Guest Post: Giving Circles at Illinois Wesleyen University

Sharon Lipinski, What Gives???’s original guest blogger and Founder of Change Gangs, is back with her second guest post, which she has generously shared from her own blog: Giving Circles Help. Read more about Sharon and her amazing organization by clicking here.

Also, right click to download the mP3 of Sharon’s interview with Jeffrey Mavros to your computer: Giving Circles at Illinois Wesleyn University.
Or, of course, click the link to hear the interview now!

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Jeffrey Mavros was looking to increase donations and engagement with their younger graduates, and three years ago he hoped that giving circles would be a great tool for reaching the Millennial generation. They now have 16 different giving circles with over 200 participants funding 16 different scholarships for current Wesleyen students.

This is a win-win situation. The alumnus feels like he/she is doing their part for the university and making a significant contribution to a student. And the university engages their young alumni, develops long-term, deep relationships with them, and raises more money for scholarships for the university’s current students.

I hope you enjoy discovering how giving circles may work for your university.

Location: Bloomington, IL
Founded: 2009
Website: http://wesleyanfund.wordpress.com/givingcircles/

Written by Sharon Lipinski
Founder of Change Gangs, Virtual Giving Circles
You can connect with Sharon via:
Facebook | Google+ | Twitter

Donor Fatigue

As you may know, I got my start in fundraising with a job as a student caller at Wilfrid Laurier University, calling alumni of the school as well as parents of current students, sharing updates and asking for their financial support.  Many friends of mine would comment on how tough it must be to make those “cold calls” to alumni, but I always replied saying, “They’re not cold calls, they’re warm calls”.  I don’t know where I’d picked up that term, and you could call it kind of corny, but it seemed applicable.  Calling alumni or parents was never cold, because at the very least – whether they were an enthusiastic supporter or not – they had some connection to the institution. I’m thinking about this because I recently read an article from The Globe & Mail entitled “Toronto hospitals are about to find out just how deep donors’ pockets are”.  The article begins by telling the story of Harvey Walker.  In short, Mr. Walker’s wife, Joan, died of pancreatic cancer and he wanted to find a way to honour her memory.  He decided the most fitting tribute would be to donate $100,000 in her name to the Scarborough Hospital, which provided compassion and care to Joan and her family.  According to the article: “Two years later, Mr. Walker has become something of a darling on the mailing lists of hospital foundations across the city.  Appeals for money arrive in his mailbox constantly.  He’s never donated to most of the hospitals asking for his cash and doesn’t even know how they got his name.” As someone who has only worked in educational fundraising thus far, this is a very interesting concept to me – contacting people who don’t have a clear connection to the institution I work for.  I’ve been to a few prospect research workshops where so much discussion surrounds making a prospect list based on other institutions’/organizations’ annual reports (for example), and for a while I didn’t even understand why.  It’s not as if I’m opposed to this because I know other organizations work differently, but when this article brought up the idea of “donor fatigue”, I could understand where that stems from. “But what about the risks? Hospital fundraising campaigns have become an incessant year-long event with appeals coming in the mail, online, on the radio and TV. Yet, as the fundraising pitches become increasingly enormous in size and scope, so too grows the worry that potential donors are beginning to tune out.” My point is not that one type of institution is better than the other, not at all.  It’s just interesting where our prospects come from and how that differs from organization to organization.  The truth is, too, that many of a school’s most generous donors are also turning up on other organizations’ – including hospitals’ – lists and so despite having a clear, personal connection to their alma mater, “donor fatigue” is still a concern. What are your thoughts? How do we combat donor fatigue???

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Do your prospects know where their dollar will go???

What is the biggest roadblock you face as a fundraiser???  I’m sure this answer is different for all of us and likely those answers touch on all sorts of different aspects of fundraising and philanthropy.  Perhaps it’s incomplete/invalid data on your prospects.  Maybe it’s having a tough time communicating your mission to a larger network.  OR, perhaps it’s that your prospects (or future prospects) don’t know exactly what you’re fundraising for.

I try to keep this blog pretty general, but being that I work in educational fundraising, it’s hard not to write from that slant.  However, I think this predicament happens for all fundraisers.  Your prospects/community may know that your organization has something to do with homelessness, or animals, or building wells in Africa.  They may even know more info about how exactly you help the homeless, which animals in particular you rescue, or which countries in Africa you focus your efforts on.  But, do your prospects know where their dollar goes when they donate???  Do they know what kind of projects their donations fund???

For example, working at an independent school (like I do!) or a university – your future prospects are your current students.  While in school, they’re not thinking about donating/fundraising.  If they’re university students, they’re overwhelmed as it is with tuition, and being asked to donate may even seem insulting.  So maybe we won’t ask you to donate as a current student, at least not until your grad year, but how do we educate you as a student on what exactly fundraising does for you, so that when you’re in a position to donate, you’ll know that it’s important???

