For most independent school and college fundraisers in the US, CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) is the essential professional development association. And as most CASE members will jokingly tell you, what CASE really stands for is "Copy and Steal Everything." The beauty of CASE is that while member schools and colleges vie fiercely with competing philanthropic causes for every dollar they raise, they are never-endingly collegial when it comes to helping one another improve their own programs. They readily share examples, best practices, failed experiments, and triumphs.
Therefore, it's totally appropriate to apply the spirit of CASE to the "Giving & Support" section of our websites! We can Copy and Steal the same principles that apply to our homepages and admissions sections. Let's look at some inspiring examples of schools doing just that.
For Advancement pros not as familiar with those principles, let's first review what those are. Every great
homepage Giving section should answer these five questions:
- What do you do?
- Where/how do I find you?
- Will I fit in?
- What makes you better?
- How can I learn more?
While it may seem repetitive to answer these questions in two or more locations, consider the fact that not everyone is going to visit your website through your homepage, especially if you're promoting your annual fund or other campaigns through paid ads. Providing substance, educational and entertaining content, and answering some basic questions will go a long way in this pivotal section of your website.
Let's take a look at how independent schools across the country answer these five questions on their Giving pages.
1. What do you do?
Do parents and grandparents who are new to your school know your Advancement program and its priorities? Do new students come from families with a culture of philanthropy? Let's not take the basics for granted. Pomfret School in CT starts with a strong, clear, simple statement of why they raise money and what it accomplishes. The video draws you in and the "Make A Gift" call to action button below it makes pulling the trigger easy as can be.
Gilman School in MD makes its philanthropic priorities crystal clear via compelling donor stories and videos. A slider is used to keep this section dynamic. The staff can easily update it with new donor stories that help support a particular priority.
2. Where/how do I find you?
This is one of those "of course" points, but that doesn't mean we can skip it! Your page is easy to navigate, clearly laid out, and you've inserted links to your online giving form everywhere you can think of — what else could those donors possibly need? How about contact info for a real live human being to talk to?
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC always makes it easy to connect with an Advancement staff member by providing simple contact info alongside that handy "make a gift" button.
3. Will I fit in?
Your giving prospects may be wondering "what company will I be in if I give?" Or "do all parents give? Will I be in the minority if I don't?" Let your prospects know who gives and why — in their words, not yours.
Winchester Thurston School in PA does this in a low-key, not flashy, authentic way. Their Meet Our Donor page lets readers learn about real donors who tell their own stories. The variety of faces -- older, younger, parents, alumni, entire graduating classes, donor of color, etc. -- helps ensure your prospects will feel part of this community. The photos are genuine -- some posed and polished, some clearly snapped with a smartphone -- proving you don't need to overthink this to make it effective.
The Hotchkiss School in CT sends a clear message about expectations of alumni and parent participating in this simple list. 100% parent participation? Wow. Ok, I guess I better write that check!
Immaculate High School in PA takes a novel approach by naming the annual fund something you can't help but feel part of. It's literally called the I Am Immaculate Fund. Talk about a launch pad for fun, engaging stories, videos, blog posts, donor profiles, and more!
4. What makes you better?
Of all the great causes competing for your donors' limited dollars, why should they choose your school? American families typically place their own alma maters and their children's schools fairly high on the list of causes to which they'll make a gift, but keep in mind that many of these families have several schools to support. Just imagine — mom's college, mom's graduate school, dad's K-12 school, dad's college, oldest daughter's elementary school, oldest daughter's high school, oldest daughter's college, younger daughter's K-12 school, son's K-12 school, son's college, etc. That list gets long quickly!
Westminster School in GA does a compelling job of pulling directly on your heartstrings with this video you pretty much can't not click on. The montage of students and their goals? Forget about it! I'm pulling out my credit card now. Or how about when the Dean of Faculty says, "I think Westminster students can change the world because they've been changed here. They can make a difference because Westminster made a difference for them. Kids are challenged so they can face the challenges of the world."?
5. How can I learn more?
On an Admissions page, we think about "how can I learn more?" leading to a "request more info" or "schedule a tour" call-to-action. So on a Giving page, we think about this as the answer to "now that I know why you want and need my money, how do I actually make a gift?"
St. Thomas Aquinas High School in FL does a terrific job of combining #1 What Do You Do? with #5 How Can I Learn More? in this interactive philanthropic priorities panel. Hover your mouse over any of the photo-based options and an explanation along with a Make a Gift call to action appears. Feeling compelled by the goals for tuition assistance? Here's how easy it is to support it!
Catlin Gabel School in OR includes a Donate Now button with a simple infographic about the goals and progress. And they extend the infographic concept to make the Ways of Giving easy to digest.
I hope these examples from CASE member schools around the US will inspire you to feel free to Copy and Steal their great ideas in ways that suit your brand, your community, and your goals. Additional examples can be found in our new Design Library. Got an example to share from your own site? We'd love to see it. Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before joining Finalsite in 2012, Kate was a client for almost a decade, as a content manager for the advancement sections of her school's website. She's worn almost every hat in Advancement over sixteen years — alumni director, database manager, annual fund director, budget and hiring manager, envelope stuffer, party planner, chauffeur, you name it..