Annual Giving to the Rescue

The one constant since mid-March for Advancement professionals has been disruption. First, we settled into new work-from-home routines and reset our communications, constituent engagement, and gift invitation plans. Now, some are on the brink of office re-openings as June arrives next week. Overall, our work as Advancement professionals still feels very different.

How is your annual giving program doing?

In response to the pandemic, there appear to be two vastly different gift invitation approaches from annual giving professionals: 1) wait-and-see, and 2) business-as-usual. I hope you’re in the second group.

Annual support is needed more now than ever at your institution. And donors appear poised to be the heroes at this moment. If you’re in the cautious, “wait-and-see” camp and feel this approach is being courteous and sensitive to the times, here are some counterpoints you should consider:

Admittedly, the approach should be different in these times. Messaging for annual support gift invitations require two shifts: 1) a tone of empathy in your messaging, and 2) clarity in how philanthropy can help in these challenging times.

Tone of Empathy

If annual giving invitations fail to acknowledge the challenges some are facing, messaging will appear tone-deaf and potentially offensive. Be sure a message is embedded in your gift invitation that reads something like, “we know these are extremely difficult times for some members of the [institution name] family. If that’s you, please suspend your giving. For everyone else, let’s pull together and help those in need through a gift to [name of fund or gift area].”

Clarity in How Philanthropy Can Help

Offering clarity in how a donor’s gift can make a difference is always a good idea. But it is especially important now. How will a gift help in these specific times? Are you designating all annual fund gifts to support tuition assistance because you know these gifts will help keep students in school/college? Are there even more specific examples of how gifts can help in these times? A Gonser Gerber client recently communicated that annual fund gifts would help purchase items that their students could otherwise not afford because of the economic disruption (examples from meals to yearbooks were cited as ways the annual fund could come to the rescue).

The main encouragement is this: continue to ask for support. Donors want to be the heroes in this moment. Help them understand how they can do so at your institution.

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