Posted on 09/16/2014 - by Dan Allenby

SnackableCould your alumni think your institution is “worthy but not needy”? This isn’t an uncommon challenge for educational institutions today. Especially those with relatively large endowments and high sticker prices.

Education finance is complex and, for most, not easy to understand. If we don’t make a point of explaining it in terms that our alumni can grasp, it can make the idea of donating money to our annual funds hard for them to swallow.

Make your case for support “snackable.”

Stanford University, which raises nearly $1 billion annually, lists “Seven Reasons To Support Stanford” on their Annual Fund’s website. Here’s how they explain to their alumni why Stanford needs money:

  1. Tuition covers only about two-thirds of the real cost of undergraduate education.
  2. More than half of all Stanford undergrads depend on need-based scholarships from the university.
  3. Stanford’s endowment covers only about 23% of the university’s budget.
  4. Most gifts are restricted. Annual, expendable gifts provide vital flexibility.
  5. Federal support for university research is significant, but it’s been declining for years in real dollars.
  6. Stanford’s mission is global. Big ideas can be expensive. Making a difference is worth it.
  7. Every gift makes a difference! Most gifts made to Stanford are under $1,000. But together they add up to millions for financial aid, academics, research, and other programs.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting kind of hungry.

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Fly Your Flag

Posted on 09/09/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Marquette FlagIf you happened to be in or around Chicago last March, you may have noticed a lot of Marquette flags flying about. That’s because Marquette University’s annual giving team, in conjunction with National Marquette Day, was testing something new.

“We wanted to boost donor participation, says Angela Krainz, a Senior Advancement Officer at Marquette, “so we offered a 3×5 Marquette flag to anyone who donated $60 or more. We focused our effort on Chicago because of the concentrated number of alumni, parents, and prospective students in that area.”

They kicked off the campaign with a postcard (see below) that drove donors to a web page where they could make a gift to the fund of their choice. They also promoted the campaign through Facebook ads and email. The effort generated nearly $30,000 and over 300 donors (a 1.8% response rate.) For nearly 20% of the donors, this was their first gift to Marquette.

“We were really surprised by how many parents participated”, said Krainz. Nearly 25% of the donors were current and past parents. In fact, they decided to run the flag promotion later in the year to all current parents, regardless of location, so that they could have a flag to give to their son or daughter as a holiday present.

They acknowledge that not every premium-based campaign turns out to be a success. Next time, they may focus more of their efforts online – possibly limiting it to a 24-hour time frame, incorporating a giving challenge, or asking donors to share photos of their flag display through social media.

“We only received positive feedback”, says Krainz. “Marquette alumni have a strong affinity for the university. They loved the fact they could get something to show their pride and help the university at the same time.”

Marquette’s compliance with the IRS’s regulations was simplified because they required a minimum donation and rewarded donors with a “token item” that contained their logo. Click here to read the current quid pro quo guidelines from the IRS.

Marquette Postcard Back



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Barn Lifting

Posted on 09/03/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Barn Lifting ImageIn 1981, Herman Ostry bought a farm near the small town of Bruno, Nebraska. His purchase included several acres, a creek and a barn.

At the time, he didn’t realize that the barn was built on low ground.  When it rained, the floor would flood creating a muddy and unusable mess. Unfortunately, the cost of hiring a construction company to move the barn was too expense. So Herman was forced to tolerate a muddy barn floor until, seven years later, he got an idea.

During the summer of 1988, the town of Bruno was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Herman used the centennial to convince 350 of his neighbors to help him relocate the barn to higher ground. In the afternoon, with thousands of live spectators and television cameras on hand, the volunteers banded together to lift the 20,000 pound barn and walk it over 115 feet to its new foundation.

The moral of the story? Sometimes a lot of little parts, put together in the right way, can achieve really big things.

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Webinar: Stewardship for Annual Giving

Posted on 08/27/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Title: Love Will Keep Us Together – Stewardship for Annual Giving
Date: October 21, 2014 at 1:00 PM EDT (60 minutes)
Presenter: Keturi Beatty, Sr. Director of Development – U. North Texas

Click here to register today! Save $50 off the regular price when you register before September 26th.

