Commentary by Martha Krohn, Assistant VP, Advancement and Annual Giving Programs, University of Rochester.
WG: To what do you attribute the overall results of this year’s survey indicating increased giving, particularly at the leadership level? Are we getting better at our messaging about the importance of annual support? What might be the factors contributing to continued increases in annual giving in the past few years?
MK: I think that it’s important to recognize that while, yes, our collective work on promoting the impact of the annual fund is always advancing—our focus and attention on building a stronger pipeline (from leadership level annual fund gifts) to major gifts plays a critical role. Leadership and volunteers understand that investing in the pipeline will eventually promise strong returns.
WG: Does it surprise you that despite the economy, people report consistent progress in annual giving over the last four years?
MK: It does not surprise me. Going back five years, our nation was immersed in an economic recession and many donors felt the need to become more conservative with finances until the world felt a little more stable. In 2009, 2010 that’s what happened—and thankfully annual giving has progressed since that point in time.
WG: Leadership giving appears to be healthy, including gifts at the $1,000, $5,000 and even the $10,000 levels. Again, what are your thoughts on reasons why this level of leadership giving continues to increase each year?
MK: I believe this is a testament to the changing culture of donors. In today’s world, it’s becoming very commonplace to meet with prospects and current donors who have the means to invest philanthropically—but won’t do so unless they are presented with a ‘winning’ record of returns. For us, that’s impact. Our teams have done a terrific job learning how to convey just how critical every dollar is, and the overarching difference gifts make each and every day of the year.
WG: Unlike last year at this time, respondents indicate that numbers of alumni donors are up–at least 50% compared to last year. Is it too early to forecast this as a sustainable development?
MK: I would be hesitant to interpret that yet, as it is too early to project such findings. I would like to see a trend of that over time in order to ensure we are truly seeing growth.
WG: The majority of responders anticipate an increase in dollars in the 1-5% range. Does that strike you as low? Or does 5% annual growth indicate a healthy program? Is there a level of increased annual giving that programs should expect in this era?
MK: The recession of 2008/09 set the stage for changes in philanthropic behavior. So much so, that we heard “staying flat is the new growth” for quite awhile (not that we’d ever accept that as a profession). I think increasing 1-5% is healthy for many programs and a good sign for the years to come.
Martha Cassidy Krohn
With 15 years of experience in higher education advancement, Martha Cassidy Krohn is a proven leader managing and growing annual giving programs. Martha currently holds the position of Assistant Vice President of Advancement and Annual Giving Programs at the University of Rochester. She oversees a complex program which includes a team of leadership annual giving officers with regional territories, direct marketing, reunion giving, a faculty/staff campaign and more. Since Martha joined the University of Rochester five years ago, the annual giving program has doubled in annual dollars raised per year, and continues to see positive growth every year under her leadership. Prior to Rochester, Martha managed the annual giving program at Carnegie Mellon University and prior to that at Emerson College, and served in several fundraising roles at the University of Connecticut.
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