10 Great Annual Giving Ideas

After receiving hundreds of entries from educational institutions around the world, AGN is pleased to share ten great ideas from 2020 Annual Giving Challenge! The challenge is an annual contest sponsored by AGN that offers annual giving programs an opportunity to share their most interesting and successful fundraising efforts.

Reviewed by a panel of AGN’s faculty for overall quality, uniqueness, and level of innovation, the following submissions were some of our favorites. Just click on each one to view and image and read more about it.

  1. Utah Valley University turned their scholarship gala into a “drive-in” experience for donors, complete with pre-recorded videos, socially-distanced performances, and to-go food prepared by culinary arts students.
  2. St. Joseph’s College created a lapsed donor appeal that allowed donors to write inspirational messages to students that would then be displayed on bookplates in the library reference collection.
  3. UNC-Wilmington launched an email campaign to highlight and celebrate Black alumni and donors, which served as a tool to reinvigorate the African American Graduate Association.
  4. Birmingham-Southern College piloted a new “Funding Opportunities” initiative that compiled fundable projects within academic departments and strategic campus areas into a centralized browsable “registry” of giving opportunities.
  5. MassArt highlighted the determination and work ethic of their students amid the challenges of the pandemic by featuring interviews along with their art in direct mail appeals instead of organizing their usual photo shoot.
  6. Marietta College invited supporters who couldn’t attend games due to the pandemic to virtually “fill” their stadium by making gifts to athletics.
  7. UC Berkeley Haas created a digital student giving impact report that capitalized on video and text messages to showcase ways in which student philanthropy benefited the business school community.
  8. University of Delaware sent a late-fall appeal to past donors featuring messages of thanks and gifts tags that could be used during the holiday season.
  9. University of Kansas relaunched their crowdfunding program’s marketing efforts with social distancing in mind by creating a special video to raise awareness among potential campus partners.
  10. Emporia State University brought the local community into the homes and offices of Board members and donors through a virtual tasting event that featured individual boxes full of local business products and foods.

…and if you liked those, here are a few more ideas that you might like too!

  • Western Illinois University used the pandemic to rethink their phonathon and shift activities to focus more on stewardship and less on solicitation, allowing students to remain employed and engaged during their time out of the calling center.
  • The University of Washington increased engagement in a spring emergency student aid crowdfunding campaign by redesigning their emails to reduce required clicks-to-give and limit drop-off.
  • South Dakota State University reimagined their athletic scholarship auction by making it an interactive online experience that also benefited two other philanthropic causes: need-based scholarships and Feeding South Dakota.
  • NC State created an appeal that included a highly-customized poster with information detailing how gifts were used in the areas specific to the donor’s support, along with university-wide statements of impact and a solicitation letter from the chancellor.
  • The University of Utah’s annual giving team worked with their Student Giving Day Committee to host a Philanthropy Fair for students on their giving day that featured different booths with philanthropy and student engagement themes.
More details on these entries—along with nearly 1,000 other great examples of direct mail and email appeals, phone scripts, leadership giving and stewardship communications, volunteer materials, special campaigns, and more—can now be found in the AGN Sample Library. Access to the Library is available to AGN Members as an ongoing exclusive benefit, but for a limited time, we’re pleased to open it up to the entire advancement community.​​​​​

Click Here to Access Nearly 1,000 Samples!


To learn more about AGN and all the benefits of membership, please email info@agnresources.com, call 888.407.5064, or visit our website