14 Tips on Developing a Nonprofit Giving Society for Your Fundraising Program
A nonprofit giving society offers an organization an excellent way to cultivate, steward and upgrade donors—which not only increases retention rates, but also boosts the lifetime value of those donors to your organization.
A giving society can take your fund development program to the next level by providing a special place for current and prospective donors to belong in your organization. It does that by building a "tribe" of loyal and supportive members.
Some giving societies focus on level, monthly, major and legacy donors. Generally, nonprofits set up various groups at different giving levels and offer corresponding benefits to group members. The following will help.
Step No. 1: Develop and Solidify Membership Levels, Benefits of the Giving Society
Focus on creating transformative member experiences, instead of emphasizing membership benefits that are transactional in nature (e.g. guest passes, discount at the gift shop, etc.). Think creatively and expansively about the hands-on benefits that you can offer to your donors.
Step No. 2: Develop Effective Giving Society Member Materials, Publications
Determine if an “exclusive” giving society publication (e.g. newsletter, e-newsletter or other similar publication) is necessary and of value. Consider a giving society membership “Welcome Kit.” Also, consider special inserts to existing publications promoting giving society membership.
Step No. 3: Develop a Process of Society Renewals Each Year
Focus on maintaining retention and upgrading and preventing membership lapses. Each renewal segment should be considered a mini-campaign with its own timelines and benchmarks.
Step No. 4: Monitor Progress Yearly and Develop Specialized Renewal Process for Lapsed Giving
Personalized approaches may include a telephone call, personalized letter or e-mail from the executive director or another staff member. Lapsed segments can be defined as “recent” (expired six to 18 months) or “vintage” (expired more than 18 months).
Step No. 5: Identify Members, Donors Who Can Be Targeted for Potential Upgrades to Higher Levels Each Year
Develop segmented personalized approaches. Follow up with prospective members who may qualify for the giving society through a variety of personal approaches (e.g. telephone call, email, etc.).
Step No. 6: Identify Special Event Donors
These, including corporations, may qualify for giving society membership or use it as a tool to inspire their giving. Consider specialized outreach approaches to special event attendees before, during and after those events. Build a membership recruitment component into existing and future special events.
Step No. 7: Identify Donors, Members on the Cusp of Qualifying for Membership Via Cumulative Giving or Other Qualifications
Develop segmented, personalized approaches to inspire upgrading to reach the giving society membership level benchmark. Follow up with prospective donors through a variety of personal approaches (e.g. telephone call, email, etc.).
Step No. 8: Solicit Giving Society Members as Part of Annual Fund Special Appeals
This gives members an opportunity to give again throughout the year. Appeals should be highly personalized, recognizing their giving society membership and the important role they play within the organization.
Step No. 9: Use Gatherings, Receptions to Create Exclusivity, Inspiration for Prospects to Become Engaged
It starts with personalized follow-up after events, with the aim of deepening support of your organization in a more transformative way, and then staying in touch in an equally meaningful way with personal calls and other focused communications.
Step No.10: Develop Corresponding Appeals
Make sure these appeals have consistent messaging for social media and online via the organization's website. The goal is to promote giving society membership and its benefits. Consider providing an Information Capture Request Form on the website for society membership inquiries. Respond to inquiries as needed.
Step No. 11: Utilize the Giving Membership Society as a Way to Inspire Major Gifts
Make giving society membership a “tool,” while personally soliciting a major gift.
Step No. 12: Consider Developing a Sustainer Program
This gives members the option of pledging their gift and providing the organization with a constant (perhaps on a monthly basis) and secure cash flow. Monthly donors are the donors with the highest retention rates and with the largest long-term donor value. Monthly donors also become the most likely planned gift prospects.
Step No. 13: Develop Specialized Recognition Opportunities
It should include recognition events and other opportunities to honor the loyal support of giving society members, such as inclusion in annual report listings, special plaques, etc.
Step No. 14: Develop Key Metrics
This is a critical aspect of your program, as it will enable you to analyze and make decisions on strategy based on past and current results. Metrics should include goals for increasing membership, renewals, retention, upgrades, inquiries, etc.
Robin Cabral is “Hire a CFRE!” the one and only outsourced development professional with close to 25 years experience providing value-added consulting services with razor-sharp monthly result objectives and benchmarked deliverables.
She works with mid-sized nonprofits that want to position themselves to build capacity and generate more fundraising prospects, better donor relationships, and bigger fundraising dollars. She specializes in providing outsourced, interim development services and assisting smaller organizations in their first campaigns (annual, capital, and endowment).
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