4 fundraising lessons we learned in March

Here are four takeaways we learned last month:

A good story puts a face with a cause and, in doing so, generates a positive feeling among donors

People are more likely to give when they identify, and understand, who or what will be impacted by their gift. That’s why GoFundMe’s platform encourages fundraisers to focus on the story behind their campaign, starting with the title that they use. “Make it short, descriptive, inspiring, and easy-to-find when people search online,” GoFundMe’s tips suggest, adding “If appropriate, also make it funny and personable.” When it comes to the story itself, GoFundMe suggests fundraisers make their pitch “easy to skim,” to paint a personal and compelling picture that answers the basic questions that a donor might want to know, such as who the fundraiser is for, what happened, and how the funds will be used. Successful GoFundMe fundraisers are encouraged to take the extra step to read their story aloud to help them consider whether it will inspire empathy and compel someone to give. These are all classic pieces of advice that direct mail experts have been giving to clients for decades. Some institutions have taken note of this lesson on their crowdfunding pages. For example, University of Texas at Austin’s Horn Raiser page offers a wealth of content for donors to find a funds or initiative that interests them.

Learn more lessons from GoFundMe’s fundraising success, by clicking here.


The approach that most independent schools take to major gifts carries significant long-term costs

Too often independent schools take a “tent-like” approach to major gifts. They use their campaign budgets to put stakes in the ground and build a major gifts program immediately before a campaign. The program remains in place until the campaign ends, then they fold up the tent, because its funding source—the campaign—dries up. As a result, schools often fail to secure many, if any, major gifts between campaigns. This dearth of major gifts can then lead to chief financial officers and finance committees pointing to a lack of major gift fundraising to argue against investing in the program—and this cycle repeats!

Learn best practices on building a major gifts program at independent schools, by clicking here.


Leadership annual giving enables an institution to build meaningful relationships with donors

The J. Paul Getty Trust is the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to the visual arts. Its museums—Getty Center and Getty Villa—are free, which is one reason that it decided against developing a membership model as it sought to identify ways for the institution to engage its surrounding community and build a donor pool. Instead, it spent roughly two years developing a leadership annual giving program structure and format that the institution’s small team could use to develop meaningful relationships with donors, said Janet Feldstein McKillop, Vice President, Development in a GG+A webinar. That deliberative process enabled it to build institutional buy-in, learn best practices from peer institutions, and put those lessons to work in a way that would enable its community to help support the institution’s conservation work and special projects. Investing time to identify its opportunity and plan set the institution’s leadership annual giving program up for success, she said.

Learn more about building a leadership annual giving program, by clicking here.


Trustees need to set the fundraising pace at independent schools

Regardless of whether an independent school is a campaign, an institution’s board of trustees should play a crucial role in the success of its fundraising. The strongest programs often generate one-third or more of their philanthropic revenue from board members. Frequently it is a board member who makes the cornerstone gift in a building campaign or an endowment effort.

Learn more about what independent school board best practices, by clicking here.


Access more GG+A thought leadership content by clicking here.

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