As I travel throughout the country interacting with CEOs, board leadership, and development staff of various arts organizations, I’ve noticed a winning theme among those who are developing the healthiest of Annual Fund campaigns: they establish and communicate high levels of organizational confidence.
Indianapolis – Robert Swaney Consulting, Inc. (RSC) has released the video series, “RSC: Arts Fundraising / Engaging and Keeping Partners”, available to the public free of charge, and accessible via Youtube. Featuring RSC Senior Consultant (and certified fundraising executive) Scott Giffen, the series captures excerpts from a workshop generously sponsored by the Missouri Arts Council and presented to local arts leaders in Springfield, Missouri. Aimed to provide “best practices” related to non-profit fundraising, RSC’s seven-part video series focuses on various sub-topics ranging from the 'Components of the Right Ask', 'Ask Techniques' and 'Thanking Your Donors'.
Every arts and cultural organization has the number. The number needed for their organization to be fiscally healthy. The numerical panacea that would make the institution financially “whole”. Even if inconspicuous, the number is there – on the balance sheet, in the strategic plan, or in the bucket named “unidentified fundraising” that the organization carries around year after year.
You are entering the last quarter of the calendar year and your annual fund campaign is just revving up. Reviewing your tactical plan, you prepare to send a direct mail piece to every current and past donor since 1915, along with some other prospects who might respond to a “now’s the time” mailer. Warning! If you haven’t put those wheels into motion yet, RSC says, “Get it going or prepare to wait.” Those mailboxes are about to fill up with red, white and blue solicitations and there won’t be much room left in your patrons’ mailboxes.
There's a tree in my mailbox!
The term “Annual Fund” can be a double-edged sword.
Arts organizations are perpetually in fundraising mode and Annual Funds are the primary vehicle to secure donations. By comparison, membership campaigns are similar, but Annual Funds are, well, more edgy. But because Annual Funds run for a full year we’re often lulled into putting off that work by the illusion that we have all year to do it. Other urgent issues arise. One day goes by. Then another…and that side of the sword can cut deeply into your performance.