Leadership Donations for the Annual Fund: Here’s What to Consider

Leadership Donations for the Annual Fund: Here’s What to Consider
Leadership Donations for the Annual Fund: Here’s What to Consider


April 22, 2022

Driving a successful annual fund campaign is a universal goal for every private school. But reaching this goal is easier said than done.

As a general trend, the total number of donors is declining—meaning fewer people are interested in giving—even though the overall donation amount is increasing.

To add to this trend, the pandemic made it more challenging to develop genuine relationships that lead to robust giving—especially as social distancing was enacted and the transition to remote everything went mainstream.

Schools were forced to transition to an entirely new way of fundraising. Many were left wondering if their school would be able to meet its annual fund goals.

Even though the business and education arenas largely survived using remote communication channels during the pandemic, nothing can replace individual, personal relationships when it comes to securing donors. The pandemic further emphasized how important those connections are. Now that restrictions are easing and we can renew these relationships, it is vital to do so.

That means schools must focus on fostering relationships with prospects who will donate significantly—often called leadership donors—while not forgetting that smaller donations also play a vital role in an overall fundraising strategy.

Here’s what to consider when thinking about leadership donations.

Prioritizing Efforts

The top 20% of your donors will provide 80% of your annual fund donations. These leadership donations are integral to your annual fund’s success. This is true to both large and small schools. Securing these larger donations makes you more likely to reach your goal.

Consider these tips for increasing your leadership donations.

  1. Target prospective leadership donors. Know their interests and capacity to give, as well as how they behave and operate. Refer to your school’s database to see what these prospective donors have done in the past.
  2. Ensure you have a healthy school culture. A school’s culture plays a pivotal role in meeting annual fund goals, so ensure yours is a positive one. Engaged faculty and staff foster better outcomes—donors want to see their funds are going to support a thriving educational community.
  3. Involve the Board. Some schools make the mistake of only relying on their development team when it comes to fundraising. Involving the Board can make a huge difference. Every Board member plays a role in meeting annual fund goals, whether they are targeting donors, creating donor lists, or soliciting donors—100% participation is a must.
  4. Encourage your employees. Work with your faculty and staff to show them how they can be involved in your fundraising efforts. This will go a long way to help your school cultivate profitable relationships. It also increases engagement and cultivates a positive culture where everyone contributes. This helps your institution be more likely to reach its annual fund objectives.


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Promoting an Engaging Donor Community

Creating an effective leadership donation strategy requires you to understand your donor population, build trust, and empower your most valuable resources.

An important part of building trust and empowering your donor population can be achieved through community engagement. Community engagement strategies help you to turn your donors into an active, engaged and thriving community. Some community engagement strategies to consider include showing your appreciation with events and messaging.

But before diving into a community engagement campaign, consider these questions.

  1. What do we hope to achieve through donor community engagement? Will we be able to act on it?
  2. Is it critical that we collect this input right now? If not, could it be postponed? How will postponing engagements affect the long-term project goals?
  3. Do the donor community engagements we want to host and the questions we want to ask reflect the current situation?
  4. How can we adapt our questions to acknowledge what is going on and offer space for donor community members to talk about how they’re doing as the pandemic continues?
  5. Is anyone interested in responding to our questions right now?
  6. How will our donor community members receive our request? Will they be accommodating, frustrated, or bothered?
  7. Are there other things we can be doing now to advance our goals or support donor community members that don’t involve hosting community engagement events—like a donor appreciation event—or conducting surveys? If so, can we easily implement that and fit within our budget and capabilities?

By answering these questions, you’ll gain insight into what is the most appropriate plan for launching an effective leadership donation strategy.


Capitalize on the 80/20 Rule to Supercharge Your Annual Fund Leadership Giving

The top 20% of your donors will provide 80% of your annual fund donations. These leadership gifts are integral to your annual fund’s success. But how do you identify these individuals, bring them closer to your school, and encourage them to give? Explore exactly how to target, engage, and partner with your leadership donors, analyzing your fundraising history to understand your unique constituents. At the end of this online workshop, you'll have a plan of action to immediately prepare for next year’s annual fund campaign. Discover how to find and solicit your leadership donors so you can quickly and easily meet your annual fund goals.



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