The Role of Annual Giving

Posted on 08/01/2023

What is annual giving?

Surprisingly, this seemingly simple and straightforward question can sometimes stump even the brightest and most experienced advancement professionals. Yet understanding the role of annual giving is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to be successful in running a program.

When asked to describe what annual giving means to them, some advancement professionals will talk about its activities: appealing for gifts, processing payments, sending acknowledgments, and stewarding the donors. Others describe annual giving through its common metrics. They’ll tell you how much money it generates or how many donors it helps to secure. And then there are those who talk about annual giving mechanisms—the solicitation channels or the constituency-based programs employed by annual giving departments to cultivate and solicit donors. All of these things are important parts of a program’s anatomy, but they don’t necessarily get to the heart of annual giving and its role within the larger context of an advancement program. 

To truly understand the role of annual giving, it helps to consider the various stages that donors can go through during their lifetime. Beginning with a single, often modest gift, happy donors will gradually increase the frequency and size of their support over time and will (if appropriately engaged and solicited) eventually make a major gift at a time and for a purpose that both matters to them and benefits the institution. In this way, annual giving creates and supports the process of turning non-donors into regular donors and eventually into major donors. In other words, the role of annual giving is to prepare a pipeline.

Having a fundamental understanding of annual giving, what it means to those who work in it, and its important role within an advancement operation helps you to run a more effective campaign each year and become a better advocate for your program over the long term. Being a good annual giving advocate will not only bode well for your own program but also will help elevate the importance of annual giving industrywide. 


This article has been adapted from the book Ideas for Annual Giving by Dan Allenby. Copyright (c) 2016 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

AGN Members receive unlimited access to our resources, discounts, and other benefits. Click here to learn more.

Want to stay up-to-date on best practices in annual giving? Click here to follow AGN's Page on Linkedin!