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Donor Participation Project

Strategies to Rapidly Grow an Annual Giving Program

To rapidly expand an annual giving program, nonprofit fundraisers need a strategic vision, the right metrics, and a team-based approach. Eric, AVP of Annual Giving at the University of Tennessee, shared key strategies that grew the university’s annual giving donors by 54% over the course of a campaign.

Develop a long-term plan with ambitious goals.

UT set a goal to increase annual donors by 4,500 per year which drove strategies and accountability. While adjustments were needed, the goals provided direction.

Establish metrics and monitor data.

Metrics like donor participation, new donor counts, and lapsed donor reactivation rates were tracked to measure growth and make data-driven decisions. Daily monitoring of key metrics kept the team on track.

Build a cross-functional team.

UT adopted a “team-based” philosophy that aligned staff across advancement, colleges, and the university. Regular meetings with staff at all levels fostered collaboration to reach shared goals. Expanding the team beyond advancement was key.

Diversify fundraising channels.

While UT started with four channels (direct mail, email, phone, online), they expanded to include crowdfunding, student philanthropy, faculty/staff campaigns, and special events. Testing channel effectiveness using benchmarking data optimized the fundraising program.

Focus on the first gift and loyalty.

Programs targeting first-time donors and multi-year donors were prioritized. Segments like students, parents, and young alumni were engaged to acquire new donors. Loyalty programs like UT’s “Ten for Tennessee” turn new donors into recurring supporters.

Ultimately, rapidly growing an annual giving program requires vision, metrics, teamwork, channel diversity, and a priority on new and loyal donors. By strengthening these fundamentals, nonprofit fundraisers can build a thriving annual giving program. With strategic urgency and ambition, rapid growth is possible.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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