Ideas & Tools for a Rocking Annual Giving Campaign

While not as flashy as their cause-specific counterparts, annual campaigns play a crucial role in the financial health of your nonprofit. If you're not sure the best way to run your annual campaign to get the most donations, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll walk you through several ideas to make your next annual campaign your best, and we'll share some tools along the way.

9 minutes read
Ideas & Tools for a Rocking Annual Giving Campaign

As a nonprofit professional, you know how important fundraising for specific needs is for your organization. The more a donor understands the need behind their donation, the more likely they are to give. That’s why it can be tricky to run an annual giving campaign, where donors are giving to a more general fund to support the day-to-day operation of your organization.

Don’t worry–that’s where we come in with the ideas and tools for you to have a rocking good annual giving campaign. With the right strategies and best practices, you can make giving to an annual giving fund as appealing to your donors as to a more specific need.

Let’s first outline what an annual giving campaign looks like.

What is an Annual Giving Campaign?

An annual giving campaign, sometimes called an annual fund campaign, is a campaign your organization runs to raise money for your annual operating expenses. This fund supports the less glamorous aspects of running a nonprofit: building costs, supplies, administrative fees, etc.

We all know how very important supporting these costs are, and how very grateful we are when we receive donations supporting these costs. But to the average donor, it feels less exciting to donate to keep your office stocked with pencils than to donate lunch to a hungry child.

This is where planning and designing your campaign can make all the difference. Use these ideas and tools to ensure a successful campaign–with minimal work on your end!

6 Ideas for a Successful Annual Giving Campaign

1. Frame it right

How do you attract donors to your annual giving campaign? By framing it in the most attractive way possible. To do that, think about ways to explain the following:

  • How the fund helps you do your work? You can frame this by focusing on all the good work you do, and how that work is only possible when your organization’s basic operational expenses are covered.
  • How can unrestricted funds help your organization? When someone gives to your annual fund, their donations usually come without restrictions. This means that yes, most of that fund will support your operational expenses, but it might also help cover other areas when your fundraising might fall short.

Frame your annual fund as the safety net for your organization. When it’s healthy, it means the good work your organization does is safe.

With the right framing, you can make giving to your annual campaign seem just as impactful as giving to a more specific need.

The below annual giving campaign clearly explains how much funds they need to raise and how that is going to help them work on new initiatives and bring about possible impacts.

annual giving campaign

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2. Tell a story

Storytelling is key to any successful fundraising campaign. It is the way we get audiences to connect with our work in a meaningful way. And more connections mean more donations.

Craft a story about someone you’ve helped recently, or about why your founder started your nonprofit; or even about how many people your nonprofit has helped over the years. Get specific with details that will make your story feel real to your audience.

Don’t forget the importance of pictures! Your audience will respond better to your story if you supplement it with visual evidence of your good work.

3. Use the crowd

If you think you do not have enough supporters to fully fund your annual campaign, a crowd of many donating little amounts very well can.

Although crowdfunding is generally more effective for specific campaigns, it can be just as effective for an annual giving campaign with the right framing, focus, and storytelling.

Working with a powerful crowdfunding tool, like Donorbox Crowdfunding, gives you plenty of room to tell a story and add sharing options to reach more people and raise more money.

Donorbox allows you to post updates that keep the giving momentum going! The page also comes with social media buttons and a subscribe option to ensure people can engage with your campaign. Visitors who subscribe but are yet to donate can receive updates on your campaign. This increases the chance of them making a donation in the future.

Donorbox also adds a donor wall to the crowdfunding page that helps inspire social proof. When a potential donor sees how many have given already, they’re more likely to trust that yours is a worthy fundraiser to donate to.

Beta Gamma Chi’s crowdfunding annual campaign is created on Donorbox, which includes a video that tells its story, and they’re already halfway through achieving the fundraising goal (with just 49 donations!).

annual giving campaign best practices

4. Offer incentives

Incentivizing gifts to your annual giving campaign is an excellent way to draw more donors to give to that fund.

This should never be your only persuasive technique, of course, but offering the right incentives can both encourage more donations and make donors feel more connected with your organization.

Check the following ideas for incentives you can offer:

  • A tour of your facilities.
  • A donor appreciation event.
  • T-shirts and other branded merch.
  • Access to exclusive updates and organization intel.
  • Lunch with the founder.

