You probably remember the 1989 Disney film, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, in which a quirky scientist invents an electromagnetic shrinking machine and accidentally shrinks his kids and two neighbor teens to the size of insects. Cleaning his lab floor, the father sweeps up the four teens and tosses them into the backyard where they are left to fend for themselves. The scientist and his wife frantically search for the children.
If you’re like a lot of Bible college leaders, you may feel a bit like this scientist and his wife, searching for your lost donors. Many Bible college presidents tells us the number of people who support their colleges has plateaued or dropped in recent years.
There are a number of reasons for a shrinking donor-base—poor cultivation of current donors, inadequate methods of reactivating those who have stopped giving, etc. However, one key reason is inadequate priority given to acquiring new donors.
In a recent survey of Bible college fundraising, Advocace discovered that nearly six in ten (57%) of Bible colleges have no or very infrequent campaigns to acquire new donors. With an aging donor-base, this becomes a particularly critical problem.
Those colleges that initiate donor acquisition programs have found the most productive sources for new names are:
- Local churches
- Referrals from current donors
- Referrals from staff families and friends
Don’t Shrink Your Database
Here are several ways you can counter the trend of a shrinking donor-base:
- Set a high priority on new donor acquisition.
We know one Bible college that decided to make new donor acquisition an extremely high priority one year and saw a significant increase in the number of new donors.
- Encourage your faculty and student life staff to teach students the importance of stewardship.
Create a culture of stewardship on campus. Give students small ways they can give to help others while still in college. One Bible college president gives all new graduates a crisp, new $5 bill at graduation and encourages them to return it to the college, hopefully with a little extra added.
- Involve faculty and staff in raising funds for the college by encouraging them to refer you to family and friends who may be interested in giving.
One college president encourages faculty and staff to give to their institution and then treats any who give at the major donor level just as special as he treats a major donor from outside the organization.
- Continue to build strong relationships with current donors, particularly those who have invested a great deal in your college.
Look for ways to foster a vision among donors for a lifestyle of stewardship. Show them how they can be good stewards of the relationships they have with family members and friends by introducing them to the vision for your college.
Growing your donor-base is hard work. But placing a high priority on doing so and implementing some creative ways to develop a culture of stewardship on campus and among donors will be richly rewarding.
Is your donor-base shrinking? Download our Higher Education Development Outlook Major Donor and Annual Fund Reports and start to reverse the shrinking effect today!
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