3 Rules of Managing Volunteers

Posted on 11/19/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

As hard as you try to make your appeals feel intimate, the truth is that they always run the risk of coming across as a little cold and impersonal to your prospects. One of the best ways to warm up solicitations is to coordinate them through volunteers. There’s even evidence to show that working through volunteers can pay off: institutions whose annual giving programs report having a “reliance on volunteers” have alumni participation rates nearly twice that of programs that report not relying on volunteers. Annual giving has a long tradition of getting alumni volunteers involved as class agents or as members of reunion gift committees. Now, new roles are emerging for volunteers to lend a hand. When the University of Massachusetts was preparing to launch their first ever online-giving day—appropriately named UMass Gives—they hoped that it would inspire many young alumni to support the university for the first time. To that end, they knew they would need to look beyond traditional volunteer roles for help spreading the word. So, they created a new role for volunteers called “online ambassadors.” To identify potential ambassadors, they compiled a list of past telefund callers, former senior class gift committee members, new young alumni donors, and alumni who were particularly active on the university’s social media channels. Then they sent these individuals an email describing the role and inviting them to join the ranks. Once a team of ambassadors had been recruited, UMass set out to make sure that this new resource was used effectively. Following the three conventional rules of managing volunteers, the annual fund team made sure to: Tell them what to do. The online ambassadors were asked to post and share university-generated content about Giving Day through their social networks and to email friends leading up to and during the event. They were also encouraged to post their own pictures and comments and to share their feelings about ...

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Strengthening Student Foundations

Posted on 11/12/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Everybody has at least one thing they’re good at—everyone has a talent. Some people are creative. Others are analytical. Some people are detail-oriented. Others are good at getting things done. For annual giving programs, recruiting volunteers who have an array of talents and who are willing to lead by example can be one of the best ways to spread the word about the importance of giving. It can also be an effective way to teach students about philanthropy and give them a chance to put their talents to good use. The student foundation is nothing new at Oklahoma State University—it’s been around for decades—but it had a few shortcomings. First, it wasn’t getting the support it needed from staff. Second, it wasn’t always clear to members what was expected of them. Third, the foundation didn’t accurately reflect the diversity of the university’s student population. When the annual giving team realized that the foundation wasn’t living up to its full potential, they didn’t waste a moment looking for ways to improve it. One of the first things they did was dedicate a staff position to supporting student philanthropy programs. This position focused on recruiting and supporting volunteers, coordinating events and marketing efforts, and developing programs to teach students about philanthropy. The position was also responsible for developing a stronger partnership with the office of student affairs and identifying ways for the foundation to be more involved in student life in general, as well as in important events like matriculation and commencement. Next, they created a volunteer job description that outlined their specific expectations of members. It stated that each foundation member was required to be present at meetings, help spread the word about giving, and join one of the subcommittees through which they could assist with development-related projects like crowdfunding or event planning. Having a job description gave volunteers a ...

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Preparing The Next Generation of Major Donors

Posted on 11/05/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Most 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 exception. A few years ago they launched their Johns 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 that is should be realistic 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 that nominated them. Once on board, members are put through a rigorous ...

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2017 Survey of Annual Giving Programs

Posted on 10/29/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

AGN is pleased to announce the launch of its 2017 Annual Giving Survey, which will uncover the latest trends and best practices in the field of annual giving. All colleges, universities, and independent schools are invited to participate. Every institution that completes the survey will receive a FREE copy of the survey's executive summary report, a chance to win ice cream for your team, and a $50 discount on any AGN service including job ads, webinar registrations, and program assessments (one discount per institution; offer valid until 12/31). All AGN Plus Members who complete the survey will receive an additional report that provides peer benchmarks and evaluates staffing levels, budget allocation, and ROI. These customized assessments are tools to help annual giving programs improve strategy and make the case for additional investment. The survey contains 13 questions and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. All responses will be kept confidential. To minimize the length of time it takes to complete the survey, please have the following information from your LAST FISCAL YEAR on hand before you begin: Total # of living alumni AND # of alumni donors (grad/undergrad combined) Total $ revenue AND # of gifts generated through annual giving Total $ revenue AND # of gifts from direct mail, phonathon, and online giving Total $ budget for the annual giving program overall as well as for direct mail, phonathon, and professional development (exclude staff salaries, include caller wages) Total $ private support to your institution (cash and pledge payments from major AND annual giving combined) The survey will remain open until November 3rd. Limit one submission per institution. For more information, please contact [email protected]

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6 Ways To Improve Your Online Giving Form

Posted on 10/22/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Nice work! You've managed to drive a prospective donor to your institution's online giving form. While getting them there is certainly an important step, there is no guarantee that they will continue and make a gift. Even if they do, will it be a positive or a frustrating experience? What happens next has a lot to do with how well your giving form is designed. Here are 6 ways to improve your institution’s online giving form, increase your conversion rates, and create a positive experience for your donors: Keep the layout and content simple, visually appealing, and balanced by using fonts that are easy to read and by avoiding unnecessary images, videos or links that might distract attention. Make sure it's optimized for viewing on a mobile device. Minimize the amount of time required to complete the transaction by reducing the number of pages, fields, and required data entry. Put the gift amount and designation selections early in the process (while donors are excited!) before the more tedious tasks of providing contact and credit card information. Offer an "other" option for donors to write-in a desired designation that isn't otherwise listed. Highlight important options like recurring gifts or split designations and encourage desired outcomes by preselecting high gift amounts. Don't underestimate the importance of the online giving experience and the impact it can have on the way your donors think and feel about your institution. Design matters! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Annual Fund Websites & Giving Forms.  

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3 Steps To Handling A Donor Complaint

Posted on 10/15/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Wouldn’t it be nice if 100% of your donors were happy 100% of the time? If that were so, your annual giving program would surely see lower donor attrition and significantly higher participation rates. Keep dreaming. The truth is that there are going to be times when your team will get a call or an email from one of your supporters with a complaint. It might be because their name was spelled wrong on an appeal or because they weren’t invited to an important event. Perhaps the phonathon calls them too often or your office under-reported their gift amount on the annual donor report (oh no!). Sometimes grievances will be legitimate. Somebody wasn’t paying close enough attention or simply made a mistake. Other times, it might be something that’s out of your control. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s generally best to handle it as if the customer (or, in your case, the donor) is always right. In fundraising, knowing how to respond and what to do when a gripe comes your way is as important as knowing how to solicit a donation or write a gift acknowledgment. “AAA” is a good way to remember how best to react when a donor complains: Accept – take responsibility for the issue on behalf of the institution Apologize – simply say you're sorry Act – tell them what you’re going to do to fix it Following these three steps when dealing with a complaint will not only prevent the issue from escalating into a bigger problem, but it may even end up being a good donor cultivation move. Who knows? If handled properly, a complaint today could lead to an opportunity tomorrow. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Maximizing Annual Fund Stewardship.

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Reunion Zero

Posted on 10/08/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Shoaling is a term used in biology to describe when a group of fish stick close together. In general, fish shoal with others of similar size and appearance, choosing members of their own species whenever possible. There are many reasons why fish shoal. Collectively, it makes them more effective at searching for food and more efficient at moving through the water. It’s a defense strategy (large groups are less vulnerable to predators than individual fish), and it is also thought to increase the likelihood of finding a mate. Since the beginning, alumni relations programs have expended a considerable amount of time and effort helping alumni to shoal. Among their more traditional approaches are campus events like homecoming or class-specific celebrations such as reunions. For many programs, regional chapters and clubs have provided a way for alumni to gather at happy hours or sporting events. One of the biggest mistakes institutions make, however, is waiting too long to connect alumni in this way. Recognizing how important it is to keep recent graduates engaged, especially during their first few years as alumni, Elon University created Reunion Zero. Rather than wait five or ten years to hold a class’ first reunion, they invite their newest alumni class to return to campus only a few months after graduation for a special event around homecoming in the fall. Reunion Zero not only provides a way to welcome the newest members of the alumni community, but it also creates an opportunity to engage volunteers and leaders. Former senior class gift committee members and past phonathon callers are recruited to be part of the Reunion Zero Committee, which helps with event planning, communications, and fundraising activities. Alumni Relations (and Annual Giving!) programs have an especially important role in the first few years after students leave the confines of campus. This includes bringing them together so that they can realize the benefits of belonging to an ...

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Minimizing Annual Fund Staff Turnover

Posted on 10/01/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Jonathan Winters once joked, “I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it.” Unfortunately, many annual giving professionals aren't waiting around either. One of the biggest challenges in building strong annual giving teams is staff turnover. Many organizations struggle to retain employees long enough to train them properly, much less to grow them or help them become successful. One of the most significant factors contributing to turnover has to do with staff expectations for career advancement. According to an AGN survey, the majority of new annual giving professionals expect to be promoted in less than two years. Most organizations are simply not equipped to promote employees this quickly - even those who are performing and producing results at an optimal level. Expectations for rapid advancement exist amid - and may even contribute to - some level of discontent. In fact, 40 percent of annual giving professionals are not satisfied in their current jobs. 44 percent said they had either searched or interviewed for another job outside of their institution in the past year. 61 percent don’t feel that they’re paid appropriately. Another factor contributing to the relatively short tenure of annual giving staff may be the number of opportunities available elsewhere. It's a buyer's market in many regions, with more job opportunities than there are qualified candidates. It’s hard to convince those who are in the early or middle stages of their careers to turn away from jobs that offer more money and better titles. An annual giving program is only as good as the people who run it, which is why institutions need to make the retention of (great) staff a high priority. This begins by identifying the most talented employees, listening to their expectations, investing in their development and training, and offering them exciting challenges and opportunities to gain new skills along the way. There's a saying in annual giving ...

