Today, as individuals and businesses face challenging and troubling economic times, charitable foundations shouldn’t underestimate the power of personal touches in every phase of their giving programs.
As the executive director of a relatively new foundation that supports technical education, I have learned that creating a long-term sense of community between donors and recipients establishes and extends the cycle of giving far beyond the dollars donated.
Almost everyone agrees that the Internet has made it easier to contact new generations and segments of donors, but it is also easy to overlook personal touches.
To overcome this challenge, the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) Foundation considers most online solicitations to be the second or third step in a relationship building process, rather than the introduction to the foundation. In fact, I find our success rate is significantly higher if we avoid using online solicitations as a cold call.
Instead, we minimize administrative time and increase our success rate by first contacting donors that share mutual interests.
The foundation provides scholarships for students seeking technical education in the automobile, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine industries. As such, we solicit students, families, alumni, employers, vendors and industry manufacturers first for donations.
Each industry is full of amazing people, who have incredible relationships and stories to tell. We work to foster these relationships in our giving process and regularly talk with families who have lost a loved one and want a meaningful way to memorialize them. But sometimes the donor family is much larger.
Last year, a 28-year-old female NASCAR Sprint Cup official and Universal Technical Institute graduate, who touched many lives, was killed.
Her NASCAR family wanted to honor the legacy of this young woman for whom they cared deeply. The foundation offered the means for this “family” to give back through a scholarship fund for women with a passion for motor sports to pursue their career dreams in the automotive and NASCAR industries.
This spring, the first scholarship recipient began school at NASCAR Technical Institute and has already begun to tell her own inspirational story.
The impact that both young women have made on industry vendors, partners and employers will benefit students, the Foundation and the scholarship fund for years to come.
It’s this ongoing impact and communication that keeps the cycle of giving rolling forward. Most people recognize that current donors usually hold the best opportunity for future donations, but only if the foundation builds and maintains strong personal relationships.
Ensuring that donors have the opportunity to play a role that fits their needs, and providing regular, timely updates goes a long way to start things off on the right foot. I find that many donors want to follow grant recipients through their education, and some even step in to offer additional career support.
Whether a donor is a corporation or an individual, donations are about people, their stories and how they touch the lives of others.
Weaving these elements into the foundation’s day-to-day business ensures your funding is built on a strong long-term cycle of giving.
Veronica Meury is vice president and executive director of Universal Technical Institute Foundation, based in Phoenix.