Prospective donors increasingly fail to give without an incentive for doing so. Yet offering a physical object as a reward for giving may run afoul of some institution’s culture or anger donors who do not want to see their dollars spent on tchotchkes.
Tokens of appreciation may also counterproductively teach donors to ignore appeals that do not have rewards, ultimately undermining retention. Still, advancement leaders know that their non-incentive appeals perform more poorly than their incentive-based counterparts.
The practice: No-cost experiential rewards
Advancements leaders who want to offer donors an incentive to give but feel uncomfortable with give-to-get should consider incentives without the transaction. Wake Forest University launched a non-transactional, wholly digital incentive campaign in February 2016 that offered young alumni donors the chance to win “naming rights for the rest of us.”
Every week during the campaigns, donors were entered into a raffle to have their names attached to small, humorous campus landmarks. These included a flat speed bump, a tulip in a landscaped median, and the skillet that the dining hall chef uses when he prepares students’ meals.
Winners of naming rights had their names printed on small signs that student photographers captured next to the designated location. Advancement staff uploaded these pictures to social media and to the campaign’s landing page.
The campaign generated impressive engagement among young alumni. Nearly all of the 10,000 visitors to the landing page had never before visited the university’s giving page.
On top of that, the campaign boosted gifts to the institution during a notoriously slow time of year. Donors increased by 32% and dollars increased by 80% over the previous year.
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The blind spot in many student success initiatives—and what one school did about it