Posted on 10/22/2014 - by Dan Allenby

smallerWe live in an era of big data.

Today, we collect and store mountains of information on our prospects – work they do, gifts they make, events they attend, groups they belong to, and opinions they share. All too often, though, our big data sits in our big databases and leaves us at a big loss for to how to use it.

How can we make our databases smaller?

Predictive modeling (the use of statistics to predict an outcome) can help. It’s the same tool used by meteorologists to forecast the weather and by banks to evaluate someone’s likelihood to repay a loan. It can be also be used by fundraisers to segment a prospect pool, to decide how to allocate limited resource, and to make our vast databases feel smaller. Modeling can help to:

  • Rate an individual’s likelihood to make a gift
  • Determine the optimal solicitation channel for a prospect
  • Set appropriate ask amounts

According to last year’s AGN survey, 1 out of 3 annual giving program leaders considers predictive modeling to be an important part of their strategy. What’s particularly interesting is that this group also reported higher response rates for their direct appeals when compared with programs that did not consider it to be important. Perhaps predictive modeling isn’t as popular as it is effective.

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Webinar: Rethinking Direct Mail

Posted on 10/15/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Title: Pushing The Envelope – Rethinking Direct Mail Strategy
Date: December 9, 2014 at 1:00 PM EDT (60 minutes)
Presenter: Meredith Blair, Executive Director of Annual Giving & Regional Advancement – UC San Diego

Click here to register today! Save $50 off the regular price when you register before November 21st.

Meredith_Blair_Head Shot

Marketing, communications, and media have changed dramatically in recent years. But, make no mistake – direct mail is alive and well. In fact, direct mail is still the primary driver of donors and dollars at most annual giving programs today. Now, through data, analysis, and market research, we have an opportunity to rethink our mailings in new ways that improves results without increasing costs.

Register online for your entire team to learn how to develop a creative, efficient, and effective direct mail strategy 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 ideas that are easy to implement, including:

  • Strategies for acquiring, reactivating, retaining, and upgrading donors through direct mail
  • Methods for leveraging analytics and market research to improve response rates and return on investment
  • 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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How To Ask For Money

Posted on 10/07/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Asking for MoneyThere are many reasons why people give to charity. The #1 reason is because they’re asked.

Asking for money doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Whether you’re a phonathon caller or a front line development officer, 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 them 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. Click here if you need some ideas.
  • Be specific, confident and precise – always ask for a specific amount. Avoid casual second attempts that start out like, “we’ll 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.

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Alumni Declension

Posted on 10/01/2014 - by Dan Allenby

The term alum refers to any of various double sulfates of a trivalent metal such as aluminum, chromium, or iron and a univalent metal such as potassium or sodium.

While I imagine that alum may be quite interesting to a scientist or an engineer, it’s not clear how useful it is to those of us who work in advancement.

Alumni Conjugation

On the other hand, an alumnus (male) or alumna (female) is a former student (often a graduate) of a school, college, or university. The term alumnae is used to describe a group of female former students and the term alumni describes a group of male former students or a group of mixed sexes.

Words do matter.

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2014 Survey of Annual Giving Leaders

Posted on 09/24/2014 - by Dan Allenby

Survey image 2 Are you directly responsible for managing an annual giving program at an educational institution? Would you like to know more about the latest trends in the field of annual giving? Could you use more data to help improve your program and guide your career?

If so, make sure you participate in The Annual Giving Network’s 2014 Survey of Annual Giving Leaders, which will uncover answers to the following questions and more:

  • What’s a bigger priority for annual giving programs today: donors or dollars?
  • How much do annual giving leaders earn today?
  • Can “giving days” and crowdfunding really improve results?
  • Which vendors and consultants are recommended by your peers?
  • Are phonathon programs successfully adapting to the mobile migration?
  • What ROI should you expect for your direct mail program?
  • How are successful annual giving programs using social media?

CLICK HERE to sign-up today and a copy of the survey will be emailed to you to complete online. All survey participants will receive a:

  • Free copy of the survey report
  • Chance to win a $100 Amex gift certificate
  • 10% discount on AGN webinars and job listings on

For more information, please contact

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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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