The 4-Quadrant Theory for Gift-Club Success
Have you ever been responsible for the creation or expansion of a major-gift club at your institution? If so, you understand the importance a gift club can play in the life of any organization.
Many individuals use a passive approach when dealing with a major-gift club. Typically, if a donor gives the amount to qualify for membership, he or she is sent a token of appreciation in the mail. In fact, many gift clubs not only send a thank-you letter, but also send a certificate of membership via the mail. If you received this in the mail without any human contact, would you hang the certificate on the wall, provided it included a frame for hanging? I do not think so.
When I became major-gift director at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, I was charged with expansion of a major-gift club. One month before my arrival, my boss hosted a dinner for approximately 30 people to welcome them in a major-gift club called the Seton Society. Elizabeth Seton was the patron saint of the Daughters of Charity. Donors who attended the dinner received a beautiful glass-inscribed bowl with the hospital logo on it. These individuals had given or pledged $10,000 or more to the hospital, and they were, in effect, a charter class of members. My new role was to build the membership of this new gift club.
I loved the challenge of creating a new gift club. I decided to create a new Seton Society Committee consisting of Seton Society members. This committee would meet for one year and was divided into four parts representing the four functions I established for the committee. I purposely kept the committee membership to 12-15 members and always sought to recruit new members from the newest Seton Society members. I found that brand-new donors were always the most excited about the organization. The four-quadrant theory represented having one activity each quarter during the fiscal year that would appeal to various Society members.
The four elements that I employed during each fiscal year, which began July 1, were the annual recognition event, annual membership drive, annual volunteer activity and annual "wild-card" event. The annual recognition event was a dinner in which several hundred people attended. I used that dinner as a platform for the hospital president and foundation leaders to talk about progress, plus give annual volunteer awards to members of the Society.
The annual membership drive consisted of me training a large number of members to recruit new members. This involved fundraising priority information-sharing and prospect analysis. The annual volunteer event involved such things as families of Society members cleaning a yard, delivering meals to people in need or working on a community activity. The wild card event included taking donors to the children's museum, Indianapolis 500 race track, zoo, etc. I also created a beautiful recognition board for members in the front entrance of the hospital.
Over time, the Seton Society became well-known, and several hundred people became permanent members. The club became the focal point for the fundraising program. For several years, I had featured speakers at the dinner such as Andrew Young and Cokie Roberts. At other times, the dinner focused on entertainment that included such acts as Johnny Rivers, Gary Puckett and the Temptations. The committee worked with me to "own" the Seton Society concept.
This gift-club concept works well if you keep the premise simple and focus on one gift club for development. While you may not need all four quadrants in your plan, you should try promoting a gift club with your organization. This club began as a focal point for the hospital and generated several million dollars over time to assist thousands of people engaged in the health care system. Development of this concept isn't easy, but it's well worth it!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.