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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The World’s Oldest Teacher

Posted on 07/09/2014 - by Dan Allenby

What's Your StoryEvery institution has stories to tell.

For some, these stories lie in their history – their founders, their patrons, or the challenges that they’ve had to overcome. For others, they’re the important things that people are doing today – volunteers building homes, students growing into leaders, or researchers finding cures. For others, their stories are simply a matter of describing that which sets them apart and makes them unique.

With a rich history and a proud culture of educating young men, St. Aloysius’ College in Sydney, Australia has many great stories to tell. And, according The Guinness Book of World Records, it also has something unique – the world’s oldest teacher.

“Father Geoffrey Schneider, SJ, our Junior School Chaplain and Religious Education teacher, was in his 74th year of teaching when he turned 100 years old,” said Murray Happ, Director of Development at St. Aloysius, “To celebrate the milestone, we asked him to serve as the patron for our annual campaign. Who better to tell our stories then the very subject of one of our own?”

Father Schneider not only agreed to serve as patron, but he insisted on being involved in the planning and letter writing process. “And he was quick to correct any poor grammar”, joked Happ.

Was the campaign a success? Yes it was with nearly 20% of all constituents making a gift and an increase in the amount of money raised by over 5%.

Yes, every institution has stories to tell. They are, in essence, the case for support. What’s your story?

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Stop!

Posted on 07/02/2014 - by Dan Allenby

StopThe Annual Fund is always going.

There’s always an upcoming mailing to produce, another phone call to make, or a new thank you note to write. There’s always a prospect who has yet to connect (or reconnect) with your institution. There are always reports to run, pledgers to remind, and volunteers to support.

Annual Fund campaigns are like life. The most dramatic stuff happens at the beginning and the end, but it’s what happens in the middle that defines.

So when you find yourself at the end of your fundraising year, be sure to stop. Get away. Take a vacation. Don’t think about it. Clean the slate.

Because when you come back, it starts all over again.

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Webinar: The Young & The Restless

Posted on 06/25/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Title: The Young & The Restless – Strategy for Young Alumni Giving
Date: September 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM EDT (60 minutes)
Presenter: Colin Hennessy, Executive Director of the Penn Fund

Click here to register today! Save $50 off the regular price when you register before August 15th.

Colin Hennessy_HeadshotAs educational institutions enroll an increasing number of students, they’re also producing an increasing number of young alumni. Raised in a world of rapidly changing media and technology, these “Millennials” bring with them new attitudes and beliefs about philanthropy. Appealing to this important segment is not only important for annual giving success today, but it’s critical for the long term sustainability of our organizations.

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

  • Methods for educating young alumni about philanthropy before and after graduation
  • Strategies for engaging and soliciting recent graduates through new and online media, affinity, events, and volunteer opportunities
  • Tactics for increasing young alumni participation and loyalty
  • Examples that have worked at other institutions
  • And more

Click here to register today!

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Pay For A Day

Posted on 06/18/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Heritage AcademyGeneric doesn’t have much of a ring to it. It doesn’t sizzle. Yes, it’s practical and efficient. But, at the end of the day, generic can be a little boring.

One of the challenges of annual giving is that it can feel generic. Sure, it supports our important missions, good ideas, and noble causes. In general, though, it’s…well…it’s general. Heritage Academy in Augusta, GA figured out way to talk about annual giving without being so general.

“It was near the end of our fiscal year and we found ourselves $40,000 behind”, said Darlene Walters, Director of Development at Heritage Academy. “So, we calculated the cost of operating the school for one day, which turned out to be $33 per student. Then, we sent a Pay for a Day appeal asking donors to make a gift of $33 (or more) before June 30th.”

A clearly stated need and a time sensitive message really paid off. They exceed their $40,000 goal and received nearly three times as many gifts in the final two months of the fiscal year compared to the year before.

The lesson? Don’t be generic.

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Envelopes Have Two Jobs

Posted on 06/13/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Envelopes have two jobs. The first is to get delivered to the right place at the right time. This requires good data, timely project management, and a reliable postal system. An incorrect street number, a flawed print run, or a careless postman can cause an envelope to miss its destination.

Open Me

The second job of an envelope is to get opened. This requires creativity, a willingness to take risks, and a good understanding of the audience (who they are, what they like, when they notice, where they live, and why they care.) Words, images, shapes, fonts, and colors all make a difference in whether or not an envelop gets opened.

