Let’s revisit the idea of clubs. In his article, Michael Masterson gives an example of a dining club. Summing up the example, he states:

The basic elements of a club that are at work in this example:

  • Association with like-minded people
    This is the fraternal aspect of the club. If you sell gourmet food, for example, it makes perfect sense for your customers to share their similar interests with each other. You reinforce this camaraderie with a forum for your members to keep in contact.

  • A sense of social advancement
    Clubs provide a sense of exclusivity, a sense that their members have more refined tastes than regular people. This only works if there is a natural way to provide a more sophisticated, not just more expensive, version of your product or service.

  • Financial benefits
    Your club members are presumably your best buyers. You already know that 20 percent of your buyers contribute 80 percent of your profits. So your club should cater to that 20 percent. Your back-end sales increase when you accommodate those frequent and loyal customers.

  • Hierarchy
    You can create different levels of exclusivity within your club. In other words, the more a club member is willing to spend, the higher level she can attain. (Think silver, gold, and platinum memberships.) You can create an incentive to move up in the club by setting up a visible hierarchy that is reinforced through well-advertised discounts for members at higher levels.

Read this list carefully and see if you can apply it to your donor categories.

Particularly in light of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your donations come from 20% of your donors. So how can you make those 20% feel “part of a club”?

At one school I worked at, I ran a report of the top 20% of donors since the school was founded. It turned out, anyone that had given $1000 or more at any point in the previous 60 years was in the top 20%. To my surprise, many current faculty were on the list.

In the past, we’d simply treated and solicited all faculty alike. We always had around a 99% participation rate so we thought we were doing fine. Now I knew that some of my colleagues would be considered “major donors” if they didn’t work at the school.

Armed with this information, I started treating them like the major donors they were. When we gave the $1000 donors a gift, I made sure the faculty members got it too.

It was a blast watching those teachers walking around campus with the special travel mug or whatever other gift. And it warmed my fundraising heart to know that other teachers would be asking them, “Hey, where’d you get that cool travel mug? How can I get one?”

So what about you? Can you work the club concept into your donor stewardship? This could be a very important step in creating donor evangelists!

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