It’s that time of the year – time for the annual fund appeal mailing. What will we do different this year to bring up our donation and participation rates? How will we achieve our goals, especially when the results from years past have been mediocre at best?
We could go through the motions again. But, as with anything, you can’t do things the same way and expect different results. Maybe if we expand our mailing list or write a more creative, catchy letter we’ll get a better response. These are some good ideas, don’t get me wrong. But there’s got to be a better way, right?!?
Absolutely! But, it’s radical – at least for my institution, and maybe for some of your organizations as well. Create a donor pipeline. That’s the answer – in 4 simple words!
The words are simple, but putting this concept into action is another matter altogether.
It all starts with current students – this is where the philanthropic seed is planted. We all want our institutions to have a robust culture of philanthropy, but we often forget to plant the seed, relying instead on our more established alumni to donate. Today’s students are participating in community service and outreach at many other organizations, but often don’t even hear about their alma mater’s annual fund until after they graduate. That could be too late! While they’re still students, it just makes sense to start instilling the importance and value of philanthropy at their own institution.
While researching this subject I found that some institutions are way ahead of the curve. It’s evident that they acknowledged the importance of the donor pipeline and have made it a priority in their development efforts.
The University of Houston has a robust student philanthropy program. If you need some great ideas, check out their site. It starts with an explanation of philanthropy and how each student has benefited from other people’s donations. In fact they have a link to EXACTLY where the money comes from to run the university, and how much is needed each year in private support from donations and charitable gifts. One thing students understand (and expect) are the FACTS! Some of their projects include Cougar Cents, Cougar Graduation Challenge, and Philanthropy Awareness Day. All great ideas to create awareness and get their students involved.
Illinois State University’s student giving program started in 2007 and has been evolving ever since. Today it is an integral part of their Educating Illinois strategic plan. They found that students aren’t unwilling to invest in their university, they just don’t know the needs and opportunities. An integral part in fostering a culture of giving begins with educating students that every gift – no matter the amount – makes a difference.
Student philanthropy is just the first step in the donor pipeline! What have you done to plant the seed? Let me know by leaving a comment below.