2015 Salary & Professional Development Survey

Posted on 09/30/2015 - by Dan Allenby

CareerAre you an annual giving professional at an educational institution? Do you care about professional development? Would you like some data to help advance your your program and career? If so, take a minute to complete AGN’s 2015 Salary & Professional Development Survey, which will unlock the answers to the following questions…and more!

  • Are you paid equitably?
  • Does your department offer salaries that are competitive enough?
  • How much experience is required to take the next step in your career?
  • Which advanced degrees will give you the biggest advantage?
  • What are the most common obstacles to success for annual giving professionals?

This brief CONFIDENTIAL survey only takes a minute to complete. All participants will receive a FREE advanced copy of the report and a chance to win a $250 American Express gift certificate. Increase your chances of winning for every colleague you refer!

CLICK HERE to take the survey now!

Annual Giving Network (AGN) helps fundraisers advance their programs and their careers. Why? Because their work matters! As the world’s leading resource for annual giving professionals, AGN provides access to research, webinars, workshops, case studies, job listings, and a network of over 10,000 active members.

Read More

The Stereotypical Donor

Posted on 09/23/2015 - by Dan Allenby

StereoIn real life, giving patterns vary. Every donor gives in a manner and at times that are uniquely right for them. For many institutions, the majority of alumni won’t even make a single gift during their lifetime. Few will ever make a major or planned gift.

In the life of the stereotypical alumni donor, however, a giving pattern might look like this:

  • Before graduation, they make their first gift through the senior class gift campaign
  • 1-15 years out, they make consistent donations to the annual fund
  • 15-30 years out, they make leadership gifts to the annual fund
  • 30+ years out, they make a major gift or planned gift

These stages suggest a model or ideal for cultivating alumni in a way that’s more likely to be in line with their own circumstances. For example, it’s probably not realistic to expect a recent graduate to be able to make a major gift since they are just starting out in their careers and are only beginning to accumulate assets. Nor is it realistic to expect someone who has never donated before to make a major or planned gift if the institution has done nothing to build a relationship with them over time.

Encouraging people to move through these various stages of giving is often referred to as building a pipeline and it’s one of the most important functions of an annual giving program. It begins with identifying and acquiring new donors, encouraging their consistent support, and raising their sights in a way that leads to their increased giving over time. A strong pipeline will ultimately produce a pool of prospects that have been regularly solicited, appropriately stewarded, and prepared for a conversation about a major or planned gift.

Read More

Webinar: Leadership Gifts for Annual Funds

Posted on 09/16/2015 - by Dan Allenby

Tuesday, November 3rd at 1PM EDT (75 minutes)

Presented by Laura Tepper, Director of Individual Gifts at the University of Pennsylvania

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

Laura_Tepper_Head_ShotIn almost any fundraising effort, the majority of the money raised will come from a few top donors. Annual Funds are no exception. Building a strong leadership giving program for your Annual Fund will not only help to achieve fundraising success today, but it will help to create a pipeline of future major gifts that will benefit your institution for years to come.

Register online for your entire team to learn how to build a strong leadership giving program for your Annual Fund.


  • Methods for identifying, stewarding and soliciting your top prospects
  • Tactics for upgrading donors through gift clubs and other channels
  • Guidelines for securing annual fund gifts from major gift prospects
  • Examples that have worked at other institutions
  • And more


  • Access to the LIVE webinar; invite your entire
  • Your questions answered by an expert
  • Copies of the presentation materials and resources
  • List of event participants so you can expand your network
  • Link to watch a recording of the webinar following the live event


Laura Tepper is the Director of Individual Gifts at the University of Pennsylvania. Her 15 year career includes work in annual giving and major gifts and her expertise include leadership gift strategy, volunteer management, reunion giving, direct appeals, and phonathons. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

Read More

Calendar vs. Fiscal Year

Posted on 09/09/2015 - by Dan Allenby

The following chart shows the percent of total annual fund gifts and revenue by month for one educational institution. For both metrics, you can see that the highest volume is in December and June. This should come as no surprise considering that these mark the end of the calendar and fiscal years – two periods when many organizations concentrate their fundraising appeals.

Look closer and you’ll see something else. While the single biggest month for gifts is December, the single biggest month for revenue is June. Why is this?

Donors and Dollars by Month

While many donors are motivated (in part) by the tax credits they’ll receive for making charitable contributions before the end of the calendar year, only a few are aware of your organization’s budgetary timelines. Fiscal years are internal constructs that are irrelevant to the average constituent. However, it’s more likely that your leadership donors and key volunteers are in tune with your fiscal years. They’re the ones who tend to make the larger gifts that cause the spike in revenue at the end of the fiscal year.

