Giving Society Generate Leadership Gifts

Giving by individuals was up more than 6 percent during 2014 and another 4.1 percent for 2015, according to Giving USA. Donors gave more of their disposable incomes than before the Great Recession.

“Flat is the new up…” is over or now and it’s clear that individuals cannot be overlooked as a significant source of philanthropic growth. As individuals continue to increase their giving, we have to meet their expectations, said Leslie Renner, director of individual giving and corporate partnerships at Girls Inc., in New York City.

During a session at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference, “Engaging Champions: Building a Mission-Based Leadership Giving Society,” Renner shared the process of forming and implementing Champions for Girls, a leadership giving society that recognizes annual donors of $1,000 or more.

Many nonprofits — United Way, American Diabetes Association, American Red Cross — offer donor recognition societies that look and feel much like the experience donors have with arts and cultural organizations and their college or university.

Renner reminded participants that this strategy is to connect with the core donor population and should reinforce organization-wide messaging.
“It is easy to turn your mission-based giving levels into a shopping list, but it really should extend your case for support and educate donors about what leadership gifts accomplish… not buy.”

Amy Dillon, CEO of the Girls Inc., affiliate in Shelbyville, Ind., who co-presented with Renner, said her board members are better prepared to solicit and steward donors with the formal structure that the giving society provides. Many have hosted gatherings to introduce others to Champions for Girls and the impact of giving to Girls Inc.

Other ideas shared:
* Invest time in stewarding potential leadership level donors with the same engagement as current leadership level donors to strengthen the case for increased giving;
* Send quarterly impact reports to all current and potential leadership donors to send the message that they are “insiders” to the organization;
* Integrate leadership giving solicitations, especially when the program is new, into the in-room ask at special events to rapidly increase participation;

Since the implementation of Champions for Girls two years ago, there has been significant increase at the national level, going from almost 200 to nearly 300 in leadership donors, as donors recognize the collective power they have in the organization.