Create a challenge gift: That’s number eight in our series of tips on how to remain a philanthropic priority in the economic recovery.
Challenge gifts can come from individual donors, foundations, businesses, or even your collective board. It doesn’t have to be huge, although those can work well too. When the Virginia Living Museum was offered $6 million by a donor if it could raise $3 miilion, not only did they make a concerted, public effort to raise the money, but the resulting media coverage as the deadline approached shot their visibility way up.
Smaller challenge gifts, perhaps to fund a new program or retain one that may be cut because of a grant reduction, can help you connect with new donors, re-engage former donors, and inject excitement into your development program. In looking at their giving now as an investment in a nonprofit, philanthropists like challenge gifts because they motivate board members and development staff to get out and expand their donor base for long-term sustainability. Even a challenge as small as $10,000 can move donors to step up who might be thinking of pulling back.
And make sure it’s a real challenge gift. Sometimes a nonprofit and donor will arrange to label a contribution a “challenge gift,” even if the donor will make the gift regardless of whether the challenge amount is raised. But that’s like crying wolf. If the amount isn’t raised and the gift still comes in, the next time you announce a challenge gift, what do you think the reaction will be?