For everyone else, it helps to give little reminders. The University of New Mexico send a “Happy New Year” postcard to all of its past donors letting them know that one fiscal year has ended an another has begun. It not only serves as a way to thank them for their past support, but it also prepares them for the new appeals they’re about to receive.

Read More

Conducting SYBUNT Surveys

Posted on 09/02/2015 - by Dan Allenby

MissingSYBUNT is an acronym that stands for “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This.” It’s commonly used in annual giving to describe someone who has given at some point in the past, but has not given in the current fiscal year or in the last fiscal year. The term that’s often used to describe when a donor skips a year of giving is “lapsing.”

There are numerous things that could cause a donor to lapse. Did they have a bad experience last time they made a gift? Could they have moved and you haven’t been able to update their new address? Was their last donation inspired by a challenge, a class reunion, or some token incentive that got them excited – but only for moment moment? Did they just forget?

Understanding why someone lapsed can be an important step to winning them back, which is why The University of Houston conducted a survey of their SYBUNTs. In it they asked their lapsed donors:

  • What motivated them to give in the past?
  • Why the haven’t given recently?
  • What would increase the likelihood that they’d give in the future?
  • How the annual giving program could improve it’s efforts?

To encourage response, all participants were offered personalized return address labels. Within a few months, the survey received over 400 replies. The data was used to inform their donor reactivation strategies and think about shortcomings in their donor stewardship efforts. Among the most common comments received was that people wanted the university to do a better job explaining how their gifts were used.

Data wasn’t the only benefit of the survey. Many donors used it as a chance to update their personal and employment information. Others used it as an opportunity to renew their gift. In fact over 250 donors sent back donations after taking the survey.

Read More

It’s Not About The Money

Posted on 08/26/2015 - by Dan Allenby

Impact ImageToo often we focus on the money. It’s tempting to talk about our ambitious campaign goals or celebrate how much was generously donated to the Annual Fund. But, when we do, we miss the point. It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money does.

Ask someone to explain the role of stewardship in annual giving and they might tell you about the acknowledgement letters they produce, the donor rosters they publish, and the plaques that hang in their institution’s hallways. While these are all important aspects of stewardship, they’re secondary to the task to showing donors how their gifts have made a difference.

Each year, The Boston College Fund produces impact reports. Published online, these reports are filled with pictures, videos, and stories about the impact of annual giving on the lives of students and faculty. Donors are sent an email letting them know that the reports are available.

In addition, donors receive quarterly impact emails, which come from an individual student or faculty member who has benefited directly from annual giving. They include compelling stories and specific examples of how donor support has made a difference in their lives.

In the first year after launching their impact reports, Boston College saw an increase in their donor retention rate. But that’s not the only way they knew their efforts were effective. “The emails that we get back from donors after receiving these tell us that they’re worthwhile”, say Theresa Lee, Executive Director of Annual Giving. “Many of the responses are heartfelt. Sometimes, it can be emotional to read them.”

The impact reports and emails are coordinated as part of the university’s donor loyalty program known as The Neenan Society. Click here to learn more.

Read More

Webinar: Planning a Giving Day

Posted on 08/19/2015 - by Dan Allenby

Thursday, October 1st at 1PM EDT (60 minutes)

Presented by Skylar Beaver, Director of Annual Giving at Washington and Lee University

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!


Giving Days or “flash campaigns” are gaining popularity in the fundraising world as a way to build excitement and urgency around giving while highlighting the impact of donor support. In addition to attracting new and reactivating past donors, Giving Days can also be an effective way to improve collaboration between departments and strengthen the sense of community around campus.

Register online to learn how to plan and execute a successful Giving Day for your institution.


  • Guidelines for setting goals, securing challenge gifts, and developing a project timeline
  • Methods for creating an effective website and using social media to promote the event
  • Tactics for engaging current volunteers and recruiting new ones
  • Examples from different institutions
  • And more!


  • Access to the LIVE webinar; invite your entire team (1 log-in per registration)
  • Your questions answered by an expert
  • Copies of the presentation materials and resources
  • List of event participants so you can expand your network
  • Link to watch a recording of the webinar following the live event


Skylar Beaver is the Director of Annual Giving at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA where she oversees a multi-channel solicitation program including reunion giving, class agents, young alumni and student philanthropy. Previously, she served as the Director of the Annual Fund at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY. She is an active member and past Chair of STAFF (Sharing the Annual Fund Fundamentals) and holds a B.A. in Sociology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a M.P.A in nonprofit management from SUNY Brockport.

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!


Read More

Email Subject Lines: The New Battleground

Posted on 08/12/2015 - by Dan Allenby

CastleAn envelope has two jobs. The first is to get delivered to the right mailbox. The second is to get opened.

