Last week I got a call from the Institutional Advancement office of Creighton University, my alma mater.  Readers of this blog may recall that I recently mused about needing to get an Annual Fund pledge in before Creighton’s June 30 fiscal year-end. I had finally mailed it so I wasn’t surprised that they might be calling to thank me. I was, however, shocked to hear the Gift Officer explain that she would be in my area this week and was hoping to get together and chat over a cup of coffee.

Now, I didn’t fall off of the proverbial turnip truck yesterday. I’ve been a development professional for decades—I know a solicitation tactic when I get one! And, for a brief moment, it crossed my mind that, this person might actually be interested in talking to me about planned giving! Just because I happen to be turning 55 this week, have been supporting Creighton for many years and obviously have a strong interest in them, couldn’t mean I was old enough to be a planned gift prospect…..could it?!

I quickly put that idea out of my head and turned my thoughts to why in the world she wanted to talk to me. While I’ve been a loyal donor, my giving amounts have been lackluster at best. For all practical purposes, I was the picture of a plateau: while I had increased it slightly, my giving wasn’t going anywhere fast, mostly because I hadn’t been encouraged to do so. So I figured I was simply a “filler” appointment; the kind we development types set up when there isn’t anyone better to see.

I was looking forward to the meeting. It’s fun to be on the other side of the table for a change, not having to worry about details such as names, giving history or employment information. All I had to do was show up.

The conversation was easy and pleasant. We covered the usual stuff: family, career, etc.  Of course, the discussion eventually turned to my giving. The gift officer noted its longevity, while I mildly joked about its somewhat paltry level. At that point she took advantage of the opportunity to invite me to consider joining the Creighton Society, a recognition club for donors of $1000+. She thoroughly presented options for gift designations, carefully assessing if I had any preferences, and made it clear that Creighton would deeply appreciate my consideration.

Wow! Be careful what you wish for: an hour earlier I was thankful to be on the “other side of the table”. Now I was the focus of exactly the strategy I routinely preach to my clients: Target your best prospects for upgrades to $1000, typically identified by past consistent giving of $200 or so and some indication of greater potential.  And, make the invitation special—don’t rely on a direct mail request. In other words, if you want major donor behavior, you first need to provide major donor treatment. By personally inviting my participation at this significantly higher level, the gift officer was definitely doing that.

So…now I have a decision to make. Will I do it or not? I haven’t decided yet, but one thing I can assure you: I will give them more than I gave last year, which, ultimately, is a win in anyone’s book.

Are you effectively inviting loyal benefactors to upgrade to $1000? If not, maybe you should be. One thing is certain: you have little to lose by asking!

I would love to hear your gift upgrade stories. Post a comment or email me at laura.worcester@blackbaud.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Worcester, senior consultant at Target Analytics, joined Blackbaud in 2001.In her current role she advises nonprofits on utilizing screening results in identifying and evaluating best donor prospects. In 25+ years of fundraising experience, Laura has served as the chief advancement officer for numerous organizations and managed her own consulting business, providing grant writing services to arts, educational and health care organizations. She’s presented at development conferences and has been a regular contributor to Blackbaud’s blogs with selected posts being reprinted in journals such the NonProfit Times. A traveler since her study abroad days in Denmark, Laura’s committed to passing this enthusiasm on to her teenage daughters. Her family’s travel adventures were just featured in a neighborhood magazine in her suburban Milwaukee community. Contact Laura by email.

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