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The Best Time To Teach Students About Philanthropy

Posted on 09/24/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When is the best time to begin teaching students about philanthropy? Not surprisingly, this is a debated question. Some advancement professionals feel that it’s important to give students a chance to get acclimated for a few years first—holding off on talking about the subject until senior year. Others address the topic the minute students set foot on campus—pointing out buildings bearing the names of donors during campus tours or espousing the tradition of alumni support during matriculation speeches. Agnes Scott College in Georgia doesn’t wait long to involve students in philanthropy; they get them started in their freshman year. Agnes Scott is a women’s college, so, in lieu of a fall football homecoming event, they celebrate Black Cat Week. Throughout the week, various competitions take place among all four classes. Points are awarded for winning field events, creating campus decorations, and giving to the annual fund. The Black Cat Week tradition began in 1915 as a “contest of wits” between first-year students and sophomores, as a substitute for freshman hazing and named in honor of a favorite professor’s pet. Annual fund participation was added to the competition in 2007. For seniors, this week also forms the “nucleus fund” for the senior gift campaign, which ramps up its fundraising efforts later in the fall and into the spring. The effectiveness of each class’ fundraising effort often depends on two things: leadership and competitive spirit. Each class elects a service chair to head up the effort. Successful classes often have service chairs who are proactive about generating lists and soliciting their peers. Many volunteers get the attention of their classmates by setting up tables in prominent campus locations like the dining hall. Class fundraising results are announced at the end of the week as part of Junior Production, a satiric variety show written and performed by the junior class. Class participation in the Black ...

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Avoiding The Lapsed Donor Cliff

Posted on 09/17/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Donor retention rates are measured by taking the population of donors from a given year and calculating the percentage of those donors who made a gift in the following year. For example, if you had 1,000 donors in year 1 and then 600 of those same donors made a gift in year 2, then your retention rate would be 60%. While retention rates can vary widely from one institution to the next, the median retention rate for competitive colleges and universities in the U.S. is, in fact, around 60%. One of the reasons it's important to track retention rates is because they serve as a barometer of donor satisfaction and help you assess the quality of your stewardship efforts. They're also a primary driver of donor counts and participation rates. Prior year donors (often referred to in annual giving circles as LYBUNTs) are more likely to renew than any other segment.  What's more, the likelihood that a donor will renew increases based on how recently they made their last gift. For example, a donor who made a gift 12 months ago is statistically more likely to give again than a donor who gave 36 months ago. Knowing this doesn't guarantee that the donor who gave 12 months ago will renew, but it can help you think about your segments and prioritize your resources. Inversely, the likelihood that a donor will give again declines with every year that the donor lapses - in other words, each year that s/he doesn't make a gift. “The Cliff” (as it's commonly referred to) is the point at which the odds of getting a lapsed donor to give again are lower than those of getting a non-donor (i.e., someone who has never given) to make a gift. For most institutions, this is usually at 4-5 years. Lapsed donors, interestingly, are also more likely to upgrade (i.e., increase the amount of their gift) than any other segment. This is particularly true for donors who have made: multiple gifts in a single year before lapsing a gift of $1,000 or more in a year before lapsing ...

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How To Secure A Meeting With A Prospective Donor

Posted on 09/10/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Several things need to be aligned for a successful face-to-face gift solicitation. First of all, you need to find the right prospect. This is someone who either has a relationship or an interest in your institution, as well as the capacity to make a gift. You also need to determine the right time. Maybe it’s been a year since the prospect’s last gift, it's a reunion year for their class, or a special occasion for your institution—like an anniversary of its founding. Or maybe they’ve recently been engaged in some way by visiting campus, volunteering, or receiving an award. Finding the right place to meet is important too. The best location is always where the prospect feels the most comfortable. So, if you have a say, try to meet at the prospect's home or office, where you can see them in their own element. This will allow you to look for clues about their interests and learn more about them as a person. Remember that a meeting doesn't just happen on its own. You’re going to have to ask for it. When you do, make sure it’s clear to the prospect why you want to meet with them. Even though "asking for money" might be on your agenda, try to focus on some of the other good reasons why you might be asking for a meeting. For example: You’d like to give them an update on what’s been going on around campus You’d like to talk with them about their reunion or other upcoming event You’d like to say thank you for their past giving and tell them how it’s having an impact You’d like to get their opinion You’d like to talk with them about “leadership” When you’re clear and direct about why you want to meet with a prospect, the likelihood that they’ll take the meeting goes way up. The same can be said for the solicitation itself. The more clear and direct you are about why you’re asking and how their support will have an impact, the greater the likelihood that your solicitation will end in a yes. Want to learn ...

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Answer Your Phone!

Posted on 09/03/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There’s nothing more disheartening to a phonathon manager than a center filled with callers listening to phones ring and voicemail greetings. Unfortunately, for many annual fund programs, this is the current reality. Gone are the days when reaching prospects required little more than dialing. Thanks to caller ID, mobile devices, and the negative stigma associated with telemarketing, alumni (particularly young alumni) are less and less likely to answer when their alma mater calls. Today, the likelihood that a prospect will even pick up is less than 50%. This is troubling because phone solicitations typically have much higher donor conversion rates than other channels like direct mail or email. What’s more is that phonathon programs can be expensive to sustain. Like a lot of programs, the University of Buffalo had watched its phonathon contact rates decline for years and they were particularly concerned by the low contact rates among their most recent graduates. They felt like they were missing the opportunity to connect with these graduates in a personal way and worried they weren’t making full use of the phonathon center, which wasn’t cheap to maintain. So they decided to test something new. They sent a postcard to alumni offering a chance to win a gift card for simply answering the phone—regardless of whether or not they made a gift. Their goal was to get more alumni (especially younger alumni) to engage in a discussion, not just respond to a solicitation. They believed that if they focused on connecting with alumni, it would give them an opportunity to update their contact information (paving the way for future communication) and engage them in a personal way. Soliciting contributions would be secondary. Alumni who received the postcard ended up answering the phone at higher contact rates than those who did not, which allowed the callers to connect with alumni even if only for a few minutes. In addition, alumni who received the postcard ...

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The Most Important Metrics in Annual Giving

Posted on 08/27/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Measuring the results of your annual giving effort can be daunting. There's an ocean of metrics out there to help you track the progress of your program and the individual appeals, constituencies, and funds that contribute to its success. Sometimes the waters get murky and it's not always clear which ones you should focus on. Reporting becomes particularly important around the end of the fiscal year when others—your boss, your boards, your colleagues—really start paying attention. You need to be able to articulate your progress in a clear and concise way. While it’s tempting to take a deep dive into the details, you should always start with the five basics. They are, quite simply, the most important metrics in annual giving. Revenue — This is the amount of money raised for your annual fund. Unfortunately, there's no universal definition for it. Some institutions count only unrestricted gifts while others might include all current-use gifts, all gifts up to a certain threshold or gifts received in response to a direct appeal. Before you start throwing out numbers, take a moment to remind your audience how your institution defines annual fund revenue. Donors — This is the number of individuals and organizations who make gifts to your institution or to a specific group of funds. There are two categories of donors: those who receive hard credit (also known as legal or tax credit) and those who receive soft credit (also known as recognition credit). While only hard credit is important when tracking revenue, both types of credit should be considered when tracking the number of donors. Be careful not to double count. Participation — This is the portion of your constituents who make a gift to your institution in any given year. Think of it as the overall solicitation response rate or what those who work in the private sector call "market share." For a growing number of educational institutions, alumni participation (calculated ...

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How To Be An Effective Annual Giving Leader

Posted on 08/20/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Coach. Cheerleader. Teacher. Champion. Obstacle-clearer. Of all the characteristics that are beneficial for an annual giving leader—whose team’s importance can sometimes be overlooked amid the ongoing quest for mega-gifts—one stands out above all others. A survey of over 200 annual giving program directors asked participants to identify the first word that came to mind when hearing the phrase “annual giving leader.” Popular responses were clustered to create a word cloud; the more frequently a word was mentioned, the larger the font used. As you can see from the image below, the most common response was strategic. As chief strategists, leadership-level annual giving professionals are responsible for piloting the planning process, establishing goals (and aligning them with the larger institutional goals), and ensuring their program’s productivity. They need to monitor industry trends and best practices and determine how to adapt and incorporate good ideas. They also need to analyze the results and trends of their own programs and then translate key findings into new and improved approaches. At the same time, they have to be able to "manage up"—to help senior advancement leaders understand the capabilities and limits of the annual giving program. Leadership-level annual giving professionals are also the ones responsible for making decisions about where to allocate resources. They need to be able to identify problems and impediments as well as devise effective solutions to deal with them. Since it’s not always easy or possible to get more resources or change people’s expectations, leaders face the challenge of getting the most out of the resources they already have. Focusing on strategy means they need to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others, find ways to empower and retain the most talented staff, and address issues of underperformance. Needless to say, strategic leadership takes work. Above all, being a strategic annual ...

