Recently, I provided a keynote address to a gathering of high school presidents. During our time together, we discussed faculty and staff giving at their high schools and multiple presidents said, “We had tremendous pushback during our faculty and staff annual giving campaign, so we don’t do that anymore.”
“What was the primary objection from the faculty and staff?” I asked.
“They said they don’t make enough money to give. Additionally, they were offended we were asking them for money when we should be asking donors outside of the school to give so their salaries could be increased!”
“We don’t make enough to give. Go ask someone else.”
If you have been part of a faculty and staff campaign, or a family campaign of any sort within the nonprofit world, you have probably heard this objection before.
And, while this objection, in the moment, is a sufficiently negative response that typically shuts down any further discussion about making a gift, it is fundamentally faulty for at least 2 reasons:
- This objection conveys a misunderstanding about the social nature of the giving process. Since humans are social creatures and giving is contagious, we tend to do things together. If those who are closest to the mission are not willing (and, in fact, claim to be offended by the invitation) to make a gift, the sense of giving momentum for alumni, parents, friends who are not as close will be reduced. Simply put, others won’t give as generously as they could if those closest to the mission are not giving and are complaining about being invited to do so.
- This objection also suggests that the individual does not give to any other organizations or institutions. How could they give elsewhere when they just told you they don’t make enough money to give? Of course, we know this isn’t true. They are giving to their church or faith community or the local animal shelter or the boys and girls club or to the organization fighting climate change. Perhaps gifts of modest amounts. But, most likely, they are giving somewhere. So, then the question becomes, “why are they hostile to giving in support of the very mission to which they have devoted their professional lives?”
We increase the number of donors who give in support of our missions each and every year when two things happen consistently:
- We educate them on the goodness and power of being generous and why their giving matters to your institution;
- We invite them to participate by giving an amount they are comfortable giving – any amount.
Consistently, as advancement professionals, we skip #1 altogether and we could do a much better job with #2.
“We don’t make enough to give” is not the real objection. The real objection is, “We believe all you care about are bigger gifts and we aren’t convinced our modest gifts will make a difference.”
When we proactively and consistently address that objection, better giving results (and a more caring, compassionate, and positive culture) will emerge.