Giving Societies… What Gives?!

I am in program analysis / program planning mode for my Leadership Giving program in my new role, and with that comes a lot of thought and reflection… what is a leadership gift? What makes someone a leadership donor? What needs to happen in order for me to consider moving a donor into major gift territory?  I find the process energizing and exciting, but it brings up some tough questions.  One of those tough questions is:

Do donors care about giving societies???

As I plan the year ahead for the Leadership Giving program, I’m considering whether it would be effective to create a concrete leadership-level giving society.  The thing that makes this consideration tough is whether giving societies only mean something internally and the donor doesn’t really care.  Would a giving society strengthen a culture of philanthropy?  Would donors who make it in the society care, and really identify as part of that society?  Would a society make someone stretch their giving to a new level so that they can be part of something?

When giving societies are effective (because sometimes they really are), why are they effective?  Is it when they’re really established and have been around a while?  Is it when being at a certain level means certain perks, like invitations to events and/or some kind of tangible benefit like a pin or a special name tag?  Does the giving society have to equal some kind of prestige?

If a giving society has to be well-established in order to mean something, then is it in our best interest to start them if it will take such a long time to establish them?  Will it be worth the time and resources to push on until, say, the 20-year mark where it starts to mean something?

Or do people care about these things any more? Do giving societies promote giving and/or a culture of philanthropy, or do we just like to think they do? Do we like it internally because we have an easy way to refer to certain levels or giving and certain donors?

Regardless of all this, can we still refer to a group in a specific way in mailings? For example, whether there’s a society or not, can I refer to my donors as leadership donors in a direct mail piece? If they don’t already identify with that label and there’s no concrete giving society, can I still use it to give them a sense of their being special?

 

What do you think??? Are giving societies worth our time and thought?

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Personalization pays!

Personalization Pays!

I know I’ve talked about compassion/donor fatigue before.  We have so many communication channels available to us, and every one of them – from email to Facebook to snail mail – are asking us to give.  These weapons of mass communication are powerful, and they’re a positive tool on the one hand, but we have to work that much harder to connect with people when using them.  What can we do, say, or design that will catch people’s attention???  Is a video enough?

The best tool I’ve learned to use is personalization.  I was working on an event recently – an art auction – and was brainstorming some ways to get more attendees there.  I didn’t just want more attendees though, I wanted people to attend who would actually buy the art.  So since this was the fifth time the event has taken place, I looked back at records to find out who had bought art in the past, which artist’s art they had bought, and whether the same artist was submitting again this year.  If they were, I wrote a personalized email to each of these past buyers, inviting them to the event, letting them know that “their favourite artist” was submitting again, linking them to the event website (specifically to where this artist’s piece was featured), and also letting them know that they could submit an absentee bid if they couldn’t make it.

This process was lengthy and tedious, but it comes with a great ROI.  A few of these individuals submitted absentee bids, many of them attended, and at least one purchased another piece by “their favourite artist”.  Regardless of the outcome though, this personal touch is a great way to engage members of your community.  One person I emailed was impressed we even knew what he’d bought before, and others were simply pleased to have been personally contacted.

This event is simply an example though, and the strategy can be even more effective with fundraising.  I’ve worked on custom proposal packages that include archival photos of an alumnus from when he/she was at the school, videos that have the head of the school addressing the major gift prospect who is meant to receive the video… the list goes on, and the result is always positive.  Personalized communication resulting in a large gift or a piece of art being purchased is really the cherry on top.  No matter what, personally connecting with people is always worth your while.

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Part of this post was inspired by Dan Allenby’s recent blog post, “Content vs. Distribution”, from his amazing website: The Annual Giving Network.

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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:
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Can we tap into technology without tapping out on our budget???

Working in educational fundraising in the summer can be equal parts wonderful and challenging.  On the one hand, the students are gone (at least at my 5-12 independent school), which takes a little life out of the campus, or at least alters the work environment.  On the other hand, the peace and quiet that summer brings makes it the ideal time for reflecting, researching, and planning for the school year ahead. One of my current projects is to do my due diligence on potentially implementing an app for our alumni community.  The way I see it, being perceived as “ahead of the pack”, “forwarding thinking”, or just plain “cool” by our alumni (especially our most recent grads) is worth its weight in gold, which is why I pursued this project in the first place.  That said, being cool comes with a price; can we justify spending money on this sort of initiative?  Will the ROI be worth our while?  It’s a friend-raising more than fundraising venture… can the ROI really be measured?  Perhaps it’s like my post on “impact per dollar raised”; maybe we should worry less about measurable results and recognize that a well-received, technology-related “gift” to the alumni community is priceless. What do you think???

 

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

Escaping the glow and writing appeals

March Break is a quiet time in the advancement office at my institution — the students are away, the faculty members are enjoying a well-deserved rest, and even some of my colleagues have taken the week off for a personal holiday.  In fact, at this particular moment, I am alone in the office.  For some it might feel eerie or an excuse to nod off, but for me it means the perfect time for brainstorming and letter-writing.  Specifically, an Annual Giving appeal to young alumni.

It’s not often that we sit down to do a task that doesn’t involve our computers.  That being said, I’m sure many people write solicitation letters exclusively on their computers.  For me, it’s an opportunity to take a break from the glowing screen, pull out a legal pad, and get to writing.  The photo above is what my desk usually looks like when I’m writing: a good inky pen, a red ballpoint for revision, a print-out of last year’s appeal, and a first draft of this year’s.  I spend time writing out potential “headlines” for the letter.  I spend time reading over last year’s letter to make sure this year’s holds on to only a few elements (if any) but aims to be noticeably fresh and new.

I brainstorm some outside-of-the-box ideas to make this letter stand out.  With young alumni in particular, what could grab their attention?  Will a creative approach spur them on to make their first gift?  Is it ease & convenience they look for?  Is it a worthwhile designation?

What do you think???  How do you approach letter writing?  What are your favourite tips/tricks to get in the zone?  What about encouraging young alumni giving?  What are your success stories?  What have you learned?

 

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