Next Generation of Major Donors

Posted on April 27, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

Young Leader ImageMost educational institutions today have programs in place that appeal to young alumni and engage them in philanthropy. Some offer loyalty clubs to encourage and recognize consistent support regardless of the size of an individual’s gift. Many offer discounted giving requirements to recent graduates who want to become members of the annual fund’s leadership gift society. Others offer volunteer opportunities for young alumni who want to serve as committee members, class agents and online ambassadors.

Such efforts are typically coordinated as part of an institution’s annual giving program. Unfortunately, few advancement programs today are doing much to identify and cultivate the next generation of major donors. Campaign and development strategies typically focus on those prospects who show signs of wealth capacity and inclination now – not necessarily those who are likely to be institutional leaders or major gift prospects in the future.

Johns Hopkins University is an expectation. A few years ago they launched their John’s Hopkins Fellows program as a way to cultivate and educate their top leadership prospects, most under the age of 50. The program engages approximately 25 members at a time, each one serving a two-year term.

While there are no specific membership requirements, the rule of thumb used when vetting potential candidates is whether it’s realistic to expect that they will be capable of making a major philanthropic commitment to the university in the next 5-10 years and be suitable for advisory boards or other university leadership positions. Since it’s a decentralized organization, prospective members are nominated by the deans and advancement officers from each of the university’s schools and units. At the same time, there are no set giving requirements for members. Instead, gift expectations are determined on a case-by-case basis and left up to the schools and units who nominated them.

Once on board, members are put through a rigorous “curriculum” to teach them about the inner-workings of the university. This deep dive into university management includes two on-campus meetings, two optional webinars and one seminar event in a major city each year. Activities are coordinated around university board meetings since trustees are often invited to participate. Member meetings might include an update from the university’s president and/or other university leadership, an overview of key institutional functions (e.g., finance, enrollment, academic programs, advancement) and a chance to hear from important groups (e.g., a student panel, discussions with deans).

The Johns Hopkins Fellows program is supported by one full-time dedicated staff person who works in partnership with officers from across the university to ensure that the recruitment and engagement of each and every member is carefully and thoughtfully orchestrated. While this small group of young leaders may not necessarily be critical to the university’s major gift fundraising efforts today, it will most certainly be a key element in the success of the campaigns that the university undertakes in the future.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to watch a recording of AGN’s Webinar on “Young Alumni Giving.”



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Webinar: Digital Strategy for Annual Giving

Posted on April 20, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

Tuesday, May 17th at 1PM EDT (75 minutes)

Presented by Liz Sullivan is the Executive Director of Annual Giving at Northwestern University

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

Liz_Sullivan_PictureDigital strategy today is more than a slick website. It requires an integrated mix of email, video, crowdfunding and social media, and needs to be coordinated with traditional marketing and communication efforts. This session will help you develop an online fundraising strategy that is integrated, engaging, and effective.

Register online for your entire team to learn how to develop an effective digital strategy for your annual fund.


  • Guidelines for segmenting, designing, and producing effective online appeals
  • Tactics for leveraging digital channels, events and volunteers to solicit and steward donors
  • Methods for measuring online engagement and analyzing online appeal results
  • Examples that have worked at other institutions
  • And more!


  • One log-in to the LIVE webinar; invite your entire team
  • 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
  • Eligible for 1.25 points of CFRE credit
  • Members can get FREE webinar registration. Click here to learn more.


Liz Sullivan is the Executive Director of Annual Giving at Northwestern University where she oversees the development and execution of an integrated annual giving strategy that leverages traditional and online channels, volunteers and staff. Her 18-year career includes work as the Senior Digital Strategist at The University of Chicago and The Director of Marketing Services at the American Bar Association. She holds BA from Northern Illinois University and is a Gates Award Recipient.

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

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10 Ways to Annoy Annual Giving Professionals

Posted on April 13, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

10 Ways to Annoy Annual Fund ProfessionalsAnnual Giving is full of juxtapositions. It’s an art and a science. It’s fundamental but complex. It’s cyclical yet always full of surprises. It’s these contrasts that make it so challenging, interesting, and easy to love.

It’s also easy to love the people who work in annual giving. They’re curious, venturesome, and eager to improve their programs, their institutions, and their world. So how do you show the special annual giving professionals in your life how much you love them?

The answer is so simple that even children understand – you annoy them.

Here are 10 ways to annoy annual giving professionals and show them how much they mean to you:

  1. Code all managed prospects “do not solicit”
  2. Hide the call center headphones
  3. Fail to use an appeal code
  4. Do a rain dance on their Giving Day
  5. Mail in a credit card gift and leave the expiration date section blank
  6. Add the President to the appeal seed list
  7. Call them “friend-raisers”
  8. Take vacation during the last week of the fiscal year
  9. Collate before the ink is dry
  10. Forget to fulfill your pledge

Learn more about the characteristics and perspectives of today’s annual giving professional by reading AGN’s recently completed salary and professional development report. CLICK HERE to download a free copy.