The envelope is the battleground for an annual fund’s print appeals. Getting someone someone to open it gets you one step closer to the castle. Similarly, getting someone to answer a phonathon call or getting someone to take a meeting with a gift officer is a key step in ultimately getting someone to make a donation.

In email, the battleground is the subject line. It’s the first (and quite possibly the only) thing that a prospect will see, which is why it’s so important to choose your words carefully. Keep in mind that your donors are likely getting dozens if not hundreds of other emails each day, so you need to make sure your subject lines stand out, get noticed and resonate. Here’s how:

  • Grab their attention – Be concise and direct. Pull them in and make them want to read more. Try to make it read like a newspaper headline.
  • Generate curiosity – Ask questions like “Is your name on this list?” or try numbered phrases “6 reasons you should donate today”
  • Make it relevant – The point is not to trick someone into opening your email. The point is to get those who will be interested in what’s inside to open it. It’s better to have a lower open rate and a higher click through or conversion rate than the other way around. If you have a video to share then let them know it with a subject line like “Watch this video!”
  • Create urgency – Use deadlines. Let them know if “Time is running out” or if it’s their “Last chance” to get their gift matched. Year ends and challenges provide natural opportunities to create a sense of urgency.
  • Beware of spam filters – Certain phrases or characters can cause your emails to get flagged as mass emails and automatically dumped in “junk” or “spam” folders where it’s likely you’re alumni will never even see them. To avoid this, try not to use words like “Free” or “Exclusive” in your subject line and shy away from using special characters or capital letters. If it sounds or looks like something a sleazy sales person might say, than there’s a good chance it’ll end up in a spam filter.

Considering all the time it takes to create compelling content for your email appeals, don’t rush the subject line. Take time to think about it carefully. Come up with a few options and share them with others for their feedback.

Once you’re inside the castle, your chances of victory go way up.

Read More

Overcoming Objections

Posted on 08/05/2015 - by Dan Allenby

DisguiseThe worst thing you can hear after asking someone for a gift is “yes.” Why? Because it means you could have asked for more. But what do you do when you hear “no?”

Whether you’re on the front lines or working in a call center, the ability to overcome objections is a skill that every fundraiser needs. To keep the conversation alive after someone declines your initial request, you should:

  • Keep it positive. Remember that little yeses lead to bigger yeses.
  • Be specific, confident, and concise. Avoid sluggish talk like “well then” or “how about.”
  • Acknowledge their concerns. Lead with phrases like “I understand” and “I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • Insert a reason before each subsequent ask.

While it’s easy to let “no” get you down, it can actually be a chance to engage a prospect in a meaningful conversation and (possibly) change the way they they think about your institution. Here are some common objections with suggestions for how you can respond. If they say:

  • “This is not a good time” then you say, “Of course. Is there a better time when we could call you back?”
  • “That’s more than I can afford” then you say, “I understand. Is there a specific amount that would be more comfortable for you?”
  • “I had a bad experience with the institution” then you say, “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you considered that your gift could ensure that others have a better experience?”
  • “I don’t like the direction the organization is headed” then you say, “I’ll make a note of your concern. Please know that the institution listens carefully to its supportive alumni.”
  • “My gift won’t make a difference” then you say, “Every gift counts. Participation rates can have a positive impact on institutional rankings and often influence major donors and foundations.”

Sometimes no simply means no. Other times it’s just an opportunity in disguise.

Read More

You Are Perfect

Posted on 07/29/2015 - by Dan Allenby

Donor retention rates measure the portion of prior year donors who give again in the following year. For competitive colleges and universities this is often around 60 percent. For new donors (i.e., those who made their first gift in the prior year) retention rates can be much lower – often below 20 percent. In the case of recent graduates who made their first gift as part of their senior class gift campaign, it’s not unusual for retention rates to be below 10 percent.

To reduce this kind of attrition and to highlight the importance of ongoing support by new alumni, the Penn Fund launched its “You Are Perfect” campaign. It started several years ago as a fiscal-year-end postcard sent to all first year alumni who had donated to their senior class gift campaign in the prior year. The message was simple: You Are Perfect. Don’t Change!


The initial mailing generated a 14% response rate and accounted for one quarter of all giving from the class. In recognition for their gifts, donors received personal acknowledgement letters and were listed as “perfect donors” in the university’s donor roster publication. In the following year, they rolled it out to all graduates of the past four years with perfect giving records. It generated a 16% response rate and accounting for 10% of giving by pre-5th reunion classes.

Encouraging consistent giving (regardless of the gift amount) by recent graduates not only helps to increase retention rates each year, but its one of the most important things you can do to boost your alumni participation rates over the long term.

Read More