People love a good theme.
They will deny it but it is true. Ask for $25 and it falls flat. Ask for $20.16 in honor of your Class of 2016 and suddenly the same group is completely inspired.
Throw a Faculty-Staff Campaign kickoff and it is just another reception with peach tea. Throw a Glee inspired Lip Sync Contest with an ironic high school prom theme and it’s something no one has ever seen before.
Is your leadership annual giving society threshold $1,000 per year? What if it were named for your first president or most beloved president? What if the threshold were based on your founding year, for instance $1,904? (You could have special lower levels for young alumni.)
When I worked for The University of Southern Mississippi, our team started the Aubrey K. Lucas Society. It is named for our longest serving president, who also happens to be our longest consecutive year donor. He is famous for wearing bow ties. Each year those donors who have given a gift in each of the last three fiscal years gets a black and gold bow tie-themed car decal. Who would ever want to miss a year of giving? It's too fun to miss out on.
The key is that the themed events and ideas are specific. They show off the unique character of your institution and your personality as a fundraiser. Therefore they work on two levels: they are fun and enjoyable but they also reinforce and strengthen ties to your institution.
Go ahead and embrace the theme. Your job will be more meaningful and fun. Your donors will be amused and happy to participate in something fun and original.
"The #1 Reason People Give Is Because They Are Asked"
This slogan was emblazoned on posters in nearly all of the call centers where I have worked. Asking, almost as much as relationships, is key to successful fundraising. I have said that new major gift officers should be made to spend some training time in the call center, asking. The concentrated experience in persistent asking would accelerate their learning curve.
This truth that asking is at the core of fundraising was brought home to me recently from an unlikely source: my 18 month old son. My 6 year old daughter had just received $5 from her grandmother to get a "subaru" (her word for a souvenir) on our next trip. My baby son stood in line behind her and waited patiently for "his" money. Obviously, the baby didn't need $5 but she hunted in her purse and gave him a dollar. He was quite pleased with his results. (See photo above).
I posted the cute picture on Facebook and someone said "Oh gosh, another fundraiser in the family!" and I realized the meaning of the photo. My mother gave because she was asked. It didn't occur to her that baby boy had a need until he expressed it. He asked and was rewarded.
Donors can have a relationship with us, admire our organizations and the work those institutions do in the world and still not give to us financially. If we do not state our needs and desires and set expectations about the kind of support we want to receive by ASKING, we will not get the gifts. You must ask.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.