Coming to a university near you: Micro-donations

So, here’s the micro-donation concept in action – alumni and other fans at a college football game would “compete” with each other by texting their small gift commitments in support of their respective schools.

Two questions immediately come to mind:

  1. Is this giving repeatable?  We know from recent research that donors who make gifts online are repeating their giving at a much lower percentages than donors who use more traditional giving vehicles.  I struggle to understand how an impersonal micro-donating activity like this connects our alumni and others to the notion that repeatable gifts are needed at our institutions.
  2. Do micro-donations encourage larger gifts later?  I’m not sure that a Jetson’s version of “pass the hat at the party” moves the donor to increase her giving 0ver time.  Transforming an experience of making small gifts to “beat” our rival school into a habit of making substantial, values-based gifts appears difficult using this micro-donation strategy.  And I’m not even talking about planned gifts!

Micro gift strategies have proven applicable in instances where there is an opportunity to appeal to the masses.  Political campaigns, social causes, or other broad appeal initiatives have enjoyed success with micro-donating strategies.

Universities, however, have a built-in core constituency – alumni.  Highly effective development enterprises engage as many alumni as possible in the mission and vision of the university, providing personalized opportunities for each to provide meaningful and repeatable support.

Yes, micro-donation strategies are easy.  You pile a whole bunch of folks in a big stadium and ask them to text in a gift.  But when we employ easy strategies we receive easy responses from alumni and donors – pocket change gifts. On the other hand, when we work to know our donors, cultivate each in ways that show we care, and solicit each based on their values and interests, we receive a very different response – we receive their investments.

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