20 Mar Should We Raise the Minimum Gift for Our Top Donor Society?
by David Allen, Development for Conservation
Over the weekend, Julie S. posted the following question to the Land Trust Alliance Learning Center:
Because our land trust and budget have grown significantly over the past ten years, we would like to raise the minimum gift for our top donor society which currently starts at $1,000. The vast majority of our top donors are stuck at this $1,000 entry level and we’ve had trouble moving them up. The one and only tangible benefit of being in this society is an invitation to our annual top donor society.
We are considering raising the minimum gift to $1,500 or possibly even higher.
Among other things, I am not sure if I want to rebrand the whole top donor society, if and how I want to differentiate the $1,000 donor level and how much warning I should give those in this society about the level increase.
I will respond to Julie’s question on that forum, but I thought it was a better topic than the one I had picked out for this week, so I’ll use it here as well.
Donors DO get stuck on certain numbers – $100 and $1,000 are pretty common. Why do they get stuck there and what can we do about it?
Frankly, they get stuck because they are comfortable and unchallenged at that level. We become “one of their $1,000 charities.” To get donors to move off of their chosen level, we have to first understand that it is their level as much as it is ours, and we have to give them a reason to move.
There is an assumption behind Julie’s question that is worth examining: That there is an exchange relationship that exists now between what donors give ($1,000) and what they get (an invitation to our annual top donor society). To get donors to give more, we need to raise the price.
I would offer a different point of view.
Donor’s annual gifts are just that – gifts. Membership in the top donor society should not “cost” $1,000. That will get people stuck. Membership in the top donor society should come with a threshold gift of $1,000, but the actual gifts might come in a range extending to $2,500, $5,000, $10,.000, and even $25,000. You will get people moving up the ladder by asking them to in a very direct way.
In the same way that you ask $35 members to consider a gift this year of $50, $100, $250 or Other;
In the same way that you ask $50 members to consider a gift this year of $100, $250, $500 or Other;
In the same way that you ask $100 members to consider a gift this year of $250, $500, $1,000 or Other;
You can also ask $1,000 members to consider a gift this year of $1,500, $2,500, $5,000 or Other.
Your donors will say YES to such requests because:
- You build personal relationships with them to help them see tangible results from their annual giving;
- You ask them in a very personal way – in fact, in person if at all possible; and
- You include a list of current donors in the solicitation materials – broken out by giving level, of course.
I would also offer the following three tactics:
Use a 10% increase request. Instead of asking donors to go from $1,000 to $2,500, ask them to “increase by 10%” in the letter and then list $1,100 as one of the response card options. It will be easier psychologically for donors to move from $1,100 to $2,500 than to make that same leap from $1,000.
Use a matching gift incentive. For every new $2,500 donor, the increased amount will be matched dollar for dollar. This is a perfect way to use aggregated Board giving.
Use your organizational Strategic Plan: Survey your membership and interview top donor society members in the early stages of the planning. Then take the draft plan back out to the top donor society members. Tell them how important their input was to the process. Tell them how excited you are about the organizational direction in the next few years. And ask them to “invest” in that direction by considering a three-year pledge of an amount greater than, perhaps double, what they were giving before.
Regardless – to get back to Julie’s question:
- DON’T increase the “price.”
- DON’T rebrand the giving club.
- DO regularly ask for “upgrades” in giving by asking for very specific increases in person, if at all possible.
- DO include the names of other donors, broken out by giving level, in the renewal solicitation materials.
You will still get donors “stuck” on certain levels, but you’ll have people moving up, too.
And both are probably OK.
Cheers, and Have a great week!
Photo by Welington Cabral courtesy of Stocksnap.io.