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5 Tactics For Boosting Phonathon Contact Rates

Posted on 08/13/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Running a phonathon program isn’t cheap. Recruiting and training a staff of quality callers (not to mention maintaining the hardware and software in your call center) requires a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money. Fortunately, phonathons have a lot of benefits. They have higher conversion rates than direct mail and email appeals, they’re an effective way to acquire new donors and upgrade current donors, and they're the most efficient way to engage a lot of prospects in a personal way. But you can’t take advantage of any of these if your prospects don’t pick up the phone. Here are five ways to boost your phonathon’s contact rates and ensure that your callers talk to as many prospects as possible.   Give them a heads up – Let prospects know you'll be calling with some advance notice. Mail them a pre-call post card, send them a pre-call email, or even run a targeted pre-call ad on your facebook page. Target “phone-friendly” prospects – Don’t spend too much time calling people who have only responded to direct mail or email appeals in the past. Focus first on prospects who have responded to your phone calls in the past. For non-donor segments, try to identify those who share characteristics with your past phonathon responders. Let tired lists rest – Keep your lists as fresh as possible. Avoid calling the same prospects over and over when they don’t answer. Give segments a break after you’ve attempted them 3 or 4 times within a period of a couple weeks. After that, you can try putting them back in the calling pool. Mobilize – As the landline phone makes its way onto the endangered species list, it’s increasingly important to maintain good mobile phone numbers on all of your prospects. Create incentives for prospects to provide you with their mobile phone numbers and consider investing in mobile phone append services. Leave messages – Don’t assume that just because someone doesn’t answer your ...

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3 Reasons To Always Write A Contact Report

Posted on 08/06/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe. Maybe not. Now, if you have a great meeting with a prospect and you forget to log a contact report, does it really matter? Absolutely. A contact report is a written summary of a development officer’s interaction with a prospect. It records the time and purpose of the meeting and highlights important information that came out of the meeting. Too often, however, development officers don't take take the time to write contact reports after meeting with a donor, which can end up being a big loss for the organization. Here are 3 reasons that you should always write a contact report: First, they provide an easy way to share intelligence with others who work with or on behalf of the prospect. It’s a much more efficient method of communicating a lot of information to a lot of people than having to rely on additional meetings or conversations. Distributing contact reports to colleagues is a good and common practice. It can be as simple as sending an email. Second, the mere act of writing a contact report forces you to reflect back on your meeting and determine what was and what wasn’t important about it. A good contact report is concise and only includes information that is relevant as it relates to advancing a prospect's relationship with the institution. A contact report should not tell the reader what color tie the prospect was wearing, that his sister’s husband’s cousin just got a speeding ticket, or that the waiter spilled orange juice on your lap. It should, however, tell you how he feels about the direction of the institution, what campus events he recently attended, or which professor the prospect liked best when he was in school. It's also beneficial to include other details that, while maybe not directly related to your institution, help to paint a picture of the person, like their political views or other philanthropic causes they support. T...

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The Secret Behind Effective Gift Impact Reports

Posted on 07/30/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Ask someone to explain the role of stewardship in annual giving and they might tell you about the acknowledgment letters they produce, the donor rosters they publish, and the plaques that hang in their institution’s hallways. While these are all important aspects of stewardship, they’re secondary to the task to showing donors how their gifts have made a difference. One of the challenges in annual giving, however, is that you can’t always tell a donor exactly how their donation was spent. While major gifts typically go to support a very specific need, annual gifts are often pooled together and distributed where an institution’s leadership thinks support is needed most. But even though you can’t show a $50 annual fund donor exactly how that money was used, you can help them to understand the kind of collective impact that results from annual giving. Telling stories can, even in a general way, let annual donors know that their past gifts are making a difference. Recognizing the importance of this, Boston College's annual giving program produces impact reports. These online reports are filled with pictures, videos, and stories about the impact of annual giving on the lives of students and faculty. Donors are sent emails letting them know that the reports are available. Donors also receive quarterly impact report emails, which come from an individual student or faculty member who has benefited directly from annual giving. They include compelling stories and specific examples of how donor support has made a difference in their lives. The impact reports and emails are coordinated as part of the university’s donor loyalty program known as The Neenan Society, since both are considered a core element of the annual fund’s stewardship and donor retention efforts. In the first year after launching their impact reports, Boston College saw an increase in their donor retention rate. But that’s not the only way they knew their efforts were effective. The ...

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Grad Fair Days for Senior Class Giving

Posted on 07/23/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that babies can learn a lot before they’re even born. Their study examined two groups of mothers-to-be, half of whom were exposed to loud recordings of made-up words in their final months of pregnancy. After birth, the babies who had heard the recordings in utero recognized the made-up words; the other group of babies did not. The researchers could tell because brain activity in the exposed babies increased when those words were played, whereas babies who didn’t hear the recordings in the womb did not react as much. A student’s final semester is like the final weeks of a baby’s time in utero. During this period of great growth and change, students prepare to enter the real world. It’s a time filled with excitement and uncertainty. Many students face the tasks of searching for a job and considering what it’s going to be like to pay rent on their own for the first time. The experiences that students have and the information they take in during their senior year will have a lasting impression on their lives as alumni. Many institutions see the commencement ceremony itself as an opportunity to tell students what life will be like as alumni and what they can expect once they graduate. Letting students know that they are about to become part of a meaningful and active alumni community, that belonging to this community has value, and that resources are available through the institution that can help them grow personally and professionally can have a significant impact on them. At the same time, many graduating students will look to their school to help them navigate through what can be an overwhelming time. The weeks leading up to graduation can be particularly hectic. Aside from all the questions (and anxieties) that arise about life after graduation, many students are cramming for final exams, saying farewell to good friends, and preparing for the commencement celebration. Lehigh University found ...

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The Best Advice You’ll Ever Ask For

Posted on 07/16/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There’s an old adage in fundraising that goes like this: If you ask someone for money, they'll probably respond with advice. But, if you ask for advice, don't be surprised if they end up giving you money. If you work in annual giving, then you've heard it before: The only time I hear from my alma mater is when they need money! While it’s easy to see how some alumni could feel this way, the truth is that soliciting donations is an important responsibility of any annual giving program. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is not asking enough. The most successful programs certainly aren't shy about asking. They appeal to alumni for donations on a regular (sometimes monthly!) basis, and they don’t necessarily stop asking after someone makes a gift. Many will follow up with a second appeal shortly after. Research shows that the more frequently a donor is asked - and subsequently gives - the more likely they will be to give again in the future. But don’t confuse this to mean that institutions should only ask for money. Stanford University’s annual giving team knows that engaging alumni and donors involves more than just gift solicitations, which is why they created a mail piece that specifically asks alumni for their advice. With a headline that reads, “Whether you graduated five or 55 years ago (who’s counting?), you probably have some very useful advice for today’s undergraduates,” the piece includes a reply card so alumni can respond with their opinions about the best place to study on campus, whether or not “fountain hopping” is a good idea, and other suggestions that might be helpful to current students. The mailing, which was sent in early May, was done as a test alongside a “bio update” mailing that is typically sent around the same time each year. The goal was to mimic the experience of filling something out and sending a gift. An email, which included a link to a digital survey, was sent a few weeks ...

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Using Central Tendency To Assess Results

Posted on 07/09/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that “those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Indeed, what you see is always relative to what surrounds it. At no time is this more important to keep in mind than when analyzing the performance of your programs. Just about anybody can click a button to run a standard report, look over a spreadsheet, or recite how many donors came in as the result of the last appeal. But don’t confuse these actions alone with being analytical. Observing the data is an important first step in analyzing your efforts, but the next step is interpreting the data. This means figuring out what stories the data have to tell. Interpreting data requires context. Rather than looking at metrics in a vacuum, you need to compare them to something. For example, if someone asks how your alumni participation efforts are going and you reply that your alumni participation rate is 12 percent, that doesn’t provide any context. Is 12 percent good? If so, how good, and what evidence do you have to support this claim? By itself, 12 percent is just a number; but comparing that number to something else gives it context and makes it relevant. One of the simplest and most useful ways to give context to your metrics is to compare them to one of the three measures of central tendency: the mean, the median, and the mode. The mean (also known as the average) is the most common measure of central tendency. It’s the sum of every number in a data set divided by the total number of data points. For example, if your annual fund raised $1 million last year from 10,000 donors, then the average gift per donor would be $100 ($1,000,000/10,000 = $100). However, the mean can be skewed by outlier gifts. For example, if one of those 10,000 donors made a single donation of $500,000, it would inflate the mean. Without that one donation included in the calculation, the figure would be only $50, so it's important ...

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Stop!

Posted on 07/02/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Planning Your Direct Appeal Calendar.

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5 Ways To Improve Subject Lines for Email Appeals

Posted on 06/25/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In direct mail fundraising, an envelope has two jobs. The first is to get delivered to the right mailbox. The second is to get opened. You can say that the envelope is the battleground for an annual fund's print appeals. Getting someone to open it gets you one step "closer to the castle" of getting them to make a donation. Similarly, getting someone to answer a phonathon call or getting someone to take a meeting with a gift officer is a key step in ultimately getting someone to make a donation. In email, the battleground is the subject line. It's the first (and quite possibly the only) thing that a prospect will see, which is why it’s so important to choose your words carefully. Keep in mind that your donors are likely getting dozens - if not hundreds - of other emails each day, so you need to make sure your subject lines stand out, get noticed, and resonate. Here are five ways to create more effective subject lines and ultimately get your prospects to open your email appeals. Grab attention - Be concise and direct. Pull them in and make them want to read more. Try to make it read like a newspaper headline. Generate curiosity - Ask questions like “Is your name on this list?” or try numbered phrases “6 reasons you should donate today.” Make it relevant - The point is not to trick someone into opening your email. The point is to get those who will be interested in what’s inside to open it. It’s better to have a lower open rate and a higher click-through or conversion rate than the other way around. If you have a video to share, preview that with a subject line like “Watch this video!” Create urgency - Use deadlines. Let them know if “Time is running out” or if it’s their “Last chance” to get their gift matched. Year-ends and challenges provide natural opportunities to create a sense of urgency. Beware of spam filters - Certain phrases or characters can cause your emails to get flagged as mass emails and automatica...

