Leveraging Leadership Societies to Drive Multi-Year Commitments
It started as a back of a napkin idea when The University of Rochester was making plans to launch a major comprehensive fundraising campaign. Its leadership knew the campaign wouldn’t be considered a success unless it built a strong prospect base and inspired a “community of leaders.”
It was with these goals in mind that they launched The George Eastman Circle, a new leadership giving society for the annual fund. While gift societies are certainly not unusual for colleges and universities, this one was unique in that membership requires a multi-year commitment at a leadership level.
With a minimum pledge of $7,500 (i.e., $1,500 per year for five years), members are able to support their passions and interests with a gift to any of the university’s 200+ annual funds. In return, they’re given access to exclusive leadership networking events and recognized as leaders in the online donor roster. Additionally, “Plus One” events are offered periodically where members can bring a friend.
“There was a lot of effort (and a lot of fanfare) spent on securing charter membership during the first two years of the program,” said Martha Krohn, AVP for Advancement & Annual Giving Programs. “We set a goal of 250 charter members and ended up with 1,087. For the next few years, we’ll focus on renewing charter members, whose pledges are now beginning to expire. We’ll also be launching regional councils to provide volunteer opportunities to our members and key volunteers.”
As of 2013, The George Eastman Circle has welcomed more than 2,650 members and raised over $50 million for the university’s annual fund.
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