Launching New Challenges to Keep Donors Engaged

Posted on 03/04/2017

One of the things that many professionals enjoy about working in annual giving is that it’s cyclical. A new campaign begins every 365 days, offering an opportunity for programs to start over with new goals and a fresh strategy. At the same time, this can be challenging for many programs. Constantly coming up with different approaches isn’t easy.

The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA had relied on a competition-based challenge with a rival school every fall to create extra interest around giving. Although this approach had helped to increase participation rates in its first couple of years, results eventually leveled out. That’s when they decided to try something new, launching the EveryCat Challenge.

Named after their mascot (the wildcat), the goal of the challenge was to secure 2,200 commitments—one for every student and faculty member—to the annual fund by the end of October. In addition to generating much-needed support, the new approach also helped to:

  • Focus attention on the beneficiaries of annual fund support and allow for more “storytelling.” Marketing materials featured student and faculty profiles that described how annual fund support had affected them personally.
  • Encourage participation by every member of the community. All gifts from alumni, parents, and friends were counted.
  • Raise sights. The goal of 2,200 gifts represented an increase of 200 over what had been achieved by the end of October in previous years.
  • Engage the institution’s leadership in annual giving. The board agreed to serve as the challenge’s sponsors, offering up $100,000 in bonus funds when the goal was reached.

Marketing for the challenge, which included a website, a series of emails and targeted Facebook ads, took place only during the month of October. Parent and alumni volunteers were also instrumental in spreading the word. They were asked to make calls, send emails and share on their social networks.

In the two years that Westminster has held the EveryCat Challenge, the results have been very positive. Each year, the goal has been achieved by the October deadline, helping to pave the way to end the year up in annual fund revenue and participation. What’s more, the student and faculty stories generated a lot of positive feedback – something that helped create a positive experience for staff and volunteers.

Consistency and repetition can be great assets in annual giving where creating giving “habits” is an important goal. But it’s also important to recognize when old ideas aren’t working as well as they once did. When that’s the case, it’s probably time to start mixing it up.

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