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You Are Perfect

Posted on 06/18/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Donor retention rates measure the portion of prior year donors who give again in the following year. For example, if there were 100 donors to your institution two years ago and 65 of those same donors made a gift again last year, then your program's alumni donor retention rate for last year would be 65 percent. In fact, for competitive colleges and universities, a typical alumni donor retention rate is around 65 percent. For high performing annual giving programs, alumni donor retention rates can be as high as 80 percent. However, for the majority of college and university annual giving programs across the U.S., alumni donor retention rates are usually closer to 50 percent. In the case of new donors (i.e., those who made their first gift in the prior year), retention rates are typically much lower. For most programs, this will often be below 20 percent. In the case of recent graduates, who made their first gift as part of their senior class gift campaign, it's not unusual for retention rates to be below 10 percent. To reduce this kind of attrition and to highlight the importance of ongoing support by new alumni, the Penn Fund launched its “You Are Perfect” campaign. It started several years ago as a fiscal year-end postcard sent to all first-year alumni who had donated to their senior class gift campaign in the prior year. The message was simple: You Are Perfect. Don’t Change! The initial mailing generated a 14 percent response rate and accounted for one-quarter of all giving from the class. In recognition for their gifts, donors received personal acknowledgment letters and were listed as “perfect donors” in the university’s donor roster publication. In the following year, they rolled it out to all graduates of the past four years with perfect giving records. It generated a 16 percent response rate and accounted for 10 percent of giving by pre-5th reunion classes. Encouraging consistent giving (regardless of the gift amount) by recent ...

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7 Tips for Writing an Appeal Letter

Posted on 06/11/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Annual Fund appeals come in many different shapes and sizes. The variety of images and text you select for your brochures, pamphlets, and postcards offer an endless combination of ways to convey your message and ask for support. But sometimes, nothing beats black letters on a white piece of paper - the good old-fashioned letter. When you sit down to write an appeal letter, the first thing you should do is determine the audience. Are you asking someone to make a gift for the first time or are you addressing a group of consistent donors? Are you hoping to win back a supporter who has lapsed or are you trying to upgrade someone to a leadership level? Are you writing to alumni, parents, faculty or staff? The more you know about your audience, the better you can address them in a personal and meaningful way. Perfection is the enemy of progress, so don't get hung up trying to make your letter flawless the first time through. Just get something written down - a first draft is a big step. You can focus on making it "good" later. Here are a few ideas to consider as you start your next appeal letter: Grab the readers' attention at the very beginning with a story, question or quote. Share an example of gift impact. Mention a specific student, faculty member, or someone else who has benefited from donor support. Use the word "you" as much as possible. Don't bury the ask. Suggest an amount and describe what it will achieve. Explain the consequences of inaction. Highlight the things that are most important (e.g., the ask, goals, deadlines) by using italics, bold type, and underlining. Have it come from (i.e., signed by) someone the audience will relate to Use a postscript! It's one of the first things (and sometimes the only thing) people read. In a world where fundraisers have a seemingly endless number of tools in their toolkit, it can be easy to overlook the importance of those classic approaches that have worked for years. Don't forget ...

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6 Ways To Segment By Giving History

Posted on 06/04/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

No two donors are the same. Each one has had a different experience as it relates to giving that influences the way you should communicate with them. They do, however, all share one thing in common: none of them has either a 0% or a 100% chance of giving in the future. Organizing past donors into segments allows you to create customized messages that will increase the likelihood that they will respond to your appeals. While there is an unlimited number of ways you can subdivide your donor populations (e.g., interests, behaviors or demographics), a good place to start is to consider their giving record. Here are 6 ways to segment your donors based on their giving history: Current Donors are those individuals who have given in the present fiscal year. Since they’ve already been “counted” toward your participation goal, your messaging should focus on acknowledging their giving and its impact. While a traditional annual giving approach is to hold off on further solicitations for this group, it's not uncommon for programs today to pursue additional gifts from current donors. If you do, however, it’s particularly important to let them know that you’re aware and appreciative of their recent support. Prior-Year Donors are those individuals who gave during the last full fiscal year but who have not yet given in the current fiscal year. A term that’s often used to describe this segment is LYBUNT, an acronym which stands for “Last Year But Unfortunately Not This.” Generally speaking, prior-year donors are the most likely segment to renew their giving. Among competitive colleges and universities, approximately 60% of prior-year donors can be expected to give again in the current fiscal year. Multi-Year Donors are a sub-segment of prior-year donors and are those individuals who have donated in more than one past year. This is important because the likelihood that a donor will renew their giving increases with each successive year that they ...

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Managed Prospects & The Year-End Blitz

Posted on 05/28/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Most annual giving professionals spend the final weeks of a fiscal year vigorously looking for every last donor and every last dollar they can find. The best ones let no stone go unturned. Year-end activities range from simple tasks like updating your voicemail greeting or email signature with a reminder that the end is near, to more involved undertakings like calling donors with open pledges or sending targeted appeals to lybunts asking them to renew. One of the most effective - yet often overlooked - ways to increase year-end support is sitting right there next to you: the major gift officer. Their portfolios are filled with your institution's best prospects. Depending on the size of your organization, this could represent hundreds if not thousands of potential annual donors. Needless to say, major gift officers can be an annual giving professional’s best friend during the year-end blitz. But don't expect them to come to you. Unlike annual giving, major giving strategies tend to take a longer-term view. Major gift officers may not be as focused on (or motivated by) fiscal year goals and deadlines. That means that the burden is on you to motivate them to help. One of the easiest ways to do this is to provide them with information about how their prospect portfolios have performed in terms of annual gift participation. Consider the following example of an email that you could send to each gift officer at your institution: Dear Colleague: There are only a few weeks left in the fiscal year and, thanks to the good work of you and others, we are on pace for a strong finish. However, there are many managed prospects who have still not made a gift or pledge payment this fiscal year. You can see how your own portfolio has performed on the spreadsheet below. Our primary goal is, with few exceptions, to ensure that all managed prospects are asked to make an annual gift (or pledge payment) before the end of the fiscal year. Ideally, these asks will ...

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A Million Hours

Posted on 05/21/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If you’re like so many other annual giving or advancement professionals, you may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that’s expected of you. And your prospects and volunteers more than likely feel the same way. Living in a “time famine” is what makes it particularly special (and rare) when someone is willing to give a significant amount of his or her time to help your organization. When Boston University launched its first public capital fundraising campaign, it set out not only to raise a lot of money but also to increase support from all of its constituencies—including students. Knowing that most students would not be in a position to make significant monetary gifts to the campaign, the university found a way for students to contribute without having to open their wallets. Soon after the campaign launched, BU students collectively made a pledge to complete one million hours of community service before the campaign ended. To put this into perspective, the million-hour goal is equivalent to one person volunteering nonstop for over 100 years. The idea was inspired by a commitment from the then-student union president who, prior to the launch of the campaign, pledged one hour of community service for each undergraduate student. As the campaign got underway, students were able to participate through a variety of volunteer programs, including the student-run Community Service Center, the First Year Student Outreach Project, Alternative Spring Break, and any service performed in conjunction with Greek life, religious groups, clubs or student organizations. The administration even developed a mobile app that allowed students to log their service hours in real time and track overall progress toward the goal. Emphasizing the value of time is particularly important for students who are still in the process of developing talent, and have likely not yet amassed much in terms of treasure. What’s more, finding ...

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12 Tips for Hiring the Right Annual Giving Professional

Posted on 05/14/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Hiring the right person for a job is one of the most important decisions a manager can make. It’s particularly important in annual giving, where staff turnover is a common problem. According to an AGN Salary & Professional Development Report published last year, 38 percent of annual giving professionals are not satisfied in their current job and 41 percent have searched or interviewed for another job in the past year. Hiring the wrong person can cause big problems down the line. Whether they’re unhappy or simply not cut out to do the job, a mismatch can leave you facing one of two undesirable situations. The employee will either quit - leaving you with the time-consuming task of recruiting their replacement - or they'll stick around, becoming a drag on the organization. Here’s some advice to help you hire the “right” annual giving professional: Recruit internally first. Don’t assume that you need to launch a long and exhaustive search. Sometimes the best candidate is right in front of your eyes. Look for someone who is running to something rather than running from something. Be suspicious of those who say negative things about their current employer. Beware of job hoppers. Calculate the average time they’ve spent at previous jobs and assume that’s how long they’ll stick around your organization. Consider their enthusiasm. Playing "hard to get" can make someone appealing at first, but it can also be a sign that your organization or the opportunity just doesn’t excite them. Find out who has mentored them. The people they look up to and whom they've learned from can be far more important than any talent or skill they possess. Don’t look for perfection. Those who appear to know what they don't know are almost always more effective than those who appear to know everything. Value experience. Those who have been at it longer may not be smarter, but they probably have more experience making - and hopefully ...

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The First To Know

Posted on 05/07/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Running an annual fund gift society isn’t difficult. Just about anyone can come up with a name and a list of levels and benefits. But will that be enough to get alumni to join and renew? Will it compel members to increase their giving from one year to the next? Will it make them want to tell their friends about it? No; developing a gift society that’s truly appealing and valuable for members requires something more. Take the name, for example. Some programs choose a generic name like the president’s circle, the headmaster's society or the dean’s associates – titles that could be applied to any institution, at any time, anywhere in the world. But finding a name that’s unique and meaningful to your specific alumni and donors can make them feel like they’re part of something truly important. Many institutions use a significant year, a person, or a place in their history to brand their gift society or the various recognition levels within it. Similarly, some annual giving programs rely on loosely-defined benefits to incentivize membership and encourage donors to move “up” to higher giving levels over time. After all, the less specific you are, the easier is it to get by when you don’t deliver, right? Common among these generic promises are “dedicated communications,” “special events,” or “distinct recognition.” Some institutions even offer stuff (think wall calendar!) to members in return for their support. According to an AGN poll, 59 percent of gift societies at educational institutions offer members tangible perks. While these things might be enticing to some, the truth is that what members find most valuable isn’t necessarily something you can read or attend or hold. More often than not, what they really want is insider access. They want to be the first to know when something important happens. There’s no better way to help set your members apart as an important group and let them know that they are special. And a ...

