Getting alumni donors into the pattern of true annual giving (as opposed to “I thought I gave last year but actually last gave in 2007”) is a feat that challenges even the best advancement offices. “Loyalty giving recognition” is a strategy that brings success for some programs and nothing more than administrative headaches for others.
Drawing on a wealth of data from Royall’s higher education partner institutions, we have identified three top program tactics to maximize donor loyalty opportunities.
1. Don’t wait to recognize current donors
Many Advancement programs don’t start recognizing annual donors until those donors reach their five-year anniversary—and sometimes even their ten-year anniversary. But there’s very little to lose by rewarding three years of consecutive giving with membership in a special society for loyal donors.
Not only does this three-year goal seem more immediate and attainable for your newer donors, it also lets your Advancement team use society membership as a “hook” when talking to donors who are in their second year of giving.
2. Teach your youngest alumni to be loyal
In addition to recognizing three-year consecutive donors, we suggest that you also recognize alumni who have given consistently since graduation. This has proved to be one of the most effective ways to help build a culture of “every year, any amount” giving among young alumni.
For schools with a student philanthropy program, using senior gift communications to educate outgoing students about loyalty recognition helps reinforce their understanding that a yearly gift of any amount will be valued.
3. Don’t hesitate to send reminders
Many schools have a loyalty recognition program buried in some deep recess of their Advancement page, but few seem to have made it onto the radar of the typical alumni donor.
Be sure to highlight your program. Segment those alumni who are currently eligible for the donor society both to communicate your undying love and appreciation for them and to remind them to make their gifts before the end of your fiscal year. Successful Royall-partner annual giving programs typically use strategic segmentation and variable copy capabilities to remind donors to renew so that they will not lose their loyalty recognition at the end of the year.
For donors on the cusp of loyalty recognition, sending out a single piece focused on the loyalty society is not enough. Instead, use your calendar year-end and fiscal year-end communications to target these donors for special reminders that express your appreciation for their past—and, if they’d like to join the special society of yearly donors, future—contributions.
Ultimately, the sign of a mature, healthy annual giving program is one in which the majority of donors fall into the multi-year (3+ consecutive years) category. These strategies will help you build an effective loyalty recognition program that can get you in front of your donors in a way that nudges them to support their alma mater, year after year.