The Council for Aid To Education's annual Voluntary Support of Education survey found that alumni giving participation ticked down again in 2010. Is it enough to simply say you're doing "less worse" than everyone else?
Here are 5 reasons the giving decline is not
Many schools are graduating larger
classes and have an increasing proportion of
young alumni. Their denominator
is simply growing too fast.
We've gotten smarter at identifying the
tallest trees in the forest. Screening and
other tools have allowed us the opportunity
to focus on prospects that offer the greatest
immediate return - to the neglect of the
broader base. Annual giving staff are
increasingly told to "get out of the office"
and visit rated prospects in person.
Gifts from donor-advised funds are
increasing, and don't count.
The middle class is getting squeezed
- If you believe it's true, believe it may be
a problem for participation. Discretionary
giving is a casualty of more-cautious
people unsure about the economy.
Prospects are increasingly difficult to
reach by phone, and "no call" legislation has
whipped America into an
anti-telemarketing frenzy. If the phonathon
has been the foundation of your annual giving
program, your foundation is showing some big
And here are 7 reasons it IS your fault:
We're not adequately teaching a giving
culture. We'll spend a fortune on fundraising
the minute students graduate, but spend
little time teaching them good behavior while
they're on campus.
We're not communicating with young alumni
(and increasingly, older alumni) in the ways
that they are communicating. Your young
alumni have no home phone and don't write
paper checks. What are you doing about it?
U.S. News and other rankings often
inspire us to make participation a short-term
priority, not a long-term behavior. Remember,
the rankings aren't a measure of affinity as
much as they're a measure of how well we've
taught alumni to express their affinity
People are easier to find, but we're not
using the right tools to engage them. They may
not be in the phone book, but they're on
We've fallen in love with solicitation
processes, to the neglect of the relationship
with our alumni. Your IRS-approved tax
receipt isn't showing enough love.
We use the CAE decline as a
self-fulfilling excuse to not do better.
Annual giving is hard work, but don't be
satisfied doing less worse than everybody
else. We say that "flat is the new up."
It may not be your fault that prospects
aren't answering the phone, but it's your
responsibility to figure out The Plan B. Our job
isn't to decide "This can't be done."