A Four Stage Plan for the Annual Fund

David A. Mersky imageLast month it was the seven ages of man that led us to understand the mandala of the development cycle. This month, I want to introduce you to the way in which you apply the cycle to a disciplined four stage plan directed to engaging individual prospects and donors for an enhanced annual fund. In each of the next four months, I will drill down and provide detail, but for now a taste of what is to come.

The first stage of the plan is designed to introduce or re-introduce people to your organization. We call these initial gatherings Gateway Events. For the prospective donor, a gateway event serves as the first point in a cycle of life-long giving. For current and lapsed donors, such an event can serve to reintroduce the person to what is happening now in the field and in the agency.

If the gateway event plants seeds in the minds and hearts of prospects, donors and funders, then during the second stage, you consciously begin the process of cultivation through a series of moves that are designed to follow up and involve people. It is the most important step to build lifelong donors and it is a process that once begun, never ends.

When the prospective donor is ready, you move very naturally to the third stage; you make “the Ask.” You will need to overcome your own fears and anxieties which are completely natural. And, through an interactive, respectful conversation, you will move the prospect to making or renewing a gift to this year’s annual fund.

Then, once the commitment to make a gift has been secured, you enter the fourth stage where you leverage the donor and your relationship to expand the circle. Your new (or renewed) donor now, with your disciplined plan of stewardship, begins to introduce others to the process. This is the last step in the cycle as they get to bring people to a gateway event just as they were engaged at the very beginning.

You have now moved one year closer to creating a life-long donor who gives and gets others to do likewise. You are living the dream in which each referral becomes a lifelong donor with an ever-widening circle.

And, the circle of donors—like the circle of life—grows exponentially.

NEXT MONTH: Gateway Events: First Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving:

Read the other articles in the Creating a Culture of Asking Series.