Q: We are going to hold our first ever Annual Fund Campaign. I know you know how scary that term “first ever” can be. I’m hoping you can share a sample of an Annual Fund Campaign Plan that can help us in setting our direction. I would be extremely grateful for anything you can suggest.

A:  How exciting! Being a “first ever” you have so many options. And no one is stuck with the mindset, “But this is how we always do it.”

As I understand it – and many of my readers are far more knowledgeable about this than I am, so let me hear from you readers and I’ll share your expertise in a future column – organizations are moving away from the stand-alone annual fund campaign. The move is toward raising annual funds all year long and employing a wide variety of development methods in order to reach and appeal to more people.

Some of the activities you might consider including in your annual fund plan are: annual giving societies, special events, online giving, monthly credit card debits, face-to-face asks during the year for specific programs or projects, an end-of-the-year ask that may be a traditional campaign, direct mail, tributes, and asks via social networking sites through the use of such tools as online badges.

Of course, putting this all in a plan helps you meet your ultimate goal by ensuring that you have a good mix of methodologies, that your calendar is realistic and balanced, that you have the needed resources including staffing in place, and that you have something against which to measure your success.

While there is no “right” or “wrong” format for writing up your plan, think about including at least four elements. The first is an introduction. This typically would provide your readers (staff, board members, volunteers) with an overview of your mission, the organization’s need for funds with a specific dollar goal and perhaps a brief history of the organization’s fundraising.

The second element is the description of activities you intend to employ. When you consider the activities to include in your plan, consider also such factors as potential, mission, cost, image, staffing, risk and stakeholder needs and desires. For instance, an organization like SADD (Students Against Drunk Drivers) would want to think twice before sponsoring Beer Pong – a drinking game popular on campuses today. Yes, it has the potential to bring in a lot of people and money. But, the potential risk of liability and the fact that the game is the antithesis of SADD’s mission makes this choice a poor one. Here you would want to also consider contingencies in case any of the activities you choose do not get you to your goal. You might also note any board, staff or volunteer education that would be necessary to successfully carry out the activities you have chosen. And, of course, you want a calendar or timeline, as noted earlier.

Third would be a follow-up. How do you intend to bring your donors closer into the fold –to make them loyal, ongoing contributors? A plan for demonstrating stewardship of your donors’ money is essential.

Finally, don’t forget to integrate public relations and marketing into your annual fund activities plan. You must build awareness of not only the activities themselves but of your organization’s issues so that eventually donors care more about helping your organization achieve its vision than in any given activity.

You have a wonderful opportunity ahead of you. Have fun. Be creative. And look forward to making the plan bigger and better each year.