How to raise millions through Annual Fund Campaigns Free

Campaigns That Raise Millions in Unrestricted Revenues


It was early 2011. I was working for a major fundraising organization as the director of the annual giving team.  

The CEO of the organization had approached me with an inquiry... he had a donor who was willing to give the organization $1.5 Million to do something 'unique' and 'meaningful'.

So the question was - what is 'unique' and 'meaningful'?

I was excited... "What was the scope of limitations? Could we use the funds for 'anything'?" I asked.

The answer I received was.... 'yes, you could use the funds to fund programs and also to scale fundraising operations for future initiatives'.

This meant it involved the Annual Fund, as well as a designated fund in cancer research... I was excited!

A Feat Of Epic Proportions

I suggested that we use the donor's funds for a matching gift campaign.

At the time, $1.5 Million would be about 5 to 6 times the amount we raised with one fundraising campaign. So the whole goal seemed a bit out of reach.

Call it youthful exuberance but I thought it could be done.

Our CEO loved the idea, and his question was 'what resources would I need to be able to successfully conduct the campaign'. 

Keys to success

Matching campaigns were clearly new to the organization. It was also new to me... I had never done a matching gift either.

But I had always wished for a matching gift as a way of creating an exciting and inspiring offer to what I perceived as 'donors who had become accustomed to our usual materials'.

Below is the key elements I felt I needed to succeed:

  • 6 months to develop & execute the plan
  • Two phases in the campaign
  • Opportunity to approach some major donors
  • flag
    Permission to involve special events
  • flag
    The undivided attention and resources of the communications team for a period of two months

The million dollar plan

The plan I put together was fairly simple. 

We would conduct our annual campaign, similar to a capital campaign. The two phases of the campaign, would be a quiet and a public phase. In the quiet phase we would secure some principle or high value gifts from major and mid-level prospects.

That phase would happen in the first four months and wouldn't require fully developed marketing collateral. So we just focused on securing pledges and potential commitments from our best donors.  

At the time, I had only one development officer whose job was to secure mid-level gifts from a pool of very loyal donors. And while that work was going on - we planned our public launch. 

The collaborative work

The second phase of the campaign required the involvement of other departments.

To do this we set some strict timelines and a critical path for the direct response activities.

The Communications and Marketing department was then assigned with the responsibility for developing the call-to-action, graphic and visual elements, campaign branding, key-messages and a two month communications plan. 

The major gifts teams were called on to help identify potential prospects and the events teams were also given the permission to introduce the matching gift opportunity to their third party event planners.

Everyone went away and developed their plans separately.

We met frequently to ensure we were all on the same page and able to progress. 

The results

The campaign launched in the spring of 2012.

In the fall of 2012 (Sept) we went public urging people to give October 31, 2012 and get their gift matched.

"Double the impact" read the tagline.

By October 31, we had raised just under $1.6 Million in matching gifts.

No funds came from existing major donors!

We also secured some 1,000 new monthly donors.


Initially, I thought our success was because of the offer of the match. And to a large extent - it was. The offer to double your impact was an appealing offer for sure.

But I also believe that people don't just give because their gift will be matched. They give because they feel like their involvement can make a substantial difference.

So - you still need a worthwhile cause to give to.

And the biggest lesson, you need marketing!

This campaign was one of the first times in which I was able to bring together all the fundraising and communications departments to work together. 

Being focused on the same message, allowed the organization to amplify its message and reach more people, with greater frequency and consistency.

This process has now became my go to approach for raising more money.

Today it is exactly what I offer my clients.... bringing their programs together for maximum impact. 

If this is something your interested - I am more than happy to get on a 30 minute call to explore how I can help.

Hit the button below to schedule a call with me.

Get on a 30 minute call with me and together, we'll figure out the first steps for you to become, just, ridiculously productive.

Let's Work Together

If you are looking to raise more money and you are interested in learning more about raising millions through the annual fund campaign, don't hesitate to connect with me.

Copyright 2018 Inspired Data Solutions Inc.