How to Motivate Annual Fund Donors Through Their Own Unique Values

Have you ever tried to motivate a child to do hard work, to make the right decision, or to stop pulling your sister's hair - I mean it this time? Have you ever tried to persuade a child's behavior and it resulted in total failure?

I used to teach second graders and this was my reality several times a day, every day. I often found myself trying to guide their actions by saying things like:

"Olivia, help clean up your table. It's not fair that the rest of your tablemates are doing all of the work."

"Duncan, if you work hard to solve this math problem, you will improve your math skills!"

These seem like reasonable statements to make, right? It really isn't fair that Olivia's friends are cleaning up for her, and if Duncan does work hard, he will likely improve his skill set. Unfortunately, Olivia may continue to goof off, and Duncan may not attempt the math problem.

It wasn't until recently that I realized why my students had so often been unresponsive to my pleas: I had been using my own - sometimes abstract - set of values as a motivational tool to prompt their behavior. My students clearly didn't value justice and personal growth as much as I did, which means the messages that were meant to motivate often went in one ear and out the other.

But what if I had thought through what they value before attempting to guide their behavior? What if I had spoken to their desire for independence and exploration instead of my desire for justice and self-growth? What if I recognized and embraced that my students had a different lens for the world than I did?

What if we did the same for our donors?


Recognizing your unique value set

What do you believe is important in life? What are the principles you live by?

The Generosity Network provides a comprehensive outline of several values one might hold. Take a look and see which of these values resonate with you:


As you read through this list, you will identify with a selection of these values more-so than others. For example, progress, self-actualization, and empathy resonate with me quite a bit, while I would be less likely to connect with a message that revolves around tradition, status, or loyalty.

Maybe you're just the opposite, and loyalty is one of your key values. And that's great!

Could you imagine a world where everybody held the same values? While it could make it easier to relate to each other, so many pressing issues would go unnoticed, and the world would be a much less interesting place to reside.

We really are in this together, and everybody's unique view of the world should be recognized, spoken to, and celebrated!

With this being said, we must now ask ourselves: What if Annual Giving spoke to donors' values?


Your donors' values and the Annual Fund

Your institution's Annual Fund is likely a priority in your fundraising strategy, and if you're here, you're probably exploring how you might revitalize it in unique and innovative ways.

People donate to causes for reasons that vary as widely as their values do. The unifying factor for donors, however, is that the causes' messages resonate with their own values and principles.

Which leaves the question: Are you speaking to a wide variety of values?

When you ask for donations to the Annual Fund, are you finding ways to speak to those who value pioneerism, those who value tradition, as well as those who value belonging?

The messages you share about your Annual Fund should vary. Be cognizant of your own values and ensure that you are switching the lens to how others perceive the world in order to craft messages that draw in a wider audience to your mission.


How crowdfunding in Higher Education can help

Peer-to-Peer Crowdfunding is a powerful fundraising tool because it requires a team of volunteers who communicate a philanthropic message in unique ways. This means that they are best equipped for reaching a broader audience who hold similar views of the world. Many of these would-be donors are currently flying under the radar because there has yet to be a message that truly resonates with them.

Peer-to-Peer crowdfunding means that you are empowering students, faculty, and staff on your campus to cast a wider net because they are able to speak directly to the hearts of like-minded individuals. It means that the same mission is being articulated by a diverse group of volunteers to an equally diverse group of potential donors. It means opening doors for conversations that would otherwise not be happening.

Regardless of your institution's strategy and goals, we believe that recognizing that your own values shape the way you communicate and motivate others is the first step in crafting messages that resonate with them.

When you celebrate the diversity among your donors, you open the door to an exponentially larger number of conversations and giving opportunities.

And who wouldn't want to be the pioneer to make that a reality?

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