That question is what inspired me to write this post in the first place, because schools like Wilfrid Laurier University (my alma mater) are attempting to answer that question with initiatives like Tag Day.  I highly suggest clicking the link to learn more, but in short: Tag Day was created to generate awareness of how donations and philanthropy positively impact Laurier and its student experience every day. Tag Day’s student volunteers attach purple tags to places and objects that are made possible or enhanced through donations.

This initiative is great because it presents a tangible way of illustrating the power of philanthropy.  Annual reports and web articles are all well and good, but a big, purple tag attached to a bookshelf in the library is pretty hard to ignore.  It grabs your attention and makes you think.  Kudos to Laurier for being innovative and inspiring with their fundraising and stewardship efforts.

What initiatives like Tag Day have you seen???  What efforts have you made to overcome roadblocks in your organization???

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What Gives???
Trivia: 

The latin term alma mater, used to refer to any school, college, or university someone has studied at and, presumably, graduated from, means “nourishing mother”.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
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.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 3 Reasons Your University Should Have a Giving Circle (And How You Can Start One)

Enjoy this post by What Gives???’s first guest blogger Sharon Lipinski, Founder of Change Gangs.  Read more about Sharon and her amazing organization by clicking here.

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What Is a Giving Circle? 

A giving circle is a form of shared philanthropy. The only defining feature of a giving circle is that members pool their donations into one large fund, and as a group decide how to disburse that money.

3 Reasons You Want a Giving Circle
A giving circle can help you:

  1. Deepen relationships with donors.
    A giving circle gives alumni an “insider” view of what’s going on at the university.  Many alumni already support the university in different ways; they may be buying tickets to the games, donating to their specific colleges or even donating directly to the university. But when they’re part of the giving circle, they have a deeper understanding and information about how the university works and they get to have a say in how their gifts to the university are spent.During the course of their membership in the giving circle, some members may become very interested in a particular program or department and give additional funds. They may get involved in capital campaigns. Because they are more emotionally involved in the university and donating to the university is an active part of their life, giving circle members often support multiple areas of the university.
  2. Fund projects the university can’t or doesn’t fund.
    The university’s funds are limited and as much as they’d like to, they can’t always fund all the worthwhile programs. A giving circle can fill in the gaps and fund the new, the untried, the small, and the otherwise overlooked but valuable endeavors.  It’s even possible that the giving circle’s grants allows a project to grow into such a valuable program that the university takes over funding it.
  3. Raise more money.
    Giving circle members are emotionally involved in donating, and donating to the university becomes part of their identity. As the relationship deepens, the amount of money a giving circle member chooses to donate can increase.  In addition, because members are exposed to programs and faculty they may not otherwise know about, members can get excited about supporting those individual programs and donate above and beyond their giving circle contributions.

How Would a Giving Circle Work At My University?
Imagine….

Starting with your most active alumni and inviting them to be a part of the university’s new giving circle that will support programs within the university. You may choose to focus on women or science programs, but you can choose to support any university program.

These new giving circle members make an annual donation into the giving circle’s fund. Perhaps the starting donation is $500 and there is a second tier for “president’s circle” at $1,000. If an alumnus has graduated within the last 4 years, they could donate $250 a year. The tiered giving structure can encourage higher levels of giving while still making it accessible to everyone.

Once per year, you notify departments, faculty, and student organizations that grant money is available and how they can apply. You review the grant applications with your giving circle (maybe a few members volunteer to review the grant applications), and the applications meeting your giving circle’s requirements go on to the next round.

The remaining applications are then researched a little more in-depth. Maybe a giving circle member will visit the department or have a call with the faculty member to get a better understanding of the project. The notes and applications are uploaded to a website and emailed to members who then vote online for which projects they’d like to fund.  The project(s) with the most votes receive the giving circle’s funds. Because the grant process is finished up on-line, alumni who no longer live in the area can participate.

You organize a ceremony to award the funds where alumni mingle and hear from the winners and past winners about what they’ve done with the funds and what the funds have done for them. This allows members to connect with other alumni and hear about the difference they’re making first hand. As a result, their membership in the circle and relationship with university feel even more rewarding.

Next year, you start a direct mail campaign to invite more alumni and your current members introduce you to other alumni you can invite. As you grow, so does your relationship with your alumni, the amount of money you’re collecting, and the impact you’re making on the university.

How to Start a Giving Circle
Download the Start A Giving Circle Guide for the 4 steps to starting your own giving circle.

Also, review the articles and interviews at Giving Circles Help to learn from people around the country who are already running giving circles.

Giving circles are infinitely adaptable and flexible, so be creative and design a giving circle that works for you and your university.

 

Written by Sharon Lipinski
Founder of Change Gangs, Virtual Giving Circles
You can connect with Sharon via:
Facebook | Google+ | Twitter