Add a tribute gift strategy to your fundraising plan

Over the last few days, Team Obama has come under some mocking scrutiny from media outlets. While Mitt Romney has been cultivating and stewarding fundraising “bundlers,” the President’s team launch a new online wedding registration for couples who want to encourage tribute gifts to their campaign. Of course, the harsh critique springs from the comparison of fundraising strategies. The Romney strategy will literally net hundreds of millions of dollars, and the Obama strategy might bring in thousands of dollars.

Most non-profit organizations don’t have hundreds of fundraising “bundlers” at their disposal, but many of the fundraising professionals who I know are always looking around for good ideas to add to their fundraising plan. In spite of the harsh critique, I think the Obama campaign’s focus on tribute gifts might be something many non-profit organizations can replicate.

In my opinion, this fundraising strategy works for the following reasons:

  1. People like to be honored by their friends and family. It makes them feel good.
  2. Most Americans own too much “stuff” and don’t have space for more “stuff”.
  3. People like to know that they were involved in doing something that benefits the greater good.

Unlike the Obama campaign’s strategy of focusing on weddings, tribute gifts can come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. In fact, the following are just a few ideas that some non-profit organizations are asking their supporters to donate towards in someone’s honor:

  • birthday
  • anniversary
  • new baby
  • thank you
  • holidays

I am sure that your organization can get really creative, especially if you enlist the help of your resource development committee or a focus group of donors to help with the brainstorming.

The following are just a few good examples of non-profit organizations who have already added this fundraising tool to their toolbox:

It is important to remember that tribute gifts are not quite the same as regular contributions to your annual campaign. In addition to sending acknowledgement letters to those who make the contributions, you need to send a nice letter to the person who is being honored. It is also customary to tell the honoree the names and addresses of those who made a contribution in their name so that they can also follow-up with a personal note of appreciation.

I also suggest that you consult your donor database manual before embarking on a tribute gift strategy. Every software program that I’ve seen deals with this type of contribution a little differently, and it is important that you appease your technology platform.    🙂

If you’re still skeptical that anyone would ever do such a thing, please take my word that some people get really excited by this kind of opportunity. When my partner and I celebrated our civil union, we rented out a local restaurant and invited 100 of our closest friends and family and begged them not to bring gifts. Instead, we asked everyone to please make a tribute gift to Equality Illinois in honor of our commitment to each other. I must admit that I was a little skeptical, but in the end we ended up raising more than $5,000 for our charity of choice.

Does your organization have a tribute gift strategy? If so, how do you let donors know that this is an opportunity? Is it a stand alone strategy or is it woven throughout your annual campaign? Please share your ideas in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on June 26, 2012, in Fundraising, nonprofit, resource development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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