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How To Ask For Money

Posted on April 6, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

How to Ask For MoneyThere are many reasons why people make charitable gifts. The #1 reason is because they’re asked. But asking for money doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Whether you’re a volunteer or a professional fundraiser, successful gift solicitations take work and practice. Here are a few guidelines to consider for your next solicitation:

  • Little yeses can lead to big yeses  – warm up your prospective donors by asking simple questions about themselves framed in a positive way. “Are you enjoying this beautiful fall weather we’re having?”
  • Preface each ask with a reason – know your case for support and be able to provide specific examples of how their gifts with have an impact.
  • Be specific, confident and precise – always ask for a specific amount. Avoid casual second attempts that start out like, “well then how about…”
  • Set the bar high – if at first you don’t succeed, you can always try again with a smaller amount. Once they say yes, you can’t ask for more.
  • Make it palatable or symbolic – giving $83.33 each month may be easier to swallow than giving $1,000 all at once. If it’s participation that you seek, consider asking them for a penny per grad year (e.g., $20.11 for someone who graduated in 2011.)
  • Be prepared to overcome objections – familiarize yourself with common refusal reasons. Prepare (and practice) a response to each one. “I understand. That is a lot of money, but we never know unless we ask.”
  • The one who speaks first loses – don’t let an awkward silence get the better of you. After your ask, sit quietly and wait for them to respond.

Above all remember that it’s a conversation, not an auction. People make their own decisions about giving. You’re just there to lend a hand.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to watch a recording of AGN’s Webinar on conducting “Face-to-Face Solicitations.”

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March Matchness

Posted on March 30, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

March MatchnessMarch is a pretty important time. It’s when spring begins, when we celebrate women’s history month, and when the best teams in college basketball compete for the national title in a tournament that’s become known as March Madness.

At SUNY Oswego, March is also when GOLD alumni (i.e., Graduates of the Last Decade) are challenged to increase their participation in the annual fund. They call it March Matchness.

The rules are simple. The annual fund sets a goal of securing a specific number of GOLD donors in March. If the goal is reached, then a generous donor (who’s often a recent graduate) agrees to award a prize in the form of a leadership level donation to the university.

In the first year alone, the goal was surpassed by over 25%, doubling the amount of money raised and tripling the number of March gifts from recent graduates compared to the previous year. What’s even more impressive is that, in every year since the challenge started, half of each year’s GOLD donors give in March.

Joy Knopp, SUNY Oswego’s Director of Annual Giving, describes March Matchness as “a great way to get GOLD alumni engaged and motivated to make a gift. Since the focus is on participation rather than gift size, many alumni make a symbolic gift to honor their class year. For example, members of the class of 2011 are encouraged to donate $20.11.”

She adds, “When looking for a March Matcher (i.e., the challenge donor) we typically start with members of the 10th Reunion Class. It’s particularly special to make a significant gift in a reunion year that’s also their last year as GOLD.”

March-Matchness image


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The Benefits of “No”

Posted on March 23, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

NoDespite its negative connotation, hearing the word “no” isn’t all bad. Even when it comes to raising money.

There’s an old adage that goes like this: The worst thing you can hear after asking someone for a gift is the word “yes.” Why? Because it lets you know that you might have been able to ask for more.

On the other hand, hearing “no” tells you something important. For one thing, it clarifies how much is too much for that particular person at that particular time.

Another benefit of hearing “no” is that it opens the door to ask another important question: why?

Gaining insight into prospect attitudes and perspectives is important at an individual and programmatic level. Take phonathons for example. Most educational institutions run a student or volunteer effort to call alumni and parents throughout the year in order to solicit donations for the annual fund. Inevitably, many of the prospects who are asked to make a donation will reply with a “no.” At that moment, the caller has an opportunity to ask why. Consider some of the common categories used when recording phonathon refusal reasons:

  • Paying off student loans
  • Out of work
  • Kids in college/paying tuition
  • Only contacted to ask for money
  • Already gave
  • Prefer to give online
  • Prefer to give through mail
  • Support other charities instead
  • Already left money in will/estate plans
  • On a fixed income
  • Not now, maybe in the future

Of course there are a number of other factors that could be contributing to an individual’s disinterest in giving. Perhaps something happened in the past that affected the way they feel about the organization, or maybe they don’t like the direction it appears to be headed now. It might be that the mission isn’t a priority for them or that the institution’s messages simply don’t resonate. Maybe you didn’t ask correctly. Keep in mind that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

Maintaining and analyzing refusal reasons is just one way phonathon programs can perform a “research” function in addition to being a solicitation channel. It allows them to gain a better sense of how prospects feel about the institution and what prevents them from supporting it. Being more informed empowers programs to adjust their approach (e.g., scripts, ask levels) and to be better prepared to respond to questions and concerns. This not only makes for more friendly and engaging conversations with prospects, but it increases the likelihood that they’ll say “yes” next time.

