While it's not the most effective approach, many community choruses are still heavily relying on physical mailings to meet their annual fund goals. By using various marketing channels and strategies, choruses can expand their donor database and grow their annual revenue.
Plan the Campaign Dates
While all unrestricted donations given throughout the year can be categorized as annual fund donations, you'll want to set aside a few designated timeframes within the year to do annual fund "campaigns."
Choose these dates based on previous giving history/timeline and try to avoid having your campaign clash with other projects, such as concerts (unless you have the bandwidth to simultaneously promote both).
Setting specific timeframes will create a sense of urgency for your donors and will also allow your marketing team to focus solely on the campaign.
Examples of annual fund campaign timelines:
- 2-3 weeks leading up to Giving Tuesday with campaign ending on Giving Tuesday itself
- 2-3 weeks leading up to fiscal year with campaign ending on last date in fiscal year
- 2-3 weeks leading up to the season finale performance
Build Your Campaign Strategy
For each campaign, set measurable and achievable fundraising goals based on past fundraising achievements and the current resources available to you.
Determine the messaging around each campaign and, with your marketing and development committees, discuss which marketing channels you will use to promote the campaign, what promotional materials you need, and who will be responsible for completing each task.
Send Physical Mailings
Yes, physical mailings are still important. Keep doing them, but don't rely solely on them.
Ensure that your donors' addresses remain updated in your donor database and are flagged appropriately (indicating whether they should or should not receive physical mailings).
Put together a few appeal letters for each fundraising campaign and export your mailing list for a mail merge. Print the letter, mailing labels, and gather volunteers together for an envelope stuffing party!
Set Up Email Marketing Campaigns & Segmentations
Using your donor database, segment out your donors (and potential donors!) and send a targeted series of emails to them.
- Donors who haven't given within [x] timeframe
- Donors who gave last year but not yet this year
- Donors by gift size
- Donors who have given consistently for [x] number of years but are not on a recurring payment plan
- Donors by acquisition source
- First time donors
- Returning donors
- Donors by interests
- Donors by their role with the chorus (singing members, ticket buyers, etc.)
Identify what you want to achieve within each segment and carefully craft each message for its relevant audience. Do you want all of your $75 donors to give $100 this year? Do you want to encourage monthly recurring payments? Call out this specific "call-to-action" in each email.
Make a Video
In past articles, we've discussed the vitalness of video marketing. Since video is proven to boost engagements and click-through rates, you'll want to consider utilizing video for your annual fund campaigns! It could be a simple slideshow with pictures of the chorus and a request/link to donate to the annual fund. Or it could be more robust - perhaps an interview featuring singers and the director talking about the chorus and making an appeal on the organization's behalf.
Post on Social Media
Ask your social media team to come up with a social media strategy to help bring in existing donors and to help build your donor pool. Ideas for the social media team:
- Create a shortened link (bit.ly or similar) for each campaign with UTM tracking information as needed
- Switch out the Facebook and Twitter banners with your annual fund campaign image
- Update your Instagram bio and include the shortened link to the campaign's donation page
- Create a series of posts across all social channels featuring promotional posts around the campaign, various posts about your chorus's mission, videos/interviews with the chorus, etc.
- Source content from other channels (such as Americans for the Arts) with articles encouraging followers to donate to arts programs
- Consider putting spend behind some posts such as boosting Facebook posts to friends/family
Optimize Your Website
Be sure to add annual fund information and donation links to your website. Create an annual fund webpage with a donation button and replace your homepage banner with an annual fund call-to-action during the campaign timeframe.
Identify opportunities in other webpages, such as the ticket sales pages or your blog, to promote the annual fund campaigns.
Include Appeals in Member Communications
Members and volunteers are going to be more likely to donate to your organization than outside parties. Focus on informing your members of your annual fund appeals and goals.
- Give members a physical letter
- Ask each member directly for a donation
- Include annual fund appeals in your rehearsal announcements
- Include annual fund appeals in your weekly announcements
- Place information on your members-only site or Chorus Connection Dashboard
- Put information inside the member forums or Chorus Connection Bulletin Board
Engage Your Members in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns
Apart from donating themselves, your members are your best advocates for the organization. Try hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign in which you ask your members to share the annual fund campaign with their personal networks. Here are one and two examples of successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns for choruses.
Add Donation Appeals to Your Ticket Sales Pages and/or Purchase Confirmation Emails
If you are using an advanced ticket sales platform, such as Eventbrite, you can add an appeal for donations when people are purchasing tickets for concerts. You could also include a link to your donations page in your ticket confirmation emails!
Utilize Your Concert Programs
Create some type of appeal for your annual fund in your concert programs. It could be an envelope to collect donations, it could be an ad with a link to your website... or both!
Host a Fundraising Event
Indeed, fundraising events can be a part of your annual fund campaign. Consider hosting an annual fund walk-a-thon, auction, beer choir, sing-along, or other event to help boost your fundraising goals.
Participate in National Fundraising Campaigns
You can maximize the impact of your annual fund by participating in national fundraising or arts awareness campaigns such as Giving Tuesday, Arts Advocacy Day, or National Arts and Humanities Month. Trend away!
I think we can all agree that we could be doing much more to enhance our annual fund campaigns. Let's get out there, experiment with our campaigns, and increase those donations!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection, an active board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, and a soprano with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro-Musica. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.