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Donor Participation Project

Fundraisers Discuss Strategies for Launching Leadership Giving Societies

Fundraisers from colleges and universities around the country recently gathered via video conference to discuss effective strategies for launching leadership giving societies. A key takeaway from the discussion was the importance of educating donors about the true cost of operating the institution and the impact of their gifts.

Several fundraisers recommended announcing a new, higher giving level by framing it around the increased costs to educate students today compared to when the society first launched. For example, a society that started with a $1,000 minimum gift 30 years ago would require a $15,000 gift today to have the same impact, accounting for inflation and rising costs. Communicating this message, along with stories of students who have benefited from the society, can help justify the increase to long-time donors.

The fundraisers also stressed the need to restructure giving levels and benefits in a way that allows donors to find an entry point that suits them. Simply raising the minimum gift may prompt more pushback than creating additional, higher levels with incremental increases and benefits. Existing donors who can’t immediately jump to a new top level can be “grandfathered in” at their current level or provided an informal grace period to work up to a higher amount.

Virtually engaging leadership donors through online events, meetings with key administrators, and digital communications has also proven effective during the pandemic. While in-person events may be preferred when possible, offering a mix of online and in-person engagement options can make participation accessible to more donors, especially those outside the local area.

Overall, the most successful leadership giving society launches are tailored to the institution and its donors. Fundraisers should analyze donor data and capacity to set giving levels that make sense for their base. A thoughtful roll-out and stewardship plan focused on education, flexible options, and virtual access will position the new or revamped society for growth and long-term success.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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