Rethink Your Fundraising Strategy; It’s Not Only About the Big Gifts

Christina Balotescu

February 12, 2014

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Years ago this article, “It’s Not All About Major Gifts. 10 Ways to Succeed With Small Gift Fundraising.” caught my eye, because 360Alumni has supported this message for quite some time. Is your university so focused on catching big fish that young alumni who could double your proceeds in future years are neglected?

When working with a limited budget, it’s tempting to focus only on large potential donors. Perhaps they’ve given in the past, or strongly indicated their affinity for your school. But the fact is, these individuals will not be around forever. A more sound strategy is to focus some effort on the big fish, but also to nurture those individuals that willingly and continually give small gifts year after year. Many of these individuals will continue to excel, and eventually have more disposable income. If you cultivate relationships with them now, they’ll likely consider your university for donations in the future. Keeping with the fish metaphor, don’t neglect the guppies.

How to Cultivate More Small Gifts from Alumni

  1. Offer the ability to donate anytime and anywhere. If possible make sure your site is mobile optimized.
  2. Keep the donation process as simple as possible.  More steps equals more abandonment.
  3. Suggest multiple donation levels on your online campaign donation pages. For example, $5, $10, $25, $100, and ‘Other’. That way no donors are turned off, and everyone feels they have been considered.
  4. Make all your donors feel like big shots. Even if they have only given $20, be sure to send a thank you letter. Ensure you capture contact information when users donate, so you can stay in touch.
  5. Ask whether the donor’s employer has a matching gift program. This can spur donations, as alumni will know their gift has made double the impact. Some companies require a minimum donation to match. This too can work in your favor.

Set up the Right Infrastructure & Promotion Plans

In order to make a small gift strategy work for your institution, there are several things to keep in mind.

  1. There must be an online platform available through which to run campaigns. Studies have shown that online donors give more in the long term.
  2. Have multiple, small campaigns running at one time. The annual fund can seem irrelevant to younger alumni, and many alumni are uncomfortable not knowing what their donation will be used for. By running small campaigns simultaneously (i.e. for student competitions, sports teams, department fundraisers, etc.) you can appeal to a larger audience.
  3. Promote these small campaigns socially. The majority of your marketing dollars can be used to catch the big fish, but social and guerrilla marketing can win you the small fry.

Want to ensure your university isn't turning off donors? 360Alumni allows for unlimited campaigns, targeted email marketing, and follow up analytics. Schedule a demo today!

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