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Annual funds support yearly operations within your alumni group – events, newsletters, etc. Maybe you’re currently able to cover these day-to-day costs; however, just waiting around for your next big capital campaign need to arise before you begin really investing in your fundraising efforts is no way to do business.

Nurture your annual giving program through consistent friend-raising and communications. This ensures that you’ve developed the relationships with your donors that are needed to not only reach all of your fiscal goals, but also to maintain a thriving alumni group that can easily take on the added costs of huge projects.

After you’ve been cultivating your annual fund for several years, and establishing a “giving culture” within your group, you’ll notice that you’re much more prepared for a capital campaign, as you know which of your alumni give, when, how, and why. This is crucial data for determining how you’ll ask your donors for the funds for a larger, one-time project.

Best Practices for Annual Funds

There are a few ways you can ensure your annual fund is reaching its full potential.

1. Tailor messages to address a donor’s giving history to prove you’re paying attention.

Identify different donors segments and tell stories that speak to their loyalty. Thank your loyal donors in every letter, ask donors who haven’t made a gift in the last few years to renew their support again this year, and invite those never-givers to join your effort and help support your initiatives.

2. Balance dues with news.

Don’t overwhelm your donors with hard asks for donations. Instead, make an effort to make your stakeholders, especially donors, feel special. This can be done by sending thank you notes, electronic and printed newsletters, invitations to events, and other items that show you value the part they play in your community.

3. Frequency, Consistency, and Meaning

One or two newsletter per year will never build the strong relationship that you desire with your donors. It takes 12-18 touches per year to build a foundation of loyal donors, as you consistently show them the meaning behind their gifts – how their donations are being used and the lives that are impacted.

4. Recognize donors and thank them often.

Donors value your appreciation of their donation. This can be as simple as publishing a list of donors online and in print. You can also feature donors on your website or in your newsletters, telling their individual stories and showing the motives behind their gifts.

Want to discover how you can use consistent communication and storytelling to nurture your annual campaign? Existing Affinity Connection partners can reach out to their managing editor; or, to learn more about Affinity Connection, contact Andy Scheldrup at 763-557-9008 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A classic example of a fraternity chapter that is “doing it right,” Phi Delta Theta Purdue’s success can be seen through its results. With record fundraising, high alumni event attendance and long-term volunteer and alumni engagement, the group certainly has a lot to boast about.

For one, their alumni golf outing, the annual Phi Open, is the largest golf tournament on Purdue’s campus. Now in its 27th year, it’s grown from 25 participants to more than 140. “It’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and brothers and it is a good way to raise money for the house,” says Andy Beasley ’91, who has been organizing the event for 20 years. “Some of the most fun and most formative years of my life were spent with those guys, and I know there are a lot of them I would lose touch with if it were not for the Phi Open.”

Planning an annual golf outing isn’t only a fun time for the alumni, it’s also a great way to build relationships with donors, who continue to give long after the event is over.

How It Works: A Crazy-Successful Annual Fund

Additionally, this is one alumni group that hasn’t needed a capital campaign for 27 years! Why? Their high-performing annual fund and smart money management means they keep the cash needed for house remodels and repairs, and alumni communication and events, on hand.

While most groups will undertake a huge remodel of their house at once (like Phi Delta Theta did in 1990, at a cost of $1.2 million), now, Phi Delta Theta is stretching its current remodel over the course of 10 years, raising 10% of the funds needed annually. This decision, paired with consistent alumni communication through combined monthly eletters and regular newsletters, makes it realistic for the group to meet their goals.

“This way we don’t have to go back to alumni for standard maintenance and upgrades of the house, we can go back to alumni saying we have a special deal, like we want to put in a theater and it’s going to cost 15k; let’s do a fundraiser just for the theater,” says Gary Batesole, president of the Indiana Phi Delta Theta alumni association. “That got a much better response than asking for $2 million to fix the house… The response from alumni is much better with a specific project, because you get [it] in the newsletters…and then they can see exactly where their money is going.”

While he feels this all-annual-fund model is definitely a formula that can work for other alumni groups, he cautions that it takes a large amount of commitment. “They have to have the commitment to steadily do it every single year, or they’ll have to do a major fundraiser to do a major renovation down the road, where we hopefully will not.”

It’s the newsletters that Batesole stresses is also a crucial part of the plan. “The alumni want to know what’s going on and they want to know where their money is going. They want to see activity the chapters are doing, so they can get behind it. They have to feel positive about what’s going on today.”

Plus Donors-Turned-Volunteers

Of course, all this great alumni communication doesn’t just result in dollars – it also provides the group with a large amount of volunteers, who are eager to help out however they can, whether it’s as a mentor, member of the board or making crucial repairs around the house. Volunteers are recognized for their efforts, and they can see exactly how their hard work pays off through frequent group updates.

Does the Phi Delta Theta Purdue alumni group sound exactly like what you’ve been hoping for in your own alumni group? Adopt some of their best practices for yourself, and see how you can create a successful annual fund campaign, while keeping your members engaged and informed. Request a free sample newsletter and more information from your managing editor, or, to learn more about Affinity Connection, reach out to Andy Scheldrup at 763-557-9008, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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