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Podcast: Interview with Dan Allenby

Posted on 04/30/2017- by Dan Allenby
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 ...

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Recurring Gifts Make Donating “Easy To Swallow”

Posted on 04/23/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If mortgage and car payments were due only once a year, a lot of people would have a hard time coming up with the full amount. If cable bills were paid only once a year, there would probably be far fewer television viewers. Banks and media companies understand that customers are more inclined to make big purchases when the payments can be broken up into small increments. The same can be said in fundraising, which is why monthly giving can be so appealing. On one hand, it offers convenience for the donor. On the other hand, it can help charities increase retention rates and encourage upgrades. For example, rather than soliciting a $1,000 gift all at once, ask for $83.33 each month. Or, see if a current $1,000 donor will upgrade to $1,500 with monthly gifts of $125. Franklin & Marshall College understands the value in monthly giving, and they have set up an entire webpage to prove it. Along with enrollment instructions, they address some frequently asked questions to help explain the benefits of monthly giving: What is the Monthly Giving program? - The Monthly Giving program allows donors to easily make their gift to the Franklin & Marshall Fund in regular monthly installments from a credit card or checking/savings account. How does the program help F&M? - Monthly contributions provide the College with an on-going, reliable source of funding. Gifts made through this program reduce our administrative costs and allow more of each gift to be used immediately to support Franklin & Marshall's top priorities. Monthly gifts are also "greener" by cutting down on paper and gas and emissions produced by mailings. How does the program help you? - Enrolling in the program means you won't have to worry about writing and sending a check, and the number of phone and mail reminders you receive from the College will decrease. If you choose to allow deductions to continue from year to year, you will be counted among F&M's most loyal and ...

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Using Volunteers to Create Engagement Scores

Posted on 04/16/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business knew that their alumni were engaged in many ways—assisting with admissions referrals, serving as career mentors, hiring graduates and making donations were just a few examples. The problem was that they didn’t have a clear or consistent method for measuring this engagement. So they decided to develop an engagement score to help identify which alumni were already most engaged and to predict who was most likely to become engaged in the future. They started by identifying 14 different alumni engagement activities that were actively being tracked in their database. Then they asked their 30-member alumni board to participate in a focus group with the goal of ranking the activities in order of importance. The board was asked to break into groups and describe how important they felt each activity was in terms of connecting alumni to the institution. Based on the board’s feedback, a “weight” was assigned to each means of engagement and a score was calculated for individual alumni. The higher the score, the more likely the alumni were to be engaged in the future. The scoring system helped staff to identify new volunteers as well as potential volunteer leaders. It was also helpful for determining donor interest and was used to inform the annual fund’s segmentation schemes. And, the score was a fluid calculation—changing continually as the advancement office discovered new activities to include or found it necessary to tweak their methodology. With some work from their staff and—most notably—thanks to the assistance and expertise of their alumni board, Notre Dame's College of Business was able to develop more thoughtful models and strategies for engaging their alumni. After all, who better to help with alumni engagement than current alumni volunteers? Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Predictive Modeling for Annual Giving.

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Setting Goals for a Giving Day

Posted on 04/09/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When McGill University launched their first ever Giving Day two years ago, the goal was pretty clear. With the big event scheduled just one month before the end of the fiscal year, their aim was to secure just enough donors and dollars necessary to achieve their overall annual fund targets as well as to enhance the culture of philanthropy on and off campus. But when they decided to undertake their second Giving Day (known as McGill24), things got a bit more sophisticated. Understanding that the right goals would help motivate the team, set expectations, and raise sites, they didn't want to just pull random numbers out of thin air. Instead, they wanted to be data-driven and set goals that were both realistic and ambitious. So, when McGill’s annual giving team began their planning process more than six months in advance, they undertook a goal-setting exercise that took the following seven elements in account: Benchmarking – A look at peer programs confirmed what they already suspected: there aren't currently industry standards for Giving Day accounting, and institutions make their own decisions about what kinds of gifts to count, when to start counting, and how to tally the final results. Gift categories – The peer review also identified three types of gifts that are commonly included in Giving Day fundraising totals. These were challenge gifts (i.e., larger gifts secured months in advance that are used as an incentive for others to give), silent phase gifts (i.e., gifts secured through targeted email and phone solicitations in the few weeks leading up to the event), and day-of gifts (i.e., donations made online or received on the day itself). Past results – Reflecting on the donor and dollar totals from McGill's first Giving Day provided them with a conservative baseline to project what they might achieve next time. They also looked at historic giving results for March 15th (the date of McGill24) as well as typical giving ...

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Build The Dam

Posted on 04/02/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Beavers are nature’s architects, well-known for constructing stick dams alongside rivers and ponds. While these fascinating creatures probably take great pride in their handy work, their primary motivation isn’t to show off or to be admired by others. It's to make a cozy home for their families, to keep out predators, and to create a lush wetland ecosystem where they can thrive alongside other species. Similarly, most donors don’t make charitable gifts just because they want to be noticed by their peers. More than likely, they give because they feel a sense of pride in their relationship with an institution, because they feel grateful for something the institution has given to them, and/or because they believe the institution will be able to use the money to help others. But that doesn’t mean that donors don’t appreciate a little recognition now and then. Oregon State University (whose mascot happens to be Benny Beaver) put their own unique spin on donor recognition when they implemented a Build the Dam campaign. Launched by their athletics annual giving team in conjunction with the kick-off of the fall football season, the effort aimed to attract new donors and generate support for the university’s athletic program beyond ticket sales. Donors who made gifts of $100 or more were honored with a custom-made wood panel with their name inscribed on it. Once complete, the panels were affixed to a portable donor wall which was referred to as “The Dam.” The wall had wheels so that it could be transported around campus for all to see. When the athletics season ended, The Dam was disassembled and the wood panels were mailed to donors along with thank you notes. Promoted through targeted mailings, the student phonathon, and social media, the campaign included stories about gift impact and featured pictures and videos of donors picking up their panels and showing support for the university's athletic programs. The campaign was also promoted ...

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March Mayhem

Posted on 03/26/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Annual Giving can be a lot like a basketball game – fast-paced and full of activity. There are quick passes to the printer to get appeals out the door and last minute calls to prospects to beat the buzzer at the end of the fiscal year. Don’t forget about the occasional slam dunk meeting with a donor that results in a big gift agreement. It’s the tempo and the excitement that makes it such an exhilarating field to work in. But it’s not all fun and games. It's hard work too, especially when it comes to finding new and interesting ways to engage and solicit prospects. Next time you're out of fresh ideas, stop for a moment and take inventory of what’s going on around you. Is there an important event taking place on campus, an upcoming holiday or something in the news that will be on the minds of your alumni and the rest of your supporters? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s annual giving team found their inspiration in the NCAA spring basketball tournament. They used it as the basis for a campaign to encourage participation by young alumni which they called March Mayhem. Although they had originally planned to organize a young alumni push around graduation later in the spring, they were able to seize on the excitement of their team’s invitation to the tournament and create a new concept in just a few weeks. Hoping to encourage recent graduates to make a gift of any amount (to any designation), young alumni were urged to make symbolic gifts that were significant to the university's basketball history such as: $23 to honor the jersey number 23 of former UNC star Michael Jordan $46 to honor the 46 years UNC had appeared in the tournament $106 in honor of the 106 seasons of basketball in UNC’s history $879 in memory of Dean Smith and his 879 wins as their basketball coach March Mayhem was promoted through a series of emails, and dozens of “online ambassadors” helped spread the word online. The office ...

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Donor Coverage Ratios

Posted on 03/19/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There's an ever-present grind to annual giving. Each year programs are expected to generate as many - if not more - donors than they did the year before. This is an especially big challenge for educational institutions who are faced with increasing competition from other non-profits and changing attitudes among alumni regarding giving back to their alma mater. One of the things that can help annual giving programs face this challenge is having a goal and breaking it down into a few smaller parts. In the case of donor counts, this can be accomplished by analyzing what's known as the donor coverage ratio. Simply put, this is the number of new and reactivated donors you secured compared to those lost through attrition. Here's an example: Assume that two years ago your program generated a total of 1,000 donors. Then assume that 600 of those donors renewed last year. In other words, you lost 400 donors. At the same time, you had to replace those lost donors. There are only two ways to do this. The first is to acquire new donors. The second is to reactivate lapsed donors. Assume that last year you acquired 200 new donors and reactivated 200 lapsed donors. In this case, the donor coverage ratio for last year is 100%, meaning that your program secured exactly the right amount of new and reactivated donors to cover what you lost in attrition. It also means that there was no change in overall donor counts from one year to the next. Had the ratio been less than 100%, it would have meant that the year resulted in an overall decrease in donors. Had it been higher than 100%, it would have meant that there was growth in donors counts from the previous year. The donor coverage ratio can also help you assess the efficiency of your efforts. Typically, acquiring new donors and reactivating lapsed donors is less efficient and requires more resources than retaining current or recent donors. By increasing your retention rates through targeted outreach and ongoing ...