When you offer incentives, it’s very important to be as clear as possible about what level of giving is eligible to receive the incentive. This protects both your donors and you. For example, if you get a hundred donors at the $20 level and they all get t-shirts, that’s doable.

Remember to keep your goals and the scope of your campaign in mind when you plan incentives.

5. Send personalized communication pieces

No one likes to feel like they’re one of many–especially when a donor is deciding whether to give to your annual fund. That’s why personalizing the communication materials for your annual giving campaign can make a big difference.

Use your donor management tool to segment your lists for emails and mailings based on age, location, donation history, etc. With Donorbox, you can track prior communication with a donor and segment donor records based on a number of filters.

annual campaign ideas

Here’s a podcast episode from Donorbox to further help you segment donor data and make your donors feel seen and valued.

Tracking communication is especially helpful for high-stakes donors. While every donor relationship is important, your relationships with your highest donors can be tricky to navigate. Hence, time your communications well and find a good reason to reach out to them.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that these appeals should be valuable to the recipient in some way, even if they don’t donate. Each communication you send out via email, mail, or on social media builds your brand and your relationship with that person. Ensure that by including pictures, engaging storytelling, and real facts about your organization’s good work. Make it entertaining, too!

6. Update donors throughout the year

People whom you managed to convince to give to your annual giving campaign would want to see how you’re utilizing their donations. This decides whether they’d like to give again in the future.

Every month, send out an update (preferably via email) and let them know how close you’re to meeting the goal and how you’re using the donations. It can be the smallest thing like buying office supplies and yet, you mustn’t ignore it. Add pictures to your updates, even an interesting story if you have one.

You can delegate this task to one of your volunteers so that you never miss out on sending updates. You can also highlight your annual campaign donors on your social media and thank them for helping make something happen.

Remember these updates don’t have to be another appeal for donations. Let them just be about gratitude and impact.

5 Essential Tools for Your Annual Giving Campaign

Online Fundraising

These days having an online fundraising campaign (maybe more!) for your fundraising needs is a must. And the annual fund remains one of the most crucial aspects of running a nonprofit. Hence, to start with, you need to choose an online fundraising platform that will be a one-stop shop for your organization. That is to say, it must let you do more than just raise money with a fundraising page and donation form.

1. Donorbox

Donorbox offers numerous features to nonprofit organizations. From the basic needs i.e. a recurring donation form and a customizable fundraising page to advanced ones like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, text-to-give, event ticketing, membership campaigns, and more. Recurring donations are particularly helpful in the sense that you’ll be receiving funds throughout the year in the form of weekly, monthly, and quarterly donations.

With Donorbox you can also easily keep track of donations and analyze the performance of your online annual giving campaign. Donorbox remains one of the most affordable solutions in the market with 80,000+ organizations using the features already!

Here’s an example of a nonprofit that has created this below online fundraising page to raise money for their annual fund for 2022-23.

tools for annual giving campaign

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Prospect Research

Okay, so let’s just admit that not every donor would be willing to make a donation toward your annual fund needs. They’re mostly interested in helping your beneficiaries. The best way to deal with the situation is to research and find potential donors who feel so connected to a nonprofit that they don’t mind directing some of their donations to the annual fund.

How do you do that? Prospect research is the answer. Of course, for that, you will be needing certain tools and the help of experienced staff but it is definitely worth it. We have written a guide to help organizations get started with prospect research, that includes tool names as well as data points to consider.

Once you’ve done the research, you need to update your donor database and create a communication plan for these prospects. Reaching out to these people will ensure that you’ll have a maximum chance of attaining donations for your annual fund.

2. Wealth Engine

Wealth Engine works with your database to provide you with a better idea of which donors can give more. This company screens your donors to find details on their wealth, income, and other charitable contributions. Wealth Engine can also optimize your database to ensure you’re getting the best out of your donors.

Wealth Engine also provides a list of outside prospects that best fit your organization’s mission and goals. They do this by matching donor types to your database and filling in the gaps you may be missing.

Donor Management

Once you’ve researched your prospects, you will need a system to store that information, note down any communication preferences or wealth details, etc. This information will help you get in touch with them. This will also ensure that you can personalize your donor communications to ensure the maximum success of your campaign.