So before you spend any time or money on your next appeal letter, ask yourself:  Are your envelopes doing their jobs?”

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Poem for the Timid Solicitor

Posted on 06/04/2014 - by Dan Allenby

It’s ok to ask more than once
It’s ok if you repeat
It could be that you under ask
That leads you to defeat

It’s ok to ask more than once
If at first you don’t succeed
Try again a different way
To make the case and state the need

Try Again

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The Perfect Pipeline

Posted on 05/28/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Keystone PipelineThe Keystone Pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada to as far as the Gulf Coast of Texas. It was constructed in three phases with a fourth phase currently awaiting approval by the government.

It spans over 2,000 miles and transports hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. markets every day. It’s complex, expensive and not without criticism and controversy.

Suffice it to say, it’s far from perfect.

Annual Giving has a pipeline of its own. Starting with prospect identification, it quickly moves on to donor solicitation and stewardship. Ultimately, it ends with a gift upgrade. One of the things that makes the annual giving pipeline unique from major gift strategy is that it doesn’t require as much time in between each of its phases.

The Pefect PipelineIt’s what makes the annual giving pipeline simple, efficient, and (with a little bit of practice) something that can be perfected.

Learn how to build your perfect annual giving pipeline by watching a 60min recording of last month’s AGN webinar led by Lacie LaRue, Senior Director of Annual Giving at the Oregon State University Foundation. Click here for details.

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The Bigger They Are

Posted on 05/21/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Robert_Fitzsimmons_imageRobert “Ruby” Fitzsimmons was a born in Ireland in 1863. The youngest of 12 children, he grew up to be the first three-division world boxing champion winning the Middle Weight, Heavy Weight, and Light Heavy Weight titles.

He was known for his dislike of training (preferring “real” fights) and intimidating opponents by talking “trash”. In 1900 he told a newspaper, “The bigger they are, the further they have to fall.” But, while this may have held true for Ruby Robert, the same can’t be said for annual giving.

Before we solicit a prospective donor, it’s important to determine an appropriate ask amount. We should start by considering their capacity (i.e., how much they could afford to give if properly motivated) and their inclination (i.e., level of interest in supporting the organization.)

Sometimes fundraisers shy away from high ask amounts for fear that it will be off-putting to the prospect. In annual giving, where the goal to establish a reliable stream of ongoing support, some worry that high asks will decrease the likelihood of future gifts. In fact, the opposite is true.

Larger Gifts Are More SustainableThe above chart (compliments of Target Analytics) shows gift renewal rates across an array of gift bands. It’s clear that, as the size of the gift increases, so does the likelihood that it will be renewed. The inverse is just as important to consider. That is that the smaller the gift size, the less likelihood it will be renewed.

Just something to keep in mind next time you step into the ring.

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Flat Ollie

Posted on 05/14/2014 - by Dan Allenby

mascot noun: an animal, person, or thing adopted by a group as its representative symbol and supposed to bring good luck.

Flat OllieFounded in 1948, Brandeis is a private research university that offers the intimacy of a liberal arts college. Among Brandeis’ many unique characteristics is that it does not have a football team or a traditional mascot. What’s not so unique, however, is that it wants to increase its alumni participation rates.

Enter, “Flat Ollie”.

Who is he? He’s the friendly owl that welcomed students to campus at orientation, cheered them on in the gym and soccer field, dragged them out of the library for Midnight Buffet, posed for thousands of pictures, and bid them a farewell during senior week.

“Ollie is our unofficial mascot”, says Mark Ableman, Assistant Vice President for Development at Brandeis. “Most of our young alumni relate to him and he reminds them of the positive experiences they had when they were students.”

“He’s flat because he has to squish down to go through the mail”, says Ableman jokingly. “But you’ll also find him in photos on the alumni Facebook page, featured in email appeals, or writing about his latest adventure on the Brandeis Bold blog.

The idea, which started in 2011, has become a regular part of the University’s BOLD (i.e., Brandeisians of the Last Decade) campaign. Today Ollie continues to stimulate Facebook comments, encourage record updates, and raise general awareness about the impact that results from alumni giving all over the world.

In the first year alone, the Flat Ollie strategy helped increase our young alumni participation rate from 13% to 16% and has helped BOLD alumni get on track towards 20% participation for this fiscal year.

Click here to learn more.

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