Determining When to Have Your Giving Day

Posted on 02/01/2024

Timing is everything. That is especially the case when it comes to producing a successful giving day.

Nearly 90% of colleges and universities report that giving days are an increasingly important part of their annual giving program. But when to hold them? Should you opt for a day specific to your school (e.g., the anniversary of your founding) or piggyback on a date already associated with giving (e.g., Giving Tuesday)?

According to an AGN poll, 79 percent of respondents said their institution holds giving days in the spring semester. The vast majority of those that plan a spring giving day opt to hold it in March or April.

But despite these trends, there is no universal “best time” to have a giving day. So you’ll need to give a lot of consideration to what time is right for your unique institution. Here are some questions to guide you through the decision-making process:

  1. Has your institution held a giving day in the past? If yes, what lessons were learned that could make the next one more successful? If no, you will likely need to devote more time to planning, so factor that into your decision about a date.
  2. When do your peers (or competitors) hold their giving days? Doing that research will help you key in on best practices.
  3. When are big events happening on campus? Important activities like homecoming, reunion, or family weekend could be good dates to target for your day, but they may be dates to try to avoid.
  4. Are there dates or traditions specific to your institution that resonate with students and alumni (e.g., Founders Day)? Adding a giving day could make a special anniversary or tradition even more meaningful
  5. What holidays and deadlines (e.g., calendar-year end, fiscal-year end) do you need to bear in mind or work around?
  6. How much time do you need for planning?

The last question is perhaps the most important, because a thorough, well-executed plan is critical to your success. If you’ve never organized a giving day – or if it is new to your college or university – you should give yourself as much time as possible for planning. According to an AGN poll, about a third said they start planning their giving day 10 months or more in advance. Use that as a guide when deciding when to hold yours.

The vast majority of colleges and universities (86 percent) reported spending four months or longer planning their giving day. So if you haven’t yet begun planning, it is likely too late to pull off a successful giving day this spring.

Even if you’re not a newbie to giving days, there are other factors that can contribute to needing more time for planning. These include the involvement of volunteers, who require training and follow-up; the inclusion of a silent phase, which can extend your timeframe; and your promotion strategy (i.e., if you want to use print materials to announce).

Given how important a giving day is to your annual fund program, take the time to think carefully about scheduling it. Be sure to consider both when your supporters will be able to pay attention and get involved, and when your team will be able to plan and execute it successfully.

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