It may have been 6 years since my last CASE Regular Giving Conference, but attending this year’s conference certainly felt like returning home. Whilst you are more likely to spot me wearing my ‘major gifts hat’ these days, I am passionate about elevating the role of the regular giving profession. In reflecting on my top 3 takeaways from this year’s conference, I encourage all fundraisers to consider how regular giving offers lessons for us all – its value extending far beyond the bread and butter of securing direct debit donations:

1. The obvious lesson

During a lively breakfast roundtable about whether leadership donors are actually leading and inspiring their peers to give, Courtauld Institute of Art’s Natalia Fenyoe turned the tables back on us and asked us whether we were asking donors to extend their support beyond simply giving.

Instead of rebranding leadership giving programmes, do we simply need to expand the scope of leadership programmes to encourage and build an engaged cohort of visionary annual fund supporters?

2. The spark of excitement

Although many UK institutions have piloted class gifts in recent years, the general consensus has always seemed to be that non-business school constituencies have struggled to translate this American idea to a UK market. In a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it has been easy to assume that the absence of immediate success stories means the whole idea of leavers’ gifts simply doesn’t work on the scale seen in the US. Thank you to University of York’s Matt Ingram for sharing how the University of York has proven this assumption wrong by simply replacing the label of ‘Class Gift’ with the name of the cause for which it is being fundraised.

Could this one semantic change open the doors to unleashing the full potential of class giving outside the US?

3. The moment of optimism

It was a cause of true celebration to hear how Universities are developing successful community fundraising programmes. Supported by very little data or sector-specific ‘best practice’, The University of Sheffield’s David Meadows persevered with a gut feeling that there was institutional value in pursuing what seemed like ad-hoc requests from students and staff members keen to do something out of the ordinary. The success of the programme speaks for itself, and the data and case studies generated by the Universities of Sheffield, Ulster, and Nottingham mean that we have the tools needed to develop robust business cases for our own community fundraising programmes.

Whilst there is no denying the importance of focussed strategy in these challenging times, is there a risk that we will miss game-changing regular giving innovations by not making time to follow our instincts and respond to the unexpected?

Since my last CASE Regular Giving Conference, the ‘why’ of my own career trajectory has shifted and evolved to tackle new geographies, sectors, and challenges. But despite these changes, this year’s conference has certainly reaffirmed how the diverse expertise of regular giving professionals is challenging and advancing the wider educational fundraising landscape.

Victoria McAlpine is Senior Consultant at Graham-Pelton Consulting.

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