McCabe Callahan began Community Funded in 2011 out of his passion to provide a platform for communities to support the things they care about. Community Funded works with fundraising departments of all sizes and levels of sophistication to build sustainable digital fundraising ecosystems.

Regardless of the fiscal year, your annual strategy should kick-off with your primary giving day. The objective of this event is to drive as many new and existing supporters to your site to passionately self-select their affinities from a host of diverse options; all of which convey the magnitude of the impact your organization is making.

For the majority of institutions who can’t staff a year-round giving day team, having a stand-alone event alleviates the pressure of relying solely on crowded national and statewide days. For those that can support a more intensive team commitment, the impact of any efforts is maximized by avoiding an over-solicited population.

Next, throughout the remainder of the year and at strategic times relevant to your audience, deploy additional niche microsites with targeted affinities to build off the original engagement.

More and more we’re working with our clients to deploy hyper-focused sites throughout the year with small, but very specific, affinity groups. Here are some examples:

  1. A month of giving for the class of 1986 School of Law with the current School of Law driving the effort.
  2. “Club Sports Week” targeting those who played with current players and coaches telling the stories of need and impact.
  3. Using a statewide giving day to feature all the organizational funds and initiatives that directly benefit the state, promoted by those involved in the activities.
  4. A month of reunion giving where class years compete.

The list goes on. Your institution will have its own fun and unique ideas, but the point is these events mirror the evolution of donor strategies requiring a focus on personalization to inspire. Modify your primary giving day strategy appropriately for each micro-site to maximize your efforts and do more of what works while dropping tactics that don’t.

Finally, participate in all of the “universal” giving days that make sense, but do so in a way that offers donors a way to have a clear impact and cross-promotes your organization’s primary day.

One idea is to select the most popular fund from your primary giving day and focus all efforts on that the singular campaign on Giving Tuesday. An example might be buying meals for food insecure students.

In essence, your “unique day” should showcase a variety of the great stories you have to tell, while other giving events throughout the year should be more focused.

Jennifer Baldwin’s early days as a teacher in K-12 to more recent positions in K-12 and Higher Education administration, her passion for education and love of learning has driven her career.  Utilizing her skills to assist in fundraising and donor stewardship for both public and private colleges has been an enlightening experience.  Education broadens the worldview and forever alters the perspective of the learner.  Being a part of fundraising for scholarships has become her way of changing the world one life at a time.  Whether the work she does allows a first generation student to create new goals or provides the means for an adult learner to complete their education, every life changed by a college education has a lasting impact on the student, their family, and their community.  It is a privilege to be a part of that process.

In the world of fundraising we are all trying to find that formula for creating engaging events with perfect timing to capture the attention of donors and keep our mission at the forefront of their minds.   We have years of ideas and strategies suggested by those who have gone before us to tell us what we should be doing and how we can impress donors to cause them to “choose” our organization, but when it comes down to creating authentic affinity and loyalty the process starts long before we get to the event calendar.

As we consider the calendar for the next year we must look back and assess the successes and failures of the previous years to determine where and how previous events fostered engagement or missed the mark. The first consideration is whether we have been effective in telling our story and demonstrating a return on investment to our donors. Are they assured that they are of value to our organization and have we taken all available opportunities to engage them and build on-going relationships with our communication and personal interaction with them? This first pass is usually based almost entirely on data collected during and after those events. How did we time our event in comparison to what other charitable events were happening during that same season of time? Did we segment our invitation list appropriately to invite those in our sphere of influence who had a demonstrated affinity for our mission and the specific purpose of that event?   Did we create opportunities for “high touch” and personalized communication before and after our events to communicate our gratitude for their time and attention toward our mission?

We must also take the time to track what types of donations followed these previous events and what prompted our donors to invest in that particular area. Where we see success and positive results that captured the attention of our donors and created additional affinity we strive to repeat those types of events with attention to timing and a fresh glimpse into the current focus of our mission in that arena.   Where we missed the mark and did not achieve our goals, we determine why we failed to connect with our donors and how we could have communicated in a more effective way to capture their attention or chosen a more appropriate time for our event. In either case, we strive to create our future event calendar based on the analytics of our past and built upon the relationships we are building with our donors. Without data, analytics and an on-going relationship to foster engagement we will not achieve our goals for the coming year’s event calendar.

Today’s donors have countless options for where to give and who to trust with their investment. Every event we choose to place on our calendar for the coming year must be focused on telling our story effectively, fostering engagement with those who have affinity for our cause and building a basis for loyalty in our donors.   When we achieve those goals at our events, those donors then become our evangelists to their circle of influence and our voice becomes stronger. We can then provide opportunities and additional events for those donors to show their friends who we are and how we are changing lives. Whether we invite donors to yearly recurring events that become an anticipated part of their calendar or we create new events that are more effective, we choose our events with purpose and mission in mind realizing that every inclusion on our calendar is an opportunity to demonstrate authenticity and impact to our donors. Each one is another chance to communicate their value to our organization and show our gratitude for their loyalty.

Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, keynote speaker, and trainer. She is a leader in the new breed of fundraisers who are on the cutting edge of fundraising today.  Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 30 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts. 

You need 9 months to plan a killer Giving Day campaign. And you start by identifying active social media users in your own community and enlisting them to be your social media ambassadors on Giving Day. Then you start working to streamline and sharpen your digital appeals, messages, and donation process.

Julia Campbell is an author, coach, and speaker, and trains nonprofits large and small on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. She is the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, and her blog on online fundraising and nonprofit technology is consistently featured in the list of the Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world. Find her blog and contact information at www.jcsocialmarketing.com.

I think that fundraising campaigns work best when they are spread out throughout the year and carried out on certain dates. A fundraising campaign should be a concerted effort to raise a set amount of money on specific dates, for example, “we aim to raise $25,000 in the next 2 weeks to help serve more children at our food bank”. That way, in between giving events, you can spend the rest of the year focusing on telling great stories and building relationships with your donors and supporters. ​ When conducting a giving event or fundraising campaign, it’s important to use all the channels at your disposal – website, email list, social media, phone calls, meetings, and more. Look at your calendar to see what makes the most sense for your organization. Check out giving days, cause days, and awareness days that dovetail with your mission and your work. Are there milestones to celebrate this year? Are there graduations, orientations, new initiatives, other exciting announcements coming up? When are you going to be stretched thin and not able to focus on a giving event? Remember that a fundraising campaign requires dedication, enthusiasm, and time to promote – it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing.

Lynne Wester strongly believes that donor relations are the key to unlocking fundraising success. Lynne and her teammates at the Donor Relations Guru Group partner with nonprofits on a variety of initiatives from developing sound strategy and vision to utilizing technology and creating meaningful donor engagement – all designed to positively affect the fundraising bottom line.

I don’t think that a calendar is necessarily the answer- I think instead we need to think about the individual donor experience. Understanding then that one size doesn’t fit all, how do we inspire different engagement points with donors based on their behavior? This would really inspire us to think in a different way and put the donor at the center of our efforts.

Gavin McLellan is a third sector leader with substantial fundraising and external relations experience from 18 years working across a range of causes including education, international development, cancer care, arts & sports, and youth employability. His expertise covers capital appeals, fundraising strategy development, working with boards and stakeholders.

Planning is sometimes working backwards.  Start where you want to finish, a year ahead? Five years time? Then think of the steps and plot the route to get there. Right now, I’m lucky to have a blank page to start a fundraising campaign and event planning for a prestigious Glasgow school, who have never developed their alumni giving!  So I’m starting this fundraising mountain with a plotting out a hike (supporter journey.) I’m luckier still in that we have a clear pathway, with a centenary just two years away, giving a steady ascent to build connections (cultivation), create giving milestones along the way, and share the map and summit vision.

Before heading on the journey it’s important to be clear about who will come with us (constituency), and who is willing (affinity)and able (capacity.) For me right now its families, former families, and former pupils. We can’t wait for grants and legacies. There hasn’t been a lot of base camp, so I took two weeks to have focus groups, and test out fitness and appetite (prospects) and allay concerns (case for support). Also, to cement relationships and commitment, we’re going to try some training in the foothills, and do a swift crowdfunder (test appeal and acquisition).  Doing this needed a tidy, and not too high-value capital project, we had one this year for a new AstroTurf playing surface.  Like those early stops on a mountain climb, where we stop for water and turn and see how far up we’ve come already, well, that will be like concluding the crowdfunder, a good mini celebration, (demonstration of donor impact) affirming that we can do more!

Then a break for summer and prepare them to stretch to limber up for a bigger scale ascent of the campaign.  This has the centenary peak, always visible, getting closer, more detail unfolding with every shared step (envisioning and updates).  This will be about stamina, commit for a few years (pledges), and take regular strides (monthly gift) The next project starts to come into view (capital build) and freshly envisioned, we start to sustain a climb to the peak and beyond. It’s made possible by celebrating every milestone, and good communications tailored to each end of the trail.  The strategy?  Build-Scale-Sustain.  These transferable elements, always moving forwards and upwards, with milestones to show impact, and adaptable to your timeframe and resource should help map out the giving events needed in your fundraising calendar. Plot the hike, give rest space, show nice views, keep eye on the summit and go beyond the mountain.