Leadership Giving: A Key Element For Development Success

By Arthur Criscillis

In most organizations, a tremendous amount of time and attention is devoted to principal, major and planned giving programs.  Why? Because they tend to generate gifts with the greatest impact on colleges and universities – in addition to fueling high campaign goals.

However, because of the focus on major and planned giving programs, leadership annual giving is often placed on the back burner. But leadership annual giving is important, and establishing it as a key element in your development efforts can be incredibly beneficial to your organization and fundraising as a whole.

While it is important to maintain focus on larger, iterative, one-time gifts, which are generally given to special capital needs or endowments supporting programs and people, the gifts that can be secured through leadership annual giving programs are also worthy of your time and energy.

Benefits Of The Annual Leadership Giving Campaign

Here are some key benefits of establishing and maintaining a leadership annual giving campaign as a part of your development efforts:

  1. They provide you with significant gifts that can be used immediately for important purposes. Leadership annual gifts are like rocket fuel – they hit the budget fully and immediately. Endowments are important and essential because they persist and grow over time. However, in terms of money that can be used in a given fiscal year, a leadership annual fund gift can have the same impact as the more substantial endowment.
  2. These programs serve as a gateway for major gift prospects. For some, as they are building their assets, the programs provide a way for them to see themselves as significant contributors to the well-being of our organizations.  For others, leadership annual giving also serves as a “testing ground,” in which the donor experiences how you handle gifts. In both instances, these leadership annual gifts serve as stepping stones to a more substantial gift.
  3. Identifying or qualifying potential major gift prospects is also a benefit of leadership annual giving programs. This is particularly true when membership is being driven by the annual giving program, rather than personal solicitation.  When donors make leadership annual gifts, it sends a signal that the donor may merit personal attention from a major gift officer.
  4. Leadership annual giving societies are a great way to cultivate and engage your major gift prospects. By developing communication strategies and appropriate events for members of the societies, we can build the relationship with these donors in an efficient and effective way.

In my experience working with a broad range of clients, I often find that leaders fail to take advantage of these and the many other benefits of implementing leadership annual giving programs. In fact, your own organization may be well served to address the need – the sooner, the better!