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Webinar: Recurring Gift Programs

Posted on March 16, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

Tuesday, April 19th at 1PM EDT (75 minutes)

Presented by Greg Knedler, AVP for Development Services at the U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

Greg_Knedler HeadshotMaking it easy to donate is an important part of annual giving. Recurring or monthly gifts not only offer a convenient way for donors to support the institutions that they care about, but they help annual giving programs acquire young supporters, increase retention rates, and upgrade existing donors to higher levels. Register online to learn how to develop a recurring gifts program for your annual fund.



  • Methods for structuring, branding and promoting your program
  • Guidelines for processing and receipting recurring gifts
  • Recommendations for identifying audiences who are most likely to respond
  • Example from other institutions
  • And more!


  • Access to the LIVE webinar; invite your entire team
  • 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
  • Eligible for 1.25 points of CFRE credit
  • Members can get unlimited access to webinars. Click here to learn more.


Greg Knedler is the Associate Vice President for Development Services at the United States Air Force Academy Endowment where he oversees systems and operations across the division. His 20-year career in annual giving and advancement includes work at Georgia State University, Auburn University, and with K-12 fundraising consultation. He’s a frequent presenter with CASE and holds a Masters in Marketing Education and a Bachelors in Marketing from Auburn University.

Click here to learn more or REGISTER TODAY!

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Setting SMART Goals

Posted on March 9, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

SMART GoalsThe practice of goal setting is quite common in annual giving. Too often, though, goals are conceived in haste or simply handed down by managers without enough thought or consideration. When this occurs, goals become hollow and ineffective and lose their ability to motivate staff. In fact, it can actually demotivate them.

A common problem is that goals are often confused with tactics. Goals are the things you expect your program to achieve. Tactics, by contrast, are the actions you will take to help achieve your goals. If goals are the anticipated result, then tactics are the means to achieve the result. For example, “increase alumni participation by 1 percent over the prior year” is a goal. A tactic to help achieve that goal might be “increasing the number of fundraising events for recent graduates.”

If you expect your annual giving goals to be effective, then they’ll need to be SMART—an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and time bound.

  • Specific. Broad and generic isn’t going to get you very far. You need to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish. For example, “growing the annual fund” is not a specific goal. Be sure to specify what programs and constituencies are your highest priorities and explain what outcomes you expect for each. You can’t do it all, so don’t be afraid to say that you’re going to focus on some areas more than others.
  • Measurable. You won’t achieve what you don’t measure, which is why it’s so important to have quantifiable goals. For example, “increasing alumni donor counts” lacks a measurable and quantifiable target. With an immeasurable goal like that, what would be the motivation to achieve a large increase as opposed to a small increase? By contrast, “increase alumni donor counts by 5 percent over the prior year” provides the annual giving staff with a clear idea of what constitutes success.
  • Ambitious. The purpose of goals is to motivate growth and to accomplish more than has been accomplished in the past. Just like it’s important to set the bar high when soliciting gifts from individual prospects, it’s important to set the bar high for staff when it comes to goal setting. For example, if your program secured 5,000 alumni donors last year, then setting a goal of 5,001 alumni donors this year is not very ambitious.
  • Realistic. Setting the bar too high can be as unproductive as not having any goals at all. For example, if your program secured 5,000 alumni donors last year and has shown no growth in alumni donor counts over the past few years, then setting a goal of 7,500 alumni donors this year may be unrealistic. Unrealistic goals often result when they are assigned without input from the annual giving team. This is referred to as a “top-down” approach to goal setting. Unrealistic goals can also occur when they are developed in a vacuum without data to support them. Regardless of how they occur, unrealistic goals can result in a “doomed to fail” mentality and they do nothing to inspire creativity or hard work.
  • Time bound. Goals need to have a deadline. Although most annual giving programs identify where they expect to be by the end of the fiscal year, they should also set short-term milestones for achievement throughout the year. Setting monthly or quarterly goals can provide a way to assess progress along the way and identify problems before it’s too late. For example, imagine that your goal is to secure 5,000 alumni donors by the end of the fiscal year with 3,500 of them secured by the third quarter. If by the end of the third quarter you have secured only 3,000 alumni donors, then you may want to consider adding another mailing, hiring additional callers or implementing an extra incentive in the final few months of the year.