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Tuition Freedom Day

Posted on 03/12/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Learn one way Kalamazoo College shows students how philanthropy brings education costs down.

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Mixing It Up

Posted on 03/04/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

One of the things that many professionals enjoy about working in annual giving is that it’s cyclical. A new campaign begins every 365 days, offering an opportunity for programs to start over with new goals and a fresh strategy. At the same time, this can be challenging for many programs. Constantly coming up with different approaches isn’t easy. The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA had relied on a competition-based challenge with a rival school every fall to create extra interest around giving. Although this approach had helped to increase participation rates in its first couple of years, results eventually leveled out. That's when they decided to try something new, launching the EveryCat Challenge. Named after their mascot (the wildcat), the goal of the challenge was to secure 2,200 commitments—one for every student and faculty member—to the annual fund by the end of October. In addition to generating much-needed support, the new approach also helped to: Focus attention on the beneficiaries of annual fund support and allow for more “storytelling.” Marketing materials featured student and faculty profiles that described how annual fund support had affected them personally. Encourage participation by every member of the community. All gifts from alumni, parents, and friends were counted. Raise sites. The goal of 2,200 gifts represented an increase of 200 over what had been achieved by the end of October in previous years. Engage the institution's leadership in annual giving. The board agreed to serve as the challenge's sponsors, offering up $100,000 in bonus funds when the goal was reached. Marketing for the challenge, which included a website, a series of emails and targeted Facebook ads, took place only during the month of October. Parent and alumni volunteers were also instrumental in spreading the word. They were asked to make calls, send emails and share on their social networks. In the two years that Westminster ...

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Annual Appeals for Major Gift Prospects?

Posted on 02/25/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If you’ve worked in annual giving for long, chances are that you’ve received a request from a major gift officer to have a prospect excluded from receiving annual fund appeals. There are many circumstances for which this is a very valid request - like when someone has specifically asked not to receive appeals or when a prospect is going to be solicited for a major gift in the next few months. There are other times, however, when it’s not valid - like when the gift officer claims that they’re developing a relationship with a prospect and fear that an annual appeal will derail that effort. One of the fundamental differences between annual and major giving is time. Annual giving campaigns are relatively short with the primary goal of maximizing participation. When they’re complete, you get to learn from your missteps and (if there weren’t too many) try things again for the next 12 months. Major giving, on the other hand, is a much slower process with the goal of producing a few significant donations that will have a major and lasting impact. It can take years to cultivate a major gift and, when missteps are made, you don’t often get a second chance. If you look up the word exclude, you find synonyms like alienate, omit, segregate, reject, disenfranchise, and marginalize. Whether we work in annual or major giving, it’s likely we don’t want any of these things for our prospects. So, the next time a major gift officer asks to have a prospect excluded from annual appeals because they are working on developing a relationship, politely remind them that giving makes a relationship stronger. Then, offer to work with them to produce a personal appeal - something that makes the prospect feel noticed and special, something that makes them feel part of something important, something that makes them feel included. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Annual Fund & Major Gift Partnerships.

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Second Asks

Posted on 02/18/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Discover how Rutgers University re-solicits donors to upgrade them to higher levels of giving.

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2016 Year in Review Report

Posted on 02/11/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

For the 5th consecutive year, AGN has produced a special report to share trends and best practices in the field of annual giving. AGN research is based on data collected from annual giving programs at over a thousand educational institutions around the world. This year’s report highlights more than 25 live interactive webinars offered by AGN in 2016. Each page summarizes data from event poll results and other research and offers a useful example from a specific webinar. Want to learn more? Every page also includes a link to view that webinar in its entirety via AGN’s on-demand training library. AGN Plus Member institutions enjoy unlimited free access to all live and on-demand AGN webinars. They also receive special access to experts, opportunities to network and benchmark with other members, and exclusive research, publications and case studies. Click here to learn more about becoming an AGN Plus Member. Want to join or renew your membership? Contact our member services department at [email protected] or 888.407.5064.

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I Packed Your Parachute

Posted on 02/04/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

J. Charles Plumb was a jet fighter pilot in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. On his 76th combat mission, his plane was shot down. After ejecting from the plane and parachuting into enemy territory, he spent the next six years as a prisoner of war. Years later, after he had returned to the United States, he was with his wife at a restaurant when a stranger approached. To his surprise, the stranger recognized him as the former prisoner of war. When Plumb asked him how he knew who he was, the man replied, “I packed your parachute!” After their conversation, Plumb spent a lot of time thinking about that man who had packed his parachute (and the parachutes of many others) from a wooden table at the bottom of an aircraft carrier. He thought about how he had probably seen his colleague many times but that he had just never noticed him. After all, Plumb was a pilot and the man was just a sailor. Little did he know that this man would save his life—simply by doing his job well. The importance of teamwork can be easy to overlook. Whether you’re a pilot in the middle of a military crisis or an annual giving professional working on behalf of an educational institution, the fact is that everyone has an important role to play. Building a strong team has less to do with recruiting superstars and more to do with getting everyone to do their jobs well. This involves a commitment to your team members and to each member’s professional development. As you think about developing yourself or your team, keep in mind that educational institutions come in many shapes and sizes—large, small, private, public, primary, secondary, centralized and decentralized. Each institution has its own unique needs and challenges when it comes to staff growth. For example, a small school with fewer employees might be able to offer staff the chance to learn and do many different tasks. However, it might also lack financial resources, and opportunities for career advancement may ...

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The Circled Caller

Posted on 01/28/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Discover how Humbolt State creates unique and effective pledge acknowledgments.

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Measuring Gift Impact

Posted on 01/21/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Learn how UCLA shows donors that their annual fund gifts are making a difference.

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Lapsed Donor Surveys

Posted on 01/14/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Find out how The University of Houston uses surveys to engage former donors.

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7 Predictions for 2017

Posted on 01/07/2017- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and endings. In statues and paintings, he is often depicted as having two faces. One face looks to the past and the other looks to the future. It’s for this reason that many believe that the month of January is named for Janus, since it’s both a time to reflect on months past and a time to prepare for new things to come. For educational institutions and their annual giving programs, the first month of the calendar year is indeed an important time. Many use it as a mid-point review for their fundraising/fiscal years and an opportunity to recalibrate a game plan for the “second half.” January is also a good time to step outside of your own program, look at the big picture, and get a sense of what lies ahead for the industry as a whole. Here are 7 "annual giving predictions" for 2017 that will help you think about what lies ahead and help put your own goals and strategies into perspective: The decline in alumni participation, which has persisted year-over-year for more than two decades, will continue. Annual Giving programs will be under pressure to buck the trend and to increase the number of alumni donors to give back each year, while also generating important unrestricted and current use annual fund support. Digital marketing will be an increasingly important skill for successful annual giving programs, which will need to become more sophisticated in their use of email, video, and social media to enhance online donor experiences if they are to compete with the 1.5 million other charities. Frontline fundraising will play a smaller role in the success of annual giving efforts. Instead of relying on one-to-one outreach, staff will turn to one-to-many outreach strategies, peer-to-peer engagement, and major gift partnerships to secure annual fund leadership gifts and fuel revenue growth. Data analytics and predictive modeling will become an essential tool for successful annual ...

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Counting Gifts from Alumni

Posted on 12/31/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Reporting alumni giving data to the Council for Aid to Education and U.S. News & World Report is, for the most part, a straightforward process. However, questions do arise about what should or should not be included in the reported data. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) offers the following guidelines for counting gifts from alumni. These guidelines were developed by the CASE Commission on Alumni Relations in consultation with the CASE Commission on Philanthropy. For other purposes, transparency, consistency and accountability in reporting are encouraged and in the best interests of an institution and its various constituents. Q: Should graduating seniors be included in alumni giving data? A: Graduating seniors present an interesting dilemma. Often seniors make a gift in the latter part of their senior year but by the time the data is reported, they are alumni. Therefore, counting philanthropic gifts from seniors is acceptable as long as all seniors are counted among alumni of record. In other words, if gifts from graduating seniors are included in alumni giving data, then the complete cohort—all graduating seniors—must be included in the total alumni census. It is not acceptable to include seniors who donate but to exclude seniors who do not donate when calculating overall alumni giving. To report fair and accurate data, any donors reported in the numerator must have their entire cohort in the denominator. Q: Is it appropriate to ask alumni for a minuscule amount of money ($1, for example) just to boost the percentage of alumni giving? A: No. Our mission to build support for our institutions is not properly served by attempting to manipulate reporting data. Energies are best spent on sound practices to increase institutional support from alumni. Whether initiated by advancement staff or volunteers, it does not build greater support for the institution to ask alumni for “an extra dollar” to boost the class ...

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Do Not Call “Refresh”

Posted on 12/21/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There are five words that every phonathon caller dreads hearing: Take me off your list. Applying a “Do Not Call” code (or any of the many “Do Not Contact” codes that exist in our databases) to a prospect record is a pretty extreme measure. That’s why it’s important that a prospect’s true intentions are clearly understood, accurately recorded, and kept up to date. But that isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Intentions can be misunderstood or misnoted. For example, “Now is not a good time” might sound a lot like “Don’t ever call again!” when it’s coming out of the mouth of an irritated prospect. And it’s not uncommon for major gift officers to use “Do Not Call” codes to prevent their prospects from receiving annual fund appeals. (For the record, they should NEVER do this!) The Annual Giving team at The University of Kentucky periodically reviews the comments associated with all of their “Do Not Call” requests. In doing so they have noticed that, while some records had been coded for very legitimate reasons (e.g., “hard of hearing”), there were other reasons that didn’t seem as credible. “Quite a few of our prospects cited the performance of our basketball team as a reason for not wanting to be called,” says Anne Vanderhorst, Director of Annual Giving at The University of Kentucky. “But after winning our 8th National Championship, we thought it might be time to reconsider some of our exclusions.” So they sent a “We Miss You” postcard to every person who had been coded “Do Not Call” three or more years ago. The postcard informed prospects that they would be returned to the university’s calling pool unless they contacted the office and requested otherwise. It included simple instructions for those who wanted to continue to be excluded. “We sent the postcard to just under 5,500 prospects,” says Vanderhorst, "and we received less than 175 phone calls from prospects wanting to continue ...

