Addressing Your First World Problem

We’ve faced our share of adversity these last 10 months – some have faced more challenges than others. But usually, when adversity surfaces, a silver lining does as well.

What’s the silver lining in our work this year? I submit annual gift support.

For those continuing to invite annual support regularly and unapologetically, the response has been positive. Overwhelmingly so in many cases.

In a time that is difficult for some and disruptive for many, we’re seeing increases in year-to-date support for our clients when compared to last year. Some are reporting record totals. Heck, an institution I’m working with has already reached its annual giving goal for the year, and their fiscal year doesn’t end until June 30!

It’s been heartwarming to see donors step forward as the hero of the moment.

But now a first-world problem has presented itself, and this question is creeping into the minds of annual giving directors everywhere: How will we do this again next year?!”

It’s a good problem to have, right? But it’s a challenge that looms.

Encouragingly, donors appear ready to give even more in 2021 – by nearly 14 percent compared to their average gift last year.

Even so, you’re wise to identify strategies now to address this challenge. Here are two you might consider.

Find a Champion

As you finish your year strong and obliterate any past annual giving total on record, can you identify someone (or several “someones”) who can be an annual giving champion next year? More specifically, can this potential champion(s) offer a significant gift for next year that can be formed into a donor challenge to your constituents?

“Match your gift from last year and unlock an additional $xx for our students.” Or, “Increase last year’s gift…” if you want your donor’s challenge to inspire higher levels of giving.

Challenge gifts may seem “old school,” but they are tried-and-true. And in our firm’s experience, they work every time.

 Recognize and Reward Loyalty

 Do you have a loyalty program as part of your annual giving plan?

An institution I work with has a “True Blue” designation available to their donors as they consider their annual gift (blue is a key institutional color). They’re recognized as being “True Blue” if they give 10% or more than the amount they gave last year. Each direct mail piece and every online giving form has a box to check to say, “Yes, I am True Blue” for those responding with gifts of 10% or more than last year.

Can you inspire your donors to be “True Blue” next year? (Work with your marketing/communication team to find a descriptor that works best for you.)

As you begin to think about your annual giving plan for next year, you might consider combining the two strategies in this way: 1) a donor challenge to your leadership donors ($1,000+), and 2) a loyalty incentive to all donors.


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