In annual giving, stewardship is much more than a gift a receipt or thank you letter. It’s showing donors that their contributions have impact and making them feel loved long after their donations have been processed. If done well, stewardship will not only help your Annual Fund raise more money, but it will create a community of loyal donors to support your organization for years to come.

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


What You Will Learn

Whether you’re a large, complex annual giving program or a one-person shop, our expert instructor will share stewardship ideas that are easy to implement, including:

  • Strategies to ensure a positive and rewarding experience for your donors
  • Methods for acknowledging and recognizing your donors in a way that efficient, effective, and scalable
  • Tactics that don’t require a big budget
  • Examples that have worked at other institutions
  • And more

Click here to register today!

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The Cornerstone Club

Posted on 08/20/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Northeastern HuskiesNortheastern University doesn’t have too much trouble getting its alumni to donate. As a matter of fact, nearly 40% have made a gift at some point in their lifetime. Like many institutions, though, their challenge is getting alumni to give every year. The truth is that only around 12% of Northeastern’s alumni make a gift to their alma mater annually.

“We were looking for a way to encourage consistent annual support while highlighting the impact of gifts at all levels”, said Bill Woodman, Director of The Northeastern Fund”, “so we created a special club to encourage consistent giving and honor those who support the university year after year. We call it The Husky Cornerstone Club.”

Membership in the Husky Cornerstone Club is granted to donors who make gifts (of any amount, to any area of the university) in two or more consecutive years. Benefits include special access to campus events, recognition in the published donor roster, and fun gifts (like decals or key chains) so alumni and parents can show their Husky pride. Members also receive insider updates so that they’re the first to see what the university is accomplishing as the result of their donations.

Northeastern isn’t alone. Many other programs have launched similar clubs or societies in recent years. Brown University (whose annual fund was founded exactly 100 years ago as the “Loyalty Fund”) launched the 1764 Society to recognize donors with five or more consecutive years of giving. Dartmouth College’s Hal Ripley Society recognizes donors who have given every year since graduation.

Donor loyalty programs come in all shapes and sizes. Beyond the basic requirements, some offer premium membership with added benefits for reaching milestones (e.g., 20 years of consecutive giving) or the opportunity to “buy back” years in which a donation was missed. Others use their clubs or societies as a way to engage volunteers through advisory councils or by appointing chairs to lead their membership efforts.

One thing that is consistent across all of these programs is that their primary goal isn’t to maximize the the amount of money raised. Instead, it’s to encourage annual support (regardless of gift size) and to celebrate one of the most valuable things of all…loyalty.

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Up To Snuff?

Posted on 08/13/2014 - by Dan Allenby

SnuffaluffagusIs your online giving form up to snuff? One way to tell is by measuring its conversion rate. This is the percentage of visitors who end up making a donation. While it can vary widely depending on the type of program or institution, it typically ranges somewhere between 30-50%. In some ways it’s similar to phonathon program’s conversion rate (i.e., the percentage of those prospects who answer the phone and then go on to make a pledge or gift.)

If your online giving form is experiencing a low conversion rate, then ask yourself some questions.

First, is your marketing at all misleading? Could your prospective donors think that your links (those in your emails, on your webpages, or in your social media) will take them somewhere other than your online giving form? Might they have expected to end up somewhere else?

Second, is your online giving form hard to use? Are your donors required to fill out more than ten fields? Do they have to click through more than four pages to complete their transaction? Does it include a lot of unnecessary text or distracting content? Is the design cluttered and cold? Does it feel like a shopping cart? Do they have “pinch and scroll” to view it clearly on a mobile phone?

If so, your online giving form may be due for a makeover.

Giving is an emotional experience. Do your best to make it a positive one.