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Crowdfunding Open Houses

Posted on 12/14/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The University of Missouri–St. Louis discovered that sometimes the process can be the best goal. Eager to respond to the many requests they were getting from students to provide support for crowdfunding projects, the advancement department invested in a new crowdfunding platform. This technology could be used to run short‐term online fundraising campaigns in support of specific student or faculty projects. Soon after the platform was live, the big question for the advancement team was how to let members of the campus community know about the platform without being overwhelmed by requests. They decided to host monthly open houses (or information sessions) for anyone who was interested in getting support for a project or simply learning more about crowdfunding. They extended invitations to leaders of student groups, clubs, teams and activities across campus. This approach gained a lot of interest from the very beginning, with 20–30 attendees at each meeting. The information sessions provided an opportunity to engage students and to teach them about philanthropy in general - not just about crowdfunding. They prompted a discussion about how the institution manages and allocates budgets, and uncovered fundraising opportunities and prospects that weren’t previously on the advancement team’s radar. Additionally, the sessions connected the development office with other parts of the university, including student affairs, athletics, and information systems. In many ways, they forced the advancement team to be more inward-facing. After the open houses, interested students were invited to complete applications to be supported by the university in an official crowdfunding project. Interestingly, in many cases, it turned out that crowdfunding wasn’t actually the ideal strategy. Sometimes it made more sense to address the funding need by creating a new calling segment for the phonathon or by producing an email appeal. There were even times - when a proposed ...

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New Book: Ideas for Annual Giving

Posted on 12/07/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Dan Allenby's new book - Ideas for Annual Giving: Pea Pods, Parachutes and Other Designs for Boosting Alumni Participation - offers practical guidance and playful metaphors to provide readers with a modern (yet timeless) “design” for building an effective annual giving program. Through real-world techniques, examples and tips, this publication shows how to increase annual fund revenues and elevate the number of alumni who make charitable gifts ever year. CLICK HERE to order a copy! For two decades, Dan Allenby has helped many of the world's leading annual giving programs to recruit and train staff, design strategy, and assess performance. In 2010, he founded Annual Giving Network (AGN) - the world's leading resource for annual giving programs. With a network of over 40,000 annual giving professionals, AGN is dedicated to bringing the industry’s top experts and current best practices to educational and nonprofit institutions. A recipient of the prestigious CASE “Crystal Apple” award for teaching excellence, Allenby is an internationally recognized expert on annual giving. He has chaired CASE’s Institute for Senior Annual Giving Professionals and its Annual Giving Workshop for five collective terms and served on the faculty for CASE’s Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising. He received an MBA from Boston College and a BA from James Madison University, and is certified in the Management of Communication Organizations by Tufts University. Here's what people are saying: “Ideas for Annual Giving is a terrific resource for understanding—and thriving in—annual giving in the 21st century. Dan Allenby captures the relevance, necessity and strategic importance of reimagining how we approach annual giving in an era of declining alumni participation and many competing philanthropic interests. This book is a must-read for newcomers to the advancement profession and is full of salient nuggets for even the most seasoned professiona...

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No Gift Is Too Small… Or Is It?

Posted on 11/30/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If you own a home (and you're not the Home Depot type), you may one day find yourself looking for a handyman. When you do, keep in mind that their slogan can say a lot about them. Some slogans are assertive: We’ll fix it even if it’s not broken. Others are sincere: A helper with a heart. There are even a few that are humorous: I can repair what your husband fixed. And then, of course, there’s the old handyman classic: No job is too small. One could argue that this translates easily to annual giving. In a world where donor participation is a high priority, it's no surprise that encouraging gifts of all sizes has a commonplace in fundraising scripts and appeals. But is it really true to suggest that no gift is too small? It’s easy to understand why annual giving programs might want to pursue small donations. Soliciting nominal gifts ($1, for example) is a common way to include or "count" those who want to support the institution but simply don't have much money. Many students and young alumni fall into this category. A dollar is better than nothing, right? Maybe not. There are, in fact, downsides to small gifts. Consider the expense of processing a donation. When you factor in the staff time and budget required to record a gift in the database, produce an acknowledgment and mail the receipt, each gift usually costs organizations more than a few dollars. Think about the future too - specifically donor retention rates. You may be counting the individual as a donor now, but what's the likelihood that a $1 dollar donor will give again in the future? The following chart shows that there is a correlation between gift size and retention rates. The larger the gift amount, the higher the retention rate. This means, of course, that a smaller gift amount corresponds to a lower retention rate. So while a $1 gift might help you boost your participation rate in the short term, it likely won’t do much to help you build a sustainable base of ...

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Recipe for Retention

Posted on 11/22/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The reality is that there's more than one ingredient in a good retention strategy. It's a combination - and a balance - of all of these things that ultimately leaves a good taste in your donors' mouths and makes them hungry to give more.

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Open Me

Posted on 11/16/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There’s an old saying in direct mail: “An envelope has two jobs. The first is to get delivered to the right mailbox. The second is to get opened.” Getting prospects to open the envelope is a key step in having them read what’s inside and, ultimately, make a contribution. The best way to get your alumni to notice (and want to open) the envelope is to capture their attention and make them curious. One way to do this to use envelopes that stand out either because they are unusual in size, shape or color or because they are creative or eye-catching in some other way. Using standard #10 envelopes for mailings may be easy and cost efficient, but doing so also increases the risk that your appeal will be overlooked. Another way to increase the chances that your envelopes get noticed is to use teasers (i.e., short eye-catching messages or images) that lure alumni to look inside. A good place for teasers is between the recipient’s name and address (usually in the middle of the envelope) and the return address (usually in the top left corner of the envelope). These are the first two places people’s eyes go when they look at an envelope, and your message will stand out when their eyes move from one to the other. Regardless of where it goes, a teaser should try to tap into the prospect’s emotions. For example, “Find out why your gift could help our rankings!” might evoke a sense of pride or connection. “Is your name on this list?” could make recipients curious (and possibly concerned) that they might be left out in some way if they don’t act. Don’t be afraid to try humor now and then. The University of California, San Diego used a teaser that read, “OPEN ME. Seriously, I can’t open myself. I don’t have hands because I’m an envelope." Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Successful Direct Mail.

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The Ripley Society

Posted on 11/09/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Harold C. Ripley graduated from Dartmouth College in 1929. He was famous for his bow ties, his sense of humor, and his loyalty to Dartmouth. In fact, “Rip” gave to the College through the annual fund for 83 consecutive years —from his graduation in 1929 until his death in September 2011, at the age of 104.

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11 Steps to Planning a Giving Day

Posted on 11/02/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Giving Days have become increasingly common in just the past few years as a way to create awareness about the impact of philanthropy, engage donors and volunteers, and raise money. Columbia University, who was one of the first to hold such an event, just completed their fifth Giving Day last week. Today, 3 out of 4 educational institutions report that they have held or are planning to hold a Giving Day of their own. Often fueled by bonus funds or a sense of competition, there are many different ways to structure and organize a Giving Day. Every institution is unique, so there is no single model for creating a successful event. And yet, one element does prove to be universally applicable: if you want to do it well, you need to plan it well. Simply throwing a date on the calendar and expecting people to “show up” is not a recipe for success. It takes a lot of coordination, starting up to a full year in advance. Here’s a project timeline for you to reference and customize as you plan your own Giving Day: Conduct high level planning and benchmarking of Giving Days at other schools (11-12 months out) Get internal buy-in from senior leadership and key campus partners (9-10 months out) Identify your technology needs and select any necessary vendors (8-9 months out) Design challenges and secure donors as “underwriters” (6-7 months out) Develop a marketing plan and promotional materials (5 months out) Recruit volunteers and online ambassadors to help spread the word (4 months out) Communicate key information and timelines internally (3 months out) Launch the “silent phase” to give your VIPs the early inside scoop (2 months out) Make the first public announcement with an advertisement, postcard or email (1 month out) Begin to promote the day aggressively through email and social media (2 weeks out) Create a buzz, raise lots of money, and make sure everybody has fun! (0 days out) If this seems like a lot of ...

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Listen to This

Posted on 10/26/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There are certain attributes to look for when searching for phonathon callers. Whether you're hiring paid students or recruiting volunteers, you'll want callers who are personable, articulate, informed, assertive, trustworthy and, of course, comfortable talking about and asking for money. Needless to say, good phonathon callers can be hard to find. There’s another attribute that, although important, is frequently overlooked. More often than not, really good callers are really good listeners. Listening doesn’t always come naturally, so make it part of the training process. Teach callers how to ask probing questions and offer guidelines for keeping their own talking to a minimum. Remind callers that they are in an advantageous position to hear how prospects feel about the institution, what interests them, who influences them, what they’re doing in their careers, and why they’ve decided to support (or not to support) the institution. If they’re speaking more than 30% of the time, it's probably not a great call. And it’s not just your callers who should be focused on listening. You should be listening too. Not in terms of monitoring calls, although doing so can be an effective way to evaluate performance. No, we’re talking about listening to your callers as a way to better understand and learn about your donors and prospective donors. Without listening, potentially valuable donor information is likely to - at best - get recorded in a contact report and stored in your database, where it typically remains, unread and unused. Phonathon callers can learn from listening to institution staff, too. Invite leaders from around campus (e.g., faculty, coaches, administrators) to talk with them before shifts or during orientations. This will help callers become better informed and prepare them to engage prospects in more interesting discussions. There's real value in listening. Make a point of listening to your callers. Teach them ...

