When I was an executive director this was the time of year when we began working on our annual fund drive. We asked board members for new names. They agreed to personally sign letters. We worked on what to write. You know the drill. I was not a fund development professional and we did not have good research to inform our strategy. Now you do.

The Nonprofit Quarterly  is a great resource for getting insights about new studies and how findings can help you as nonprofit leaders with decision-making–the choices you have to make every day. In one of their reports, Rob Meiksins writes about what is known about successful annual fund drives. Here are five key points.

1.  Nonprofits with annual fund drives are more likely to achieve their fundraising goals. 77% of nonprofits with an annual fund drive met their goals while only 57% of those without one did.

2. Donor retention is a predictor of success for your annual fund drive. Nonprofits with at least a 50% donor retention rate from the prior year were much more likely to achieve their annual fund goals. And, higher donor retention was a predictor of donors increasing the amount of their gifts.

3. Nonprofits of all sizes had higher rates of success if they had at least one staff person dedicated to working on the annual fund.

4. Donor gifts or benefits have little or no impact on donor retention or the size of their donations. However, for larger nonprofits it can make a difference if donors know they are members of identified categories of givers.

5.  Handwritten thank you notes keep donors coming back and giving more.

Any surprises here for you? Do you know your donor retention rate from the prior year? I would guess the biggest challenge in this list is for small nonprofits to figure out how to have dedicated staff for the annual fund drive work. But–you know building nonprofit infrastructure is critical to success. Here is proof it matters for fundraising.

If you don’t do an annual fund drive and your nonprofit needs resources (and whose doesn’t!) you may want to consider it.

I want to hear from you! Please post a comment below or a question/issue you would like me to address.