When your car is making strange noises and not running optimally, you take it to a mechanic for a tune-up, right? Your institution's annual fund may need a tune-up as well to reach full effectiveness.

“The tools available to nonprofit organizations in analyzing and improving their annual giving programs have grown exponentially in the last several years through technology and analytics,” says Kathy Cole, president of West Wind Consulting (Ithaca, NY). “The options related to annual gift solicitations have increased dramatically, and nonprofit leaders need to take the blinders off and clearly examine the strengths and weaknesses of their annual giving efforts.”

Cole says the annual giving tools available to nonprofits now include segmented and personalized direct mail; online giving; automated phoning programs; e-mail; social network communications through Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In; and visual options that include newsletters and video productions.

“It requires a great deal of careful planning, staff time and attention to detail to ensure all of the programs and options are integrated, relate to the communications of the nonprofit and its solicitation efforts, and fit well with the mission and vision of the organization,” says Cole.

According to Cole, an annual fund examination should include:

  • Assessment of the previous fund results through a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Review of solicitation reports and materials for efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Comparison of timelines and other important annual giving steps to previous year's efforts.

Cole says an annual fund assessment involves the following phases:

  • Phase 1: Gathering Information. A materials checklist is provided to gather historical background on fund results and samples of communications, leading to helpful insights into the kinds of reports that will be useful for annual fund staff.
  • Phase 2: Site Visit. The second phase involves a site visit where all members of the annual fund staff and other leadership staff are engaged and new ideas, initiatives and prospective changes to the program are explored.
  • Phase 3: Report of Findings. All information and input is reviewed and a comprehensive report is designed that offers recommendations that are actionable, realistic and grounded in best practices.
  • Phase 4: Support. The fourth phase includes the required consulting time necessary to successfully implement the written plan of action and provide the assistance to create results and success.

Source: Kathy Cole, President, West Wind Consulting, Ithaca, NY. Phone (607) 272-4488. E-mail: info@westwindconsulting.com. Website: www.westwindconsulting.com