Podcast: Interview with Dan Allenby

Posted on 04/30/2017 - by Dan Allenby

AGN’s Founder, Dan Allenby, recently joined the “Fundraising Voices” podcast for a candid conversation about his 20-year journey through the field of annual giving. Among the many topics covered in this exclusive interview are how he got his start, some of the big surprises he’s encountered along the way, the real story behind the creation of AGN, and the goals and aspirations for its rapidly growing Plus Membership program.

The interview also includes highlights from Dan’s new book and AGN’s Annual Report, as well as some of his personal predictions for the future of the annual giving industry. Click on the green audio player to listen to the podcast now or read an excerpt from the interview transcript below.

Interviewer: Use your crystal ball here. You’ve got a ton of experience working with institutions in terms of what they’re doing for their annual giving programs. What do you think is the future of annual giving? What’s going to happen next? What are the Allenby predictions?

Dan Allenby: I think it’s going to become more important. I think as we see media and analytics sort of become increasingly sophisticated, you’re going to see a lot of that live within annual giving. I think you’re going to see more investment in annual giving as an industry. I do think you will eventually sort of see a plateauing to the alumni participation rate, but I think that’s going to play out for a few more years.

I think naturally you’re going to see a movement towards more digital programs, using social media and mining social data. I think you’re going to see annual giving programs playing catch-up, really, to where the Amazon’s of the world are right now and a lot of banking institutions and sort of figuring out “how do you give your donors – in the same way that Amazon and Bank of America give their customers – an online experience?” Whether they’re trying to consume some information about the institution and about giving to the institution or just simply trying to transact, I think that’s going to be an important skill that’s going to live within annual giving.

I think you’re going to begin to find annual giving much more integrated with alumni relations and alumni engagement, too.

We were talking before about Stanford’s big decision to eliminate their phone program, but if I had to predict, I don’t think you’re going to see the end of the phone program any time too soon. I think what you are going to see is a rethinking of phonathon programs and their role within advancement shops. It’s not necessarily going to be measured in terms of ROI and how much cash those programs bring in. I think those phonathon programs are going to be used in much more flexible ways. They’re going to be used to engage alumni and connect with them and understand alumni and increase engagement. It’s going to be used to promote events, do market research, conduct stewardship. I think you’re going to see it used and integrated with planned giving and major giving to do plan giving prospect research or maybe even help secure appointments for gift offices when they’re out there.

All of these things combined together, it’s not going to be about how much did the program bring in. It’s going to be more of a “how do we use this as part of our overall prospect and alumni engagement strategy?” Stay tuned. I think you’re going to see phone programs go through a lot of change. I don’t think you’re going to see the end of the phonathon program any time soon. As a matter of fact, you talked about the report that we just put out. Close to 90% of institutions haven’t even thought about getting rid of their phone program, even though Stanford recently kind of shocked the world by eliminating theirs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see programs like Stanford – I won’t call them out specifically – but I think you’re going to see programs changing the way they utilize their phonathon resource.

Eliminating them completely? I’m not sure that’s going to happen anytime soon.