’t need to work and I could make a major gift to my favorite organization today.
The thing is – it’s true. Not only do fundraisers serve as the conduits between donors and the institutions that they serve, but we also work collaboratively within our offices, with program staff, and with others in our industry.
One of the reasons I love my job is that it has given me these amazing relationships.
You get to know donors on a personal level and even when you leave one organization, sometimes you remain friends with them. Your donors have incredible stories and you have a platform to discover those stories and share them. Many donors, especially board members, have become personal mentors to me.
We are also lucky to work in an industry that loves to share best practices and business information. Especially in higher education fundraising, we aren’t often competing for the same donors. That means we can help each other out substantially. Many of my closest friends are also fundraisers and we frequently solicit advice and tips from each other.
Not all donors and co-workers become your friends. But, it’s a wonderful career that is focused on friendship. I would put up with a good deal of frustration to get the collection of amazing donors I’ve met and colleagues that I’ve relied on over the years.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.