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Fail to Succeed

Posted on 10/19/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Michael Jordan, viewed by some as the greatest basketball player of all-time, once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” No matter how hard you try, you're not going to succeed all the time. In fact, 39 percent of annual giving programs report that something went wrong during their last fundraising year. This may raise concern for some, but it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re trying. What should cause concern, however, is the fact that 84 percent of annual giving programs report that their current year plan is either exactly the same or only slightly modified compared to their plan from last year. While they may be trying, it seems that most are not trying hard enough. How much has your annual giving strategy changed? Are you sending the same number of appeals, scheduling around the same dates, organizing your prospects in the same segments, relying on the same leadership donors and volunteers? Repeating the same old strategy year-in and year-out might feel safe, but it isn’t usually a very good recipe for growth. Some of the most important ingredients of annual giving success are creativity and innovation - it’s important to try new things. Don't be mistaken; you don’t need to suddenly abandon the tactics that are working well, and there's certainly no virtue in making radical or unfounded changes. But don’t be afraid to add or adjust along the way, either. The fear of failure can often leave programs complacent and unwilling to take risks. Pushing the envelope and venturing into uncharted territories can not only keep things fresh and interesting for your donors, volunteers and colleagues, it's generally the best way to make progress. Accept failure. Think of it as evidence that you’re trying, and an important ...

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What A Difference A Year Can Make

Posted on 10/12/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

With a name like annual giving, it should come as no surprise that the concept of "year" is an important one to those who work the field. In fact, there are even a lot of ways to use this measure to benefit your program. One of the most useful functions of a "year" is that it provides a clear deadline. It offers a 365-day timeline - with a defined starting and ending point - between which goals are set and work is done, in order to secure as many donors and as much support as possible. Deadlines, in and of themselves, can be motivating both internally for staff and externally for volunteers and donors. Take it a step further. The significance of "years" can help annual giving programs connect with and inspire donors. Anniversaries are a good example. Celebrating the number of years that have elapsed since graduation is the very basis for reunion and class gift fundraising - a primary driver of annual fund donors and dollars for many educational institutions. But even if your institution doesn’t have a formal class reunion program or hold reunion events on campus, there’s still an opportunity to leverage graduation milestones to raise funds. Simply reminding alumni that they have reached a significant milestone can evoke feelings of nostalgia, which can then yield higher response rates when used as part of a solicitation. In honor of the 25 years that have elapsed since your graduation, would you consider joining our leadership gift society? Anniversaries can also be applied to past giving. Colorado State University wishes donors a “Happy Anniversary” by sending emails letting donors knows that they made their gifts "one year ago this week." This tactic not only serves as a belated "thank you," but it's also a friendly reminder that it's time to renew one’s annual support. Some programs use this same tactic to solicit lapsed donors. While annual fund staff tend to be hyper-aware of fiscal year timelines, many donors are not as ...

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The Most Important Lists in Fundraising

Posted on 10/05/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Lists are a crucial tool in fundraising. While many in the profession may claim to use lists regularly, the true value of list making and list management is often under-appreciated. Here are the 4 most important lists that every fundraiser should know, understand and utilize to ensure their success: To do lists: These are at the core of every good fundraising strategy. They outline the specific tasks you want to perform today, this year, or this campaign in order to secure the donors, the dollars and the volunteers you need to advance your institution’s mission and achieve your goals. Plan your work, and work your plan. Prospect lists: These include the names and other important pieces of information needed to generate appeals, produce event invitations or secure meetings. They help you analyze and prioritize your audience, determine who is most likely to respond, and create personalized messages. The data they contain can be pulled from a variety of sources including your own database, social media or peer referrals. It's best when they contain information from all three. Donor lists: These are also known as "honor rolls" or "donor rosters" and include the names of your current supporters. In addition to being a good means of stewardship, they can also be an important cultivation tool. A self-conscious non-donor who notices that their name is missing from the honor roll may be more motivated to donate next time. Nothing makes an impression quite like the sound of one's own name or seeing one's own name in writing. Competition lists: These include the names of other nonprofits that qualify as "philanthropic priorities" to your prospects. Knowing which organizations they support can give you a sense of how philanthropic they can be and what’s important to them. While there are a variety of sources for this information, don't be afraid to engage your prospects directly in a conversation about it. Start by asking them who is ...

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High Expectations

Posted on 09/21/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

A common question that event planners face is whether or not to charge for admission. While offering free access tends to drive registrant numbers up, it also tends to result in a lower yield of attendees. On the other hand, charging for events typically results in a lower number of registrants but a higher yield of attendees. For example, a free event might generate 80 registrants with only 40 of them actually showing up - a 50 percent yield. But if you were to charge a fee (even a nominal one) for that same event, your attendee yield percentage would likely increase even though it might generate fewer actual registrants. This is because the paid event is perceived as more valuable to attendees. They’re invested, which makes it harder to skip if something else comes up. The same phenomenon can play out in your work with volunteers and donors. Have you ever found yourself trying to recruit a volunteer to serve on a board or a committee and saying something along these lines? “We’d love for you to get involved and we know you’re very busy. Don’t worry. This won’t require much of your time and there won't be any heavy lifting.” When you say things like this, it actually devalues the role you're asking them to play. Instead, emphasize that the role is important. While it may require a significant commitment of their time and effort, their involvement will not only make a difference for the institution, it will also be a truly valuable experience for them. Don't devalue what you need from your volunteers and donors just because it makes asking for it a little more comfortable. Set high expectations. It's ok if that causes fewer people to respond with a yes. Because those who do are more likely to show up, contribute thoughtful ideas and do what it is you need. For many, it will make your request even more appealing. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Engaging Volunteers Online.

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Stanford’s Last Call

Posted on 09/14/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Stanford University announced in an email to its alumni this week (see below) that it will be discontinuing its fundraising calls. The news has already shocked (and even saddened) many advancement professionals who have known student phonathons to be a central component of college and university annual giving programs ever since Yale launched the first paid student calling effort back in the 1970s. It’s no secret that phonathons have struggled in recent years as it's gotten more difficult to get alumni to pick up the phone. Contact rates have declined year-after-year for nearly a decade, a trend that has been precipitated by mobile technology and social media changing the way alumni communicate with their alma maters. Today, online donations represent more than half of all annual gifts. One of the challenges of phonathons is their cost. Compared to other, albeit less personal, print and digital channels, running a call center is expensive. Caller wages, equipment and software expenses aren’t cheap. And while they could once boast impressive dollar totals and high returns on their investment, many of today’s call centers barely break even. Some programs even operate at a loss, only justifying their existence as a necessity for acquiring new donors and negotiating current donors to higher gift levels. Stanford isn’t alone. Dartmouth College and the University of South Florida have also made decisions to end their phonathons. Dartmouth will be phasing out their program gradually: while it won’t use mass calling efforts to acquire new donors anymore, it will make sure that those alumni who have consistently responded to phonathon solicitations in the past continue to get a personal call from someone at the college. Reactions to Stanford’s decision have ranged from “Well, they’re Stanford, they can afford to do stuff like that,” to “That seems a little extreme.” Some have even commented, “They’ll be back.” Whatever ...

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Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

Posted on 09/07/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In algebra, PEMDAS explains the correct order of operations within a mathematical expression. It’s an acronym that stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction and it states what you’re supposed to do first, second, third, etc. when trying to solve a complex math problem. For example, 1 + 3 x 2 = 7 (not 8) because you should do multiplication before addition. A mnemonic to help teach students PEMDAS is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” This fun phrase helps them keep the acronym straight in their heads and remember the correct prioritization. Setting priorities is also important in annual giving, and there are many tips and tricks to assist you. One is RFM (i.e., Recency, Frequency, Monetary), which can help to identify donors that are most likely to respond to appeals. How recently a donor made a gift, the number of times they've given in the past, and the size of their last gift can all help indicate if they are likely to give again in the future. For example: A donor who gave last year is more likely to give than a donor whose last gift was many years ago A donor who has made several gifts is more likely to give than one who has given only once A donor who made a large gift is more likely to give than one who gave a smaller gift It would be ideal to be able to afford to solicit every one of your prospects often and give them all the same amount of personal attention. Unfortunately, when time and budgets are limited, that’s not possible. Therefore, you need to prioritize. The real trick is balancing your solicitations - and stewardship - in a way that focuses on your best prospects without ignoring anyone completely. Because you can never be 100% certain who your next big donor will be. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Segmentation Strategy.

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Shiny Objects

Posted on 08/31/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Take a moment to celebrate digital fundraising. There is no question that new media and technology have empowered more individuals and non-profit organizations to go out and raise money. Today's digital toolkits contain instruments that are easier to access, easier to afford and easier to use than ever before. Crowdfunding, Giving Days, and Text-to-Donate are just a few of the shiny objects that have caught the eye of fundraisers in recent years. In fact, many of these tactics have already been woven into the fabric of annual giving programs and become key components of their strategy. But nothing digital has changed the fundamentals of what drives successful fundraising. Not one bit. Just about anybody can go out and ask for money. Just about any organization can try to run a campaign. But building a sustainable fundraising program or leading a successful campaign depends on details like diligence, follow-up, quality, personal relationships and patience. These are the cornerstones of good fundraising. Unfortunately, they're also becoming