3 steps to acquiring new donors

by Stephen Tall on February 22, 2012

Last Friday’s Guardian-hosted #HElivechat on the role of the philanthropy in universities, on which I was one of the virtual panellists, covered a range of issues.

The single biggest issue for new development offices eager to start delivering a return on investment to their university is… “How do we start to build our number of donors?” Here’s one of the questions that was asked:

As an institution new to Development (I have been in post for one year) we have missed the boat with regards to the matched funding scheme. This means that we can [sic] use this as an incentive to engage new donors.

With that in mind I am interested to hear what advice the more established institutions among us would give with regards to initial messages to alumni and friends regarding fundraising.

Having spent a year getting our house in order (internal processes etc) we are now in a position to start putting fundraising messages out there, both widely, in relation to our new annual fund and also on a much smaller scale to a few selected potential prospects.

It would be great to get your thoughts on taking that step from planning to fundraise as an institution to actually doing it!!

Here’s the advice I offered:

Three quick thoughts:

1) Identify and approach a potential new matching funder from among your alumni/supporters — someone who is prepared to match new alumni gifts to your annual fund. This can be very attractive to a major donor because they see their support leveraging additional funding.

2) Then work out a matching scheme that will incentivise alumni to make their first gift (always the hardest to get!) — you might skew it so that a modest gift of £20 would be worth x3 tha amount after Gift Aid and the match, whereas a donor willing to give £250 would only get a small additional match (as they’re clearly motivated already).

3) Ask, ask and ask again through every avilable medium! It’s still the case that the single biggest reason alumni don’t give is that they’re not asked.