The clock is ticking on preparing for your 2021 Annual Fund Appeal initiative.
Covid-19’s impact has been profound and planning for your 2021 Annual Fund Appeal likely has not been on the front burner. Now is the time to begin strategizing and preparing for your stewardship/generosity emphasis.
Here are recommendations to consider in preparation for a successful appeal:
- DON’T EVEN CONSIDER NOT CONDUCTING AN ANNUAL FUND APPEAL FOR 2021
While the simultaneous public health, economic, political, racial inequality and civil unrest crisis is like nothing any of us have experienced before, you still need to fund your mission/ministry for the upcoming year even though there is not a clear path on how things are going to look in the months ahead.
- DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
This crisis is not affecting every household equally. While there are some families who have been impacted directly, either financially or medically, and some who are truly anxious about their future, others are feeling minimal personal impact other than significance inconvenience.
In a recent survey taken by The James Company, a strong majority of congregational membership and nonprofit donors have continued their giving throughout the pandemic with many increasing their contributions. Don’t assume they will not continue.
- BE THOUGHTFUL IN THE MESSAGING OF YOUR APPEALS
This is not a time for business as usual, and last year’s appeal is not going to work this year. There needs to be clear messaging about the enduring priorities and values of your ministry and how they have become even more critical to support during these uncertain times.
While there may indeed be specific needs for emergency funding during this pandemic and economic downturn, talk about how the Annual Fund Appeal truly supports the highest priorities worship, spiritual direction, faith community, and outreach locally and to the world.
- FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP AND CURRENT CONTRIBUTORS
Focus your energies on those members/institutional donors who are most likely to move the needle on your Annual Fund Appeal initiative. Work the hardest to re-enlist support from contributors who have made commitments in the past. Hone in LYBUNTS (those who have given Last Year But Unfortunately Not This) and regular contributors from this year. Now is not the time to think about focusing on new donors, nor to fret over maintaining high levels of participation.
- FOCUS ON DIRECT MAIL AND VIRTUAL/SOCIAL MEDIA FORMS OF COMMUNICATION.
In-person worship will be on a limited basis at best this fall. You will not be able to rely on messaging during worship as a primary vehicle for building the case for your Annual Fund Appeal. In-person worship will certainly be a forum for messaging, you just simply will not be able to rely on it.
Don’t underestimate the value of direct mail…especially during this time of spending more time at home. Receiving something in the mailbox is almost a treat these days! And, of course, social media platforms and virtual messaging are here to stay and widely used.
- YOU CAN’T THANK CONTRIBUTORS ENOUGH
Make sure your contributors know how important their support is at this time. Be generous in your thanks. Yes, of course, send an acknowledgement, but don’t stop there. Send handwritten notes, make a phone call, and involve your church council/board in thanking contributors. This is no time for boilerplate acknowledgement letters that were written last year.
- MAKE PRAYER THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR APPEAL
Hopefully, this goes without saying. Prayer partners for your appeal is a powerful way to involve congregational members/leaders in your nonprofit to support your appeal efforts. Prayer can be done at home, on your own schedule. Prayer can be done individually or virtually with a small group. Don’t forget about on this essential component!
John V. Clark, President/Partner
The James Company