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Two Kinds of Money

Posted on 08/06/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Two Kinds of MoneyDeveloping a household budget is a relatively simple task. First, you set aside money to live on – for rent, food, utilities, and (hopefully) a little fun. Then, you put aside money to invest in your future – for education, retirement, and other life goals. It’s not that different for nonprofit organizations. They also need money to grown on. Often, this comes from endowment or capital gifts that are invested or used to construct or improve facilities.

Educational, healthcare, and other nonprofit organizations need money to live on too. Typically, this comes from dues, tuition, and other fees. Unfortunately, this is rarely enough to fully support an organization’s operating budget, which is why annual funds are so important.

There is no single or universal definition of what should be counted in an annual fund. In fact, organizations choose to define their annual funds in many different ways. What is universal, however, is that nonprofits don’t just need money to help them grow. They need money to help them operate, to run, to work, to function.

They need money to live on. They need annual giving.


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Free Food and More

Posted on 07/30/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Telefund Caller Picture 1Phonathon programs, once the lifeblood of most annual giving programs, are facing new challenges every year. In 2013, the average phonathon accounted for less than 30% of annual fund donors and less than 15% of annual fund revenue at U.S. educational institutions.

As the world becomes more mobile and negative stigmas persist around telemarketing, phonathon contact rates continue to decline. Today, there’s only a 50% chance that someone will answer the phone each time a caller dials.

The truth is that running a phonathon program has never been easy. It’s just plain hard work. With staff retention rates often at or below 65%, every program needs an incentive plan. While “free food” continues to be a simple and effective way to motivate callers, other effective incentives today include guest speakers, “caller of the week” awards, and parties to celebrate milestone achievements.

At Southern New Hampshire University, the phonathon team wanted to create a point based incentive system that not only rewarded callers for productivity, but one that underscored that some outcomes were more desirable than others. They awarded extra credit for acquiring a new donor, upgrading an existing donor, or securing a credit card payment.

They also looked for ways to include callers in decisions about segmentation and script development. “We want our students to love their job”, said Lisa St. Hilaire, Director of Annual Giving at Southern New Hampshire. “We believe that the more the students are involved, the more motivated they’ll be to succeed on the phone.

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How To Make Someone Feel Special

Posted on 07/23/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Donor ParkingWe work hard to make our volunteers and donors feel special through personal acknowledgment, public recognition, awards, and access. We spend a lot of time, thought, and money to create plaques, publish honor rolls, produce reports, and put on events.

We call this stewardship and our work here is never done.

But making someone feel special doesn’t have to involve a lot of pageantry or expense. It doesn’t have to be be difficult. Sometimes little things are the most meaningful. These can be things that all of us, regardless of our title or budget, are empowered to do any day and every day.

Next time you want to make someone feel special, just try:

  • Calling them by name
  • Looking them in the eye
  • Asking for their advice
  • Reminding them of something they’ve told you in the past
  • Giving them a picture of something important to them
  • Sending them a handwritten note
  • Smiling

Simple and thoughtful is rare and it’s beautiful.

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Decision Time

Posted on 07/16/2014 - by Dan Allenby

FarmingAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are approximately 2.2 million farms in the United States – that’s about 142 people for every farm.

Farmers are important. They raise and grow stuff so that we can eat and live and go on to do important stuff ourselves. Anyone who’s ever spent time on a farm knows that it’s really hard work. But not many people appreciate how much planning and decision making goes into farming.

It’s estimated that each year a farmer has to make over 40 decisions. They consider what kind of seeds to plant, how much to water, which fertilizers and pesticides to use, and when to harvest. And, because some things (like weather) are completely out of their control, farmers also have to make costly and risky decisions like whether or not to buy crop insurance.

In annual giving, we have to make a lot of decisions too – like who to ask, when to ask, and how much to ask for. We determine which segments need more personalization, which callers to hire, which subject lines to test, and whether or not our online giving form is easy enough to use.

There are plenty of things (like the economy) that are out of our control, so it’s really important that we try to make the best decisions about the things we can control. The more information we have beforehand, the higher the likelihood that we’ll make a good decision.

Summer can be a great time to gather information, plan, and to start making decisions. But keep your eye on the clock. The harvest will be here before you know it!

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