When it comes to goal setting, it’s also important to keep the big picture in mind. That’s why long-term goals are important. Long-term annual giving goals can be particularly important in the context of multiyear fundraising campaigns. Consider the following table, which maps out a path for increasing alumni participation rates by 1 percent each year over a five-year period. In addition to defining annual targets for alumni participation rates, it also specifies targets for each of the key drivers of alumni participation, including alumni of record counts, donor counts and retention rates. The value of a table like this is that it not only states where you want to end up, but it also describes how you intend to get there.

8.2_Five Year Projection Grid

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Collaborating with Major Gift Officers

Posted on March 2, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

Team Work 6There are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games in the world today according to the World Sports Encyclopedia. This long list can be subdivided into many different categories and segments such as athletics sports, mind sports, physical sports, electronic sports, individual sports and team sports.

Annual Giving is a team sport.

It’s easy to see the differences between major giving and annual giving. One of the most obvious has to do with a gift’s size. Generally speaking, major gifts are larger by comparison. But this doesn’t mean that annual gifts are less important. For example, a $5,000 annual fund gift can have the same financial impact in a given year as a $100,000 endowed gifts that “pays out” at 5 percent.

Another distinguishing factor is that major gifts can require years (sometimes a lifetime) of cultivation before a solicitation occurs, while annual gifts are solicited each and every year. Likewise, the payment schedule for these types of support can be quite different. It’s not uncommon for major gifts to be committed in the form of a pledge, “booked” for the full pledge value, and then paid-out in installments over a number of years. Annual gifts come in the form of cash (or other hard assets) and are credited only in the year in which they are received.

Major gifts are also more likely to come with more restrictions. Often intended to support specific needs through an institution’s endowment or by supporting capital projects, major gifts don’t usually allow for much flexibility in how they’re spent. Annual gifts, on the other hand, are usually less restricted or sometimes even completely unrestricted. Even when annual gifts are designated to support particular areas such as a school, unit, or team, an institution can often use some discretion in deciding how the money is spent.

But don’t let these differences blind you to the many opportunities that exist for collaboration between the annual giving and major giving teams. Prospect discovery and solicitation are great examples. Annual fund officers should always be on the lookout for new major gift prospects and major gift officers should (almost) always be soliciting their prospects for annual gifts each year. Other opportunities for collaboration include annual fund staff helping to create extra personal appeals for managed prospects, engaging prospects through meaningful volunteer roles (e.g., reunion committees, annual fund advisory boards), or working together to secure gift officer appointments. The annual giving program at The University of North Texas used its phonathon callers to identify prospects who might be interested in “taking a meeting” and then passed those names onto major gift officers for follow-up.

That’s not all. Co-reviewing prospect lists, conducting joint visits, and working together to draft gift proposals are also great examples of collaboration. And don’t forget about gift opportunities within the annual fund. Blended gifts, term scholarships, and “challenges” can be meaningful – even exciting – ways for major donors to provide annual support.

All too often, however, these opportunities don’t even make their way into gift discussions. That’s because many major gift officers are inclined to steer their prospects toward more traditional gift opportunities such as endowment and capital support. Whose job is it to remind major gift officers about these (often overlooked) opportunities? It’s the annual fund officer’s. They are, after all, the experts when it comes to annual giving. Additionally, they’re the ones whose programs stand to benefit and whose goals are more likely to be met when those opportunities are realized.

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6 Reasons To Become an AGN Member

Posted on February 24, 2016 - by Dan Allenby

MembershipAnnual Giving Network (AGN) helps fundraisers advance their programs and careers.

Why? Because their work matters!

As the world’s leading resource for annual giving professionals, AGN provides access to training, webinars, workshops, case studies, and the latest research.

AGN Membership gives your entire team access to the industry’s top experts and highest quality training available to annual giving professionals.

Here are 6 reasons to become a member today:

  1. Discounts – members can save over 50% on webinars and receive additional savings on job postings, workshops, and other services
  2. Advice – don’t have the budget to hire a consultant? submit your questions to our dedicated member line and have one of our industry leaders provide expertise
  3. Connections – belonging to our member community allows you to exchange ideas, share best practices and benchmark through member meetings and AGN’s annual member survey
  4. Access – be the first to receive the latest news and information and get special access to AGN’s library of research, examples and case studies
  5. Colleagues – membership applies to organizations so share it with your entire team
  6. Options – choose from 3 levels of membership to fit your unique budget and needs


  • Premier Membershipunlimited access to all webinars for $1,995/year (Save over 50%)
  • Premium Membership – access up to 8 webinars for $1,695/year (Save over 28%)
  • Plus Membership – access up to 6 webinars for $1,395/year (Save over 20%)

For more information or to become a member contact

or call 781.436.2443

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