Student Engagement Teams

Personalized Leadership Annual Giving During a Giving Day

Justin Ware
Mar 11, 2021

SET - Personalized leadership annual giving during a giving day

The power of personalization for leadership annual donors can be witnessed in real-time during an online giving day. 

For one client partner, during a 2020 online giving day, the Student Engagement Team was deployed to provide real-time, personalized video thank yous to donors who made gifts of $500 or more. Before the giving day, these same students were a focal point in a video strategy that both raised awareness of the giving day and helped the donor community understand why making a gift during the giving day was especially important. Impact-of-giving videos demonstrated the many ways in which gifts made to the previous giving day had strengthened the institution and started the “consideration” phase of moving more donors toward giving to the next giving day event.

The result? A 3,800 percent increase in unexpected online gifts of $500 or more from the previous year’s event. 

The power of digital video has been quantified many times over in recent years. For decades, students have compelled alumni and supporters to give (which is why the phone enjoyed so much success over the past 30 years). Through Student Engagement Teams, {{firstname}} has modernized the phone concept with a digital and video-first mentality. The impact has been significant and immediate, with some of the most noticeable gains coming during digital campaigns, such as online giving days. This is also true for leadership annual giving during giving days.

To realize similar growth to the above example with your mid-level or leadership annual giving programs, consider the following... 


Personalize targeted messaging to priority individuals

This approach can be in the purview of a Student Engagement Team or a Digital Development Officer program. With more video creators on your team, you are simply able to engage more donors and prospects with personalized video messages. This can be made more efficient using our “bookending” technique for personalization (Bookending is, for example, adding a 10-second introduction to a video with the donor’s name to personalize an otherwise more general video clip).

Whether through an SET member or a DDO, create hundreds of personalized videos to promote the giving day. This strategy might include video targeting: 

  • Top renewals - annual donors who have lapsed and need a slight push to keep them in the donor family.
  • Elevation to upper levels - from $1,000 to $5,000 per year, for example. This group of donors is typically highly engaged. In many cases, all they need is a little attention to move this gift up to the next rung on the giving ladder. Personalized content has proven to be exactly the lever to encourage that increase in giving. 
  • Segment-based - “personalized” doesn’t necessarily have to mean video that addresses a constituent on a first-name basis. Create detailed videos that help donors see how their gifts specifically improved a program or area that matters most to them.


Student Engagement Team for giving day personalized donor stewardship

Meaningful, personalized stewardship can be difficult to achieve for large leadership annual giving programs. There are often too many donors to adequately provide the attention they all deserve. The issue is often in resources - not enough people or gift officers with the time to deliver a personalized “thank you” to the many donors in the mid-level. With a robust Student Engagement Team, the resource issue is minimized and more “officers” are available to deliver personalized stewardship content to leadership annual giving donors. 


For a giving day, launch a “large gift protocol.” This is a process which we first pioneered eight years ago at Washington State University during the inaugural Cougs Give event, and have deployed at dozens of institutions since. With a large gift protocol…

  • Determine the threshold of what constitutes a “large gift” - for most that amount is an unexpected $1,000 or larger gift. Some set the number at $500 while a few may go as low as $250 - whatever number makes sense as an indicator of capacity for your program, go with that figure.
  • Have a person or team ready to immediately engage the donor who unexpectedly makes a large gift:
  • ~ First, check your database - is this a new donor? Are they already assigned?
  • ~ If assigned, connect with the gift officer managing the relationship - ask that gift officer if they would like to personally thank the donor before anything else is sent.
  • Create a personalized “thank you” video - this can be short and sweet - take 25 seconds to thank the donor by name with a sentence or two about their gift.
  • If unassigned, send the record for additional screening and potential portfolio assignment (a spur-of-the-moment gift of $1,000 or more during a giving day is a good indicator of additional capacity).

Giving days are most often about participation - any gift of any level “counts.” However, when more of those gifts are at the leadership annual level, not only do you raise significantly more money on your giving day, you also create an opportunity for personal engagement that leads to moving more mid-level prospects into major gift or planned giving portfolios. The key is in having the people power to provide that one-to-one engagement that moves leadership donors up the ladder. A Student Engagement Team is a proven and reliable program to achieve that one-to-one engagement and supercharge your leadership annual giving program during a giving day.

Are you ready to re-invent and reinvigorate your annual giving program? Connect with {{firstname}} to learn how we build Student Engagement Teams for institutions like yours.

Justin Ware
Justin Ware is a digital fundraising expert with nearly 15 years of experience helping nonprofits raise money online. An Emmy-winning YouTube producer and one of the original pioneers of the online giving day and online ambassadors programs, Justin is focused on innovative tactics and "what's next?" for cause-based work.

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