Donor management is also necessary for those donors who have already made a donation to your annual giving campaign. You must choose a donor management system that securely collects and stores their details in a database that is easy for you to navigate and manage. Donorbox Donor Management does just that, actually more!

3. Donorbox Donor Management

Donorbox automatically collects and stores donor data into its donor database. You can access the data on the dashboard, update details any time you want, add communication notes, add offline donors and donations, and segment donor data for reporting or communication purposes. Donorbox also includes a “Reports” module for you to create reports based on “donor overview”, “new donors”, and “LYBUNT”.

Your organization also gets triggered notifications on important moments like when a donor has donated for the first time, their first giving anniversary, any changes to recurring plans, etc.

Donorbox also seamlessly integrates with tools like Salesforce NPSP, HubSpot, Blackbaud RE NXT, etc. to ensure that you make the most of your donor data and improve your relationships with them.

Donorbox also comes with a QuickDonate feature through which your donors can easily repeat a donation to your organization on the go.

Watch this video to know more about how Donorbox Donor Management can power up your relationship-building efforts –


If you don’t market your annual giving campaign, the odds are that people other than your ardent supporters won’t even know about it. That is not what you want.

Create social media posts that talk about your organizational needs. Talk about why you’re starting an annual fund campaign and how it helps. Encourage volunteers to engage with your content and spread the word. Further, send emails to existing donors to let them know you’re in need of funds for basic yet crucial needs. Facebook and Instagram ads are as well effective for donation needs. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on them, even a few would help you boost your outreach.

Here’s an article on free marketing platforms that nonprofits must try out to make their fundraising campaigns successful!

In addition, you’d want to check out these 2 great tools to amp up the marketing efforts for your annual giving campaign.

4. Constant Contact

Constant Contact is an email marketing platform with powerful tools to help you make the most out of your annual giving campaign emails. Plus, they offer prepay plans for nonprofits so you can save up to 30% on their tools.

Their clear and attractive email templates make setting up your campaign emails a breeze. Plus, they offer contact management directly through their platform, which allows you to segment your list as soon as you upload it. Their tracking and reporting tools help you see how effective your email sends are–and how you can tweak your next email to get more opens.

5. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a premier social media tool for organizations of all sizes. Nonprofits can save and publish social media posts, advertise, monitor, and analyze all account activity. Know the eligibility guidelines for Hootsuite for nonprofits. Eligible nonprofits get a 50% discount.

Hootsuite helps nonprofits in the following ways –

  • Map out campaigns and schedule in advance
  • Suspend scheduled posts when emergencies come up
  • Get insights and edits from team members before posting
  • Get approval from staff and board members before posting
  • Create dashboard streams that search for hashtags, locations, or keywords

Time to Shine

When it’s time to launch your nonprofit’s annual giving campaign, use these ideas and tools to make the most out of it.

With the right framing, strategy, and powerful tools, you can make a less urgent-seeming campaign as much of a success as any other of your more specific campaigns. At the end of the day, donors want you to succeed in your mission, and supporting your annual fund is one way to ensure you’ll meet that success. However, ensure that you give your donors the best giving experience to make them come back again and again.

Donorbox, as an online fundraising tool, offers simple-to-use features that are sure to bring you results. Thousands of organizations across 96 countries are using us and we’ve already helped them raise $1.6B+ in donations.

Apart from features to help raise funds, run membership campaigns, manage donors, and sell tickets, we also have an advanced growth package for nonprofits to help them take their fundraising up a notch. It’s called Donorbox Premium. You get access to expert fundraising coaches and a combination of the best tools in the market, along with adept techies and an account ambassador. Pricing is personalized for every organization.

Read other helpful tips and fundraising ideas, get downloadable resources, and more on the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send a curated list of the best Donorbox resources to your inbox every month.

Lindsey Baker

Lindsey spent years wearing many hats in the nonprofit world. Whether she was helping arts nonprofits with their messaging and content, planning a fundraising gala, writing an NEA grant proposal, or running a membership program with over 400 members, she learned how to navigate – and appreciate! – the fast-paced world of fundraising. Now, she loves sharing those hard-earned lessons with the Donorbox community.

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