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Imagine if only 17 out of 250 registered guests showed up at an event you were hosting or if only 7 out of 100 available chairs were filled during one of your scientific presentations. Chances are that you would feel tense, awkward, or dejected.

Although this isn’t likely to happen at your personal events or scientific presentations, the truth is that the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) fundraising appeals regularly attract far fewer positive responses than they should. Less than 7% of AGU members make financial contributions to our organization. Of that 7%, only 2.3% (1400 of more than 62,000) of those members make contributions of $50 or greater.

AGU has launched an incentive program that can positively impact all AGU sections and focus groups.

As the director of development, I understand that AGU members must choose among many needs and options regarding where to allocate their disposable income. Some members make AGU a high priority. Others choose to make gifts elsewhere. It wouldn’t be fair, or realistic, to expect all AGU members to make financial contributions to AGU beyond their annual dues. However, something should be done to encourage more individuals to give to AGU at modest levels. To that end, AGU has launched an incentive program that can positively impact all AGU sections and focus groups.

The incentive program will provide unrestricted funding of up to $5000 to sections or focus groups that meet the minimum requirements. Section and focus group leaders maintain complete discretion as to how the funds are used.

How It Works

AGU members who make contributions this year of $50 or more to any AGU fund will be considered qualifying donors toward the incentive program. Sections and focus groups with high enough percentages of qualifying donors will receive funding awards. Each qualifying donor’s contribution will count as participation for only the one section or focus group that is the donor’s primary affiliation.

The incentive program will award unrestricted funding according to the minimum participation thresholds below, starting at a 5% rate of participation. All gifts must be made by 31 December 2015 to qualify for the 2015 incentive program. AGU will calculate rates of participation using primary affiliation figures—excluding student members—as of 31 December 2015.

The unrestricted funding will be awarded in 2016 as follows:

  • 5% participation = $1000
  • 7% participation = $2000
  • 10% participation = $3000
  • 12% participation = $4000
  • 15% participation = $5000

A rate-of-participation system puts all sections and focus groups on an even playing field.

A rate-of-participation system puts all sections and focus groups on an even playing field. AGU development staff encourage all AGU members to participate in this program.

Significant Changes

The year 2015 has brought about significant changes to AGU’s development efforts. Since the beginning of the year, AGU has introduced a new organizational partnership program, revamped the benefits related to our individual giving program, enhanced the section and focus group sponsorship program, and made significant efforts to increase awareness among our members and industry constituents of the importance of development. Although all of these steps will increase development revenues over time, the incentive program can offer immediate financial rewards.

With dues renewal in full swing, Fall Meeting coming soon, and year end approaching, please consider making a qualifying donation of $50 or greater to an AGU fund of your choice. This could ultimately benefit your primary section or focus group.

—Jeff Borchardt, Development Director, AGU; email:

Citation: Borchardt, J. (2015), How your gift can keep on giving, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO039861. Published on 23 November 2015.

Text © 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0
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