Effectively Using Giving Societies and Donor Clubs – (Part II)

This is the final part of a two part series on using donor clubs to raise more money at your non-profit.  In Part I, we looked at what giving societies and donor clubs are and how they should be used.  In this part, you’ll learn how to set up successful giving societies at your organization.

Setting the Giving Levels

The first step in creating well-run donor clubs at your organization is to set the giving level(s) for your club or clubs.  As you think through these target levels, you’ll want to be sure that you have enough current prospects in each level to make the club worth your time and energy.

For example, if you currently have 100 donors in the $1-$1,000 range 40 donors in the $1,000 – $5,000 range, and 8 donors in the $5,000+ range, you probably don’t need a giving club for those giving $25,000 or more per year… at least not yet.

When setting your giving levels, make them large enough that they encompass a wide group of donors / potential donors, but small enough that they still seem exclusive.  For the organization above, this might mean having a donor club at the $1,000+ level and another at the $5,000+ level, but not setting up a club for donors $5-$5,000, which is too large a swath of donors to maintain exclusivity.

Defining Benefits

For each donor club / giving level, the organization should offer a range of benefits that serve to both recognize the donor for his or her support as well as to continue cultivating the donor for future gifts.  Some common giving society benefits include:

  • Invitations to exclusive events
  • Member-only newsletters, magazines, and reports
  • Special lapel pins or buttons
  • Recognition in the annual report, on the website, etc.

The benefits you offer should be related to your organization and to the donor, but you should feel free to be creative about what you give your club members.

Naming the Clubs / Levels

Each giving society / donor club level should have a name.  The best types of club names are those that relate to your mission (e.g. for a scholarship fund, you could have groups called Educators, Scholars, Professors, Learning Partners, etc.)

Other popular ways to name donor clubs are using the names of past leaders of the non-profit or founding board members, or using standard naming conventions like “Friend of…”  “Chairman’s Circle…”  etc.)

Launching Your Clubs

When launching your giving clubs, it is important to remember that one of the main goals of these groups is to encourage your donors to stretch a little to reach the next giving level.

When you launch your clubs, my suggestion is that you ask those that are already giving at that level (but who are not close to another, higher level) to become the “Founding Members” or “Charter Members” of that club.  Consider appointing an honorary chairperson from among these first members to serve a one year term as the head of that donor club.

Then, approach those donors who are giving slightly below the club level and “invite” them to become members by upgrading their gift.   As with all asks, the best way to solicit a giving club gift is to ask in person.  The next best way is by phone, followed by a snail mail letter / invitation.

Giving clubs work very well for annual funds and general giving to non-profits, as well as for capital, endowment, and other campaigns.  But remember… donor clubs take work.  You must constantly be asking prospects to join, cultivating members, and upgrading members to higher levels.

Using Giving Societies and Clubs to Retain and Upgrade Donors

The prime reasons for using giving societies and donor clubs at a non-profit are to (a) retain donors and (b) upgrade them to new levels.  If your non-profit isn’t doing this as part of its donor club effort, then you’re not getting everything you can out of this fundraising tactic.

Use giving societies to retain donors by offering your club members constant cultivation and recognition.  Make them feel special and part of your “team” because of their membership.  Offer members a dedicated donor representative or a direct line to the Executive Director, particularly at higher giving levels.

Similarly, use donor clubs to upgrade your donors by regularly scouring your club lists to see which donors might be ready to move up a level.  Spend extra time cultivating those donors, then make a clear and concrete ask for an upgrade.  I have found that giving club members are much more likely to say “yes” to an upgrade ask then non-members, if they have the capacity to give at that level.

If you’re not using giving societies and donor clubs at your non-profit, consider adding them to your fundraising mix for the coming year.

Photo Credit: Cushing Memorial Library, Texas A&M


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