Why and how to energize your annual fundraising NOW

More and more membership associations are returning to in-person annual conferences and workshops. At the same time, many are still reeling from pandemic-driven revenue losses. Unfortunately, it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll see a rebound on conference, sponsorship and membership dues.

Daunting? Certainly.  However, organizations that recognize the potential of a re-energized annual fundraising initiative are experiencing positive results to fill that revenue gap.

Philanthropy as your NEW OR ENHANCED Revenue Stream

Many membership associations have traditionally over-relied on corporate sponsors and grants sources. If you suspect your organization is one of those, a pivot to emphasize individual member philanthropy could make a significant difference – now and for the future.

And, if you equate “individual giving” with big gifts from board members and emeritus leaders, don’t discount the short- and long-term progress you could make with a renewed and concentrated emphasis targeted on gifts of $500 and less. 

What To Focus On

At Consultants in Association Philanthropy, we get many calls from organizations wanting to raise lots of money via “Big Gifts.”  And we’re all for it!  But organizations that are used to a steady diet of sponsorship and grant revenue sometimes have unrealistic expectations. They frequently struggle to identify the programs and stories that will compel individual donors to give, and they don’t have enough long-term donor relationships in their pipeline to generate those windfalls.

Sound like a lot of work to change your strategy?  Well, it’s not as much as you think…and the payoff is tremendous!

A thoughtful <$500 annual giving effort can triple your giving – or even increase it ten-fold. Even more important, that success will provide the pipeline necessary for future major and planned gifts programs that will secure 70%-80% of your total philanthropy.

The key to success?  Anchor your giving appeal in a sense of loyalty to the profession, an expression of gratitude for the organization’s role in the member’s or donor’s career, and desire to pay that impact forward for new generations of members – and for society at large. 

Clearly, your approach must go beyond simple opt-in or dues check-off giving techniques – these don’t make the case for giving, don’t ask donors to stretch, and treat each individual as if they had the same capacity. What you need instead is an engaging donor-centric giving culture that cultivates your members to give from the heart (and, one day, from their personal wealth assets, not just their check books)!

Ideas to Grow your < $500 Donor Base

Through the mail

Matching Gift Challenges: Do people really respond to these? Yes! Ask a current major donor to pledge a sizeable gift or a few Board Members to make a group gift. When members learn that every dollar they give will be matched two or three to one, you’ll see many upgraded or new gifts.

Donor Ambassadors: Ask 10-25 of your organization’s top leaders and donors to send a highly personalized email to members they know well and to their friends/associates/vendors. Create a template for them to adapt, which outlines your organization’s case for support and reasons to contribute to a special funding opportunity.

At your conference (face-to-face or online)

Social Media: Ask all of your attendees to your keynote event or banquet to fund a priority project through crowdfunding or social media.

FitGive: Hold a fitness fundraising special event at your conference (group spin class, boot camp, etc.). Members pay an entry fee donation and get other members or their friends to support them. Great for getting sponsorships too!  For more info:  fitgivemovement.com

It does take time and some organizational commitment to ramp up an annual fundraising program to become your philanthropic backbone and a pipeline for major gifts. And, it should not be considered only at the end of the year.  On the other hand, relatively simple moves like these can snowball, bringing you opportunities – and revenue – you never anticipated. 

For a free 30-minute consultation on how Consultants in Association Philanthropy can help you get going on your gap, please contact:

Joe Skvara, CFRE




Please follow CAP in LinkedIn for more fundraising tips and insights.

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