3 Strategies to Create a Culture of Giving

Giving can be external or internal; here’s how to leverage both!

By Megan Kramer

A man stares at a wall full of graphs and data.

A sense of community is one of the biggest association draws. Forming a culture of internal and external giving can help associations establish greater belonging and pride while raising money in the process.

Internal efforts can include joining or creating giving campaigns, where associations can seek public support. External efforts can include giving back to the community through volunteering and other charitable events, which can help boost employee morale and bolster the organization’s reputation.

71% of people donated on a mobile device during the past year.

Here are some tips for creating a culture of giving, whether you’re making one major push to kick off 2022 or developing long-term strategies.

Leverage Digital Components

As with most things these days, the digital experience reigns supreme. After all, 71% of people donated on a mobile device during the past year, according to a Community Brands report called “A Deep Dive into Donor Experience and Expectations.”

Brandy Keller, director of Product Management and Marketing, Nonprofit Solutions at Community Brands said in a press release: “We’re seeing shifting giving preferences as the threshold for online and mobile giving rises. We expect to see more investment in mobile technology to improve online giving and fundraising events. And, enhancing mobile experiences will be critical as nonprofits look to simplify the giving experience to keep up with donor expectations.”

There are lots of opportunities to leverage digital platforms: whether that’s creating specific calls-to-action on your website or building dedicated social media campaigns around a giving event. When building out these campaigns, make sure to create an overarching strategy where the association is cross-promoting the fundraising efforts on multiple platforms and in a cohesive manner. “Ensuring consistent branding across platforms reassures supporters,” Jacob Spencer wrote in a post for GoodUnited. “No matter how they first come in contact with your online materials, they will take note of your consistent and familiar branding and feel more confident that their donations are going to the right place.”

Our research showed that many donors are comfortable making online gifts for up to about the $300 level, but so many organizations are still only asking for $5, $10, $15 donations on their websites.

But that’s not to say that associations should abandon offline giving; 56% of older donors preferred to give a check directly to an organization. As such, associations should talk with their members to see how they like to give, then focus strategies based on those preferences, according to the Community Brands report.

Lastly, according to Community Brands, associations shouldn’t be afraid to swing for the fences when asking for larger donations. “Our research showed that many donors are comfortable making online gifts for up to about the $300 level, but so many organizations are still only asking for $5, $10, $15 donations on their websites,” Keller said.

Timing Is Everything

Year-end giving is one of the easiest — and low-cost — ways to encourage association donations and spark conversation. Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is one of the best times to do so, with the larger giving push typically lasting through the end of December.

“You can only score when you shoot,” says Emi Aprekuma, senior grants manager at Association Management Center. “The only thing that should stop you is the return on investment.”

However, since the market is so saturated during these times, you’re going to need an underlying tagline or something that makes your association stand out, Aprekuma says.

But that doesn’t mean the giving spirit ends with the New Year. Far from it—one way to stand out in a crowded field is to have a specific day tied to a big fundraising push. While many might choose a time in the fall or early winter, having your big giving effort in the spring or summer can help differentiate your association from others.

Winnowing the giving to just one day can also create a sense of urgency. “In your social media posts and emails, you can use countdown tactics like, ‘Only a few more hours left until the end of our giving day!’ This adds an element of time-sensitivity and makes people think the donation clock is ticking,” according to an article published on Nonprofit Hub.

88% of millennials said their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

Consider pursuing big donation pushes around association events. Camaraderie and goodwill tend to be highest following such gatherings, so big giving pushes tied to events can help increase donations as well.

Look Outside Your Organization

Organizations that actively give back to their communities tend to connect with employees on a more emotional level, which can increase engagement, retention and productivity. That’s particularly true for younger workers. In a Cone Communications study, 88% of millennials said their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

“The overarching theme is that millennials, as a demographic, want more than a job,” Kate Peters, founder and CEO of Bright Voyage Leadership, wrote in Forbes. “They want engagement, alignment with personal beliefs, activism and a chance to challenge the status quo.”

With millennials projected to account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025, now is the time to instill a culture of giving back in your association if you haven’t already. Whether you volunteer as a group, give employees time off to contribute to a cause they care about or engage them in hosting an association-sponsored charitable event, your employees will feel good about helping people — and about their association.

If you do decide to give to outside organizations or causes, it’s a good idea to ask employees what types of charities they are passionate about, as well as keep in mind that certain causes may not resonate with everyone.

“Everything is so political these days; it’s best to stick to less divisive things like giving people food and shelter, or giving anything to kids,” Aprekuma says. “Depending on the culture at your organization, diversity, equity and inclusion events can also be really great ways to give.”

Does your organization have an effective giving strategy? Email Kelly@AssociationForum.org to tell us more about it; or sound off about it in our online community at My Forum.

About the Author

Megan Kramer is a Chicago-based writer.

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