I recently wrote an article for our TEAM newsletter that outlined the benefits of a well-conceived leadership annual giving program. There are several elements to be considered that will ensure those benefits are realized. This is an important factor in attracting, renewing, and upgrading your donors.
Through my experience with our clients and as a development officer myself, I’ve learned that there are certain characteristics necessary to establish a successful leadership annual giving program.
Develop a straightforward and simple structure so your leadership society is easily recognizable.
It is best to only have one (no more than two) named society in order to distinguish the leadership levels of annual support. This way, it is easier to remember. You can then brand the society’s levels with more generic names – like “Bronze,” “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum.”
Make sure your case for support is clear and powerful.
The case for the importance of these gifts is imperative – answer the questions your donors might ask, such as why unrestricted annual support is important, or what gifts designated to current operations will be used to support. You must also convey the importance and impact of the leadership of a small percentage of donors contributing a high percentage of gifts. In the case of leadership annual giving societies, leadership plays a very well-defined role as a leveraging point to the case for support.
Keep your leadership annual giving solicitations distinctive.
They should reflect your desire to brand the leadership annual giving society, and should be different from your general annual gift solicitations. For these important gifts, personal contact of some type is always required.
Additionally, keep your stewardship of members distinctive, so that the brand is reinforced and your donors realize that they play an important part in strengthening the organization.
Maintain the society brand when contacting these members – acknowledgment letters, writing in the correspondence, and all communications should reference the society and the member’s connection. Appropriate communication from your organization’s leadership, special news or information, greetings or well-wishes, and member receptions or special events are good ways to remind your donors that they are important and reinforce their connection with the organization. Through this stewardship, you will constantly be strengthening your relationship with your society members and emphasizing their impact as donors.
After laying these critical aspects as your foundation, you can begin to use volunteers, strategically incorporate challenge gifts, and add a level of membership for recent graduates. This will enhance your efforts to build membership and upgrade current members, which will secure your leadership annual giving support.
While major and planned gifts will always be a consistent bulk of your annual philanthropic support, recurring leadership annual gifts are important for maintaining your overall development efforts.
Do not overlook the role these gifts and their societies play in cultivating major donors, and be sure to veer away from a perfunctory approach – keep your efforts thoughtful and strategic, and you will succeed.