I am always interested in seeing the results of the US Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy and, more specifically, the reasons donors being surveyed cite for making a gift.
The top four reasons:
- Belief in the mission of the organization,
- Belief my gift can make a difference,
- Personal satisfaction, and
- Giving to the same organization each year.
All of these reasons point to the a few key points.
First, your organization must have as its focus an area that resonates with the donor. For higher education, that may seem obvious. However, there are nuances to be found. Yes, we educate. Service and research are also key elements for many, as is a key role as an economic driver. Others serve as cultural centers for their community or region. While determining the mission is outside of your control, it is within our control to ensure that it is articulated and fully illustrated so that it can be understood. It is also within our control to help articulate the distinctiveness of the mission and why it is important. Finally, with so many components, colleges and universities must also be sure to show how each relates to and serves the grander mission. Communication, here, is key.
It is incumbent to determine, define and detail how a gift makes a difference – what is the impact? This presupposes that, working with academic and administrative leadership, funding opportunities have been developed. We have a special role in ensuring that we help to define the “so what” for each of those opportunities. How do they make a difference and, thus, how gifts in support of them make a difference. In short, how the donor can make a difference—not just in our institution, but in lives, individually and in communities.
How do you measure or drive personal satisfaction? When you consider the giver’s motivating factor, realize that the degree to which a donor derives personal satisfaction is dependent upon the degree to which that gift makes a difference. (Back to point number two) This clearly entails our efforts to demonstrate donor appreciation through the appropriate acknowledgement of donor gifts, through appropriate recognition, through good stewardship and in helping them to be connected to us and to others associated with our college or university.
Finally, donors cite as a key reason for making gifts that they support the same organizations each year. This is clearly tied to 1) our mission resonating with the donor’s values, and 2) our showing how their gifts makes a difference in addressing a need that the donor values through appropriate donor appreciation. In short, this reason is largely an outcome of our doing the first three well and only serves to reinforce the importance of our doing them well—particularly donor appreciation.
In summary, if you want to secure larger donor gifts: present opportunities for giving that demonstrate how gifts make a difference and follow up with information that shows how, indeed, they made a difference.