I participated recently in an “interview” with an individual who is working to develop a social media strategy for the Development & Alumni Relations department at a higher-ed institution. His intention was to get my input on what alumni want from their alma mater and how that might be provided through social media. I was pleased when alumni giving made its way into the conversation and intrigued by his approach to the topic; he asked me, “Why don’t alumni give???” What a great question! And one that definitely applies to all forms of fundraising – not just educational. There are, of course, a myriad of reasons people don’t give. Drawing once again from my experience as an Annual Giving phonathon caller, I heard reasons including a negative experience at the university, still paying off student loans, big transitions in life with big costs attached (getting married, buying a house, starting a family), and sometimes a plain old “not interested”. But then I thought, “Why DO people give?” And as any good fundraiser knows, the #1 reason people give is … say it with me … because they are asked!!! Yes, it’s often that simple! So, would that mean that the opposite is true??? Do people NOT give because they’re NOT asked? Well, let me say this, rarely do fundraisers hear from their prospects that they’re not being asked enough… So, what is it? Perhaps people don’t give because they’re not asked right. What do I mean by that? Is it that best practice fundraising approaches should be thrown out the window? Not at all! My thought is that we’re doing a great job except that we’re not giving our prospects enough info on HOW to give. We’re telling them who to give to (our organization), when to give (now), why to give, what amount to give, where to designate, but are we giving them the right options at that point on HOW to make their gift? And I’m not talking about which credit card to donate with… It’s my belief that many people don’t give because (a) they think only enormous major gifts matter and (b) they don’t know their options. For example, I donate regularly to four causes, and in all four cases I’m a monthly donor. Are we as fundraisers making options like monthly giving clear when we make our ask? This is just one example, of course, but I think it’s part of a key “toolkit” we ought to be sharing. A $240 gift may seem intimidating, but $20/month might not… So I told this individual I had my social media interview with that sharing quick updates on Facebook and Twitter, not asking for donations but informing people on how to make them, could be a potential way of engaging more alumni in giving… I guess we’ll see if it works! Food for thought… Why do YOU think people don’t give???
Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.