Do giving societies work? The simple answer is yes. We live in a world where many societies or membership programs are transactional; if you make a gift at a certain level or pay for a subscription, you will receive tickets to special events or a special gift in the mail.
Colleges and universities may use this tactic for people who want to attend sporting, arts, or other cultural events. These types of giving society benefits focus on acquiring access.
These transactional giving societies may focus on lifetime memberships or special benefits that take more staff time.
Giving Societies as part of an annual direct mail appeal works differently. Giving society benefits can be found as part of giving tiers. These types of giving societies focus on loyal donors who want to help make things possible for the nonprofit mission; these are more transformational.
Think of names like friend, President’s circle, or platinum-level supporter. Giving tiers help motivate loyal donors simply by marketing the names of the giving society with no additional perks.
The annual appeal letter should focus on how wonderful the donor is and help them understand what they have made possible. This is a shift in focus for some nonprofits, but annual giving letters that are heartfelt and make the donor the story’s hero are proven to raise more money.
Promoting Giving Society Benefits
Staff members should remember what loyal donors care about when promoting giving societies. Keep in mind these reasons donors give.
1. They want to belong.
2. They want to see their values in action.
3. They want to be around others with similar values.
4. They want to be around other generous givers.
5. They want to feel needed.
6. They want to feel appreciated.
Giving society members may choose a giving tier because other generous givers have chosen this level, and they want to join them. Donors can have a sense of belonging by simply having the benefit of a giving tier name.
They may satisfy this need to belong by stating they are in the President’s circle or Heritage club of your nonprofit.
The giving tier can be promoted in a segmented ask in the annual appeal letter. Fundraising staff can say something like “as one of our most generous donors” for those in the major donor segment or “as part of our President’s circle” for those previously part of a giving society.
The segmented ask does not refer to the dollar amount; a personalized ask string should be left for the pledge card.
The segments that should be included when promoting a giving society are current members, lapsed members, and prospective members of that giving society.
How do I know which loyal donors to promote giving societies to?
When promoting giving tiers to donors, select donors just below a giving society tier. For example, if the President’s Circle starts at a $1,000 gift, look for donors who gave $750-$999 last year or in previous years.
Let the segmented portion of the letter help elevate their sights and invite them to give just a bit more. Remember that you want to leave the ask open-ended on the pledge card for major donors but provide a personalized ask string for all other donors.
An app like AskGenius can help you set personalized ask strings for every donor without all the headaches of manual calculations.
Should our nonprofit list the names of donors in our annual report?
Listing donors in an annual report can be risky. There will likely be an error in the spelling of a donor’s name, or someone will be missed.
While a giving society honors those important donors, listing names may have the opposite effect if your data is not clean. Consider the pros and cons of listing donors in an annual report, on your website, or plaques on the wall.
Learn more about giving society benefits.
To learn more about the benefits of giving societies and how to promote them in annual direct mail appeals, check out this webinar: Do Giving Societies Work? The team at Prenger Solutions Group discusses tried-and-true methods for using giving tiers to elevate annual appeals.