3 Ways to Market Giving

“Marketing,” to an advancement professional almost always refers to the marketing of their institution’s programs and services.  You market what you do.  Or more importantly, the impact of what you do.  You market your mission as a way to communicate the rightness and goodness of people giving in support of your institution’s efforts and outcomes.  “People give,” you say, “not because we have needs, but because we meet needs.”

So, you market your mission as a way to encourage others to be more generous.  And that makes good – but not total – sense.   For all of us in advancement, there is definitely more to this story.

Why don’t we, as advancement leaders, spend more energy and time marketing giving itself?  The goodness of giving?  The benefits – to both individuals and communities – of giving?  The rightness of giving in support of things bigger than ourselves?  Why shouldn’t we be marketing that while also marketing our missions?

If there are phrases more ubiquitous in our field than, “culture of philanthropy” or “culture of giving,” I’m not sure I know what they might be.  Everyone talks about the need to strengthen their culture of giving, but rarely do advancement folk spend significant time, energy, or resources marketing that kind of culture.  Instead, we spend our time marketing our missions, almost to the exclusion of marketing the goodness of giving.  If you are serious, though, about strengthening your culture of giving, here are 3 marketing approaches to employ:

  1. Educate people on the goodness of giving.  Who more than you at your institution is in a better position to educate your colleagues and others on the fact that giving is healthy and good?  If you incorporate giving days, thank-a-thons, or other events focused on annual giving, include research and resources about why and how being generous is good for the giver.   Market the goodness of giving.
  2. Correct misunderstandings surrounding giving and philanthropy.  How many times have you heard someone describe your job or giving generally as “arm-twisting,” or ” getting into someone’s pockets,” or “shaking the tree?”  It’s not uncommon for these phrases (and others like them) to go unchallenged.   We smile.  We might even chuckle.  But, rarely do we say, “Actually, what I do is a lot more fun and meaningful than that. . .”  If you want to strengthen your culture of giving, words matter.  Gently, but consistently, market the correct understandings about giving and philanthropy.
  3.  Communicate the importance of giving participation.  Alumni participation rates are decreasing.  Many non-education nonprofits report that total donor numbers are shrinking.  And yet, because total dollars raised remains strong, we whistle past the graveyard.  If we desire to enhance a culture of giving, we should do more to recognize and celebrate new donors and modest but consistent donors.  For instance, do you have a program to publicly celebrate donors for consistent annual giving, regardless of amount?  Market the importance of all gifts, no matter the size.

Marketing the goodness of giving should be our priority as advancement leaders.  If we want to see more giving from more donors, if we aim to enhance the morale among colleagues at our institutions, if we strive to strengthen our giving culture, we must take on this new marketing role.

When we market giving consistently, not only will our institutions become healthier and happier places to be, but our work as advancement professionals will grow more frictionless.

Because as it turns out, people don’t give just because our institutions meet important needs.  The other part of that story is that people give because they have been reminded of their most-deeply-held beliefs about themselves and who they really are (or want to be!).  They are moral.  They are fair.  They are kind.  They are compassionate.  They are helpful.  And, yes, they are generous.

Go, market that.



  1. Another great column by my good friend and mentor, Jason. Great advice. People want to be generous but they sometimes need to be educated and reminded about the joy that it will bring them. Yes, go market that!

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