3 Annual Fund Strategies You Don't Want to Overlook

To be an annual fund #winner takes guts, hard work, and determination. A prospect needs to have the right combination of engagement and capacity in order for you to solidify a gift. As EverTrue has discovered through our research of cross-institutional data, employees working in certain industries have consistently given at higher rates than their peers in other fields of work.

With that knowledge bomb in mind, I’d argue that it doesn’t always have to be so hard to make a difference in your institution’s annual fund. Furthermore, I believe that great professional data can not only help you raise participation, but also increase the average gift size. Here are three ways professional data can help you boost your numbers right now.

*Full disclosure, my claims are contingent on a few assumptions I’m making:

  1. You track engagement for all of your constituents (or you use software like EverTrue to assess near-real-time social engagement on Facebook).
  2. You have access to updated professional data—preferably through LinkedIn—but any professional data is better than none.
  3. You agree that people who are engaged and who have a high capacity are most likely to give to your institution.


Technique #1: Match Those Gifts!

Spend your time on matching gift companies with the largest match ratio first and use peer motivation or incentives to boost participation. It seems obvious, but it’s the best way to maximize your efforts and bring in more dollars! However, for this technique to work properly, you really need to have up-to-date career data. If you don’t know the companies that employ your constituents, you’ll be wasting all of your time on research.



You might want to start with a company like Nelnet, Inc. who—we were told—has a 3:1 matching program. That’s free money being left on the table! It’s easy to send a personal note to alumni who work there and let them know that a simple gift (with the match) could get them into a more prestigious giving society or make them eligible for bonus swag.


Technique #2: Close LYBUNTs at High-Performing Companies

Prioritize LYBUNTs who work at companies with above average historical participation. These should be the lowest-hanging fruit since they gave last year—and you can use the matching gift angle, or peer incentives (join the donors at your company!) to influence a potential gift.


If you regularly get 80% participation from a company like Microsoft, then you might want to target the LYBUNTs who work at Microsoft. Ask people higher-up on the title ladder to match an average employee gift amount, or spark some good old-fashioned competition to help drive the company to the top ranks of participation.


Technique #3: Boost Your Gift Totals With a “Target Ask”

Use a high-capacity industry analysis to devise a higher “target ask” for people in that industry. This is a great tactic to tailor your asks even for constituents who do not have a capacity rating or score assigned. Bonus: Evaluate people who have different titles to further refine your lists and ensure you are asking the right people for the right dollar amounts—CEOs should be giving more than administrative assistants!


Also remember that people asked for a specific dollar amount are more likely to make a gift. Once the financial impact is taken out of the abstract, they can move on from the “Give, yes or no?” question to the “How much?” consideration. Asking people for more than what they’ve given in the past makes them more likely to at least match their previous gift amount.


EverTrue has proven that the financial services is one of the highest giving industries in both total dollars and participation rate. Calculate the average or median gift amounts for the financial services industry and have this be your “target ask.” Then compare it to what you’re currently asking and see if you’re leaving money on the table. Should you be asking for more? Better yet, compare everyone who has a VP, CEO, or any “C-suite” title, and see if their median gift could be increased.


Wrapping Up

If any of these techniques seem impossible to execute at your institution, you might consider EverTrue. With the platform, you can get up-to-date LinkedIn and Facebook data matched to your constituents so that sorting, segmenting, and targeting prospective donors is easier than ever. Here’s a quick recap of the techniques I outlined above:

  • Technique #1 – Spend your time on matching gift companies with the largest match rate first and use peer motivation or incentives to boost participation.
  • Technique #2 – Prioritize LYBUNTs at companies with above average participation but who are behind in participation this year.
  • Technique #3 – Use a high-capacity industry analysis to devise a higher “target-ask” for people in that industry.

The more personalized the message, the more opportunity you have to make a connection with your donor. Connections (a.k.a. relationships) matter when you are asking someone to support your institution, so put a small amount of effort on making that a more personal conversation rather than just an ask.

Is it effective—or even legal—to scrape for LinkedIn professional data? EverTrue’s Ehren Foss answers these questions and more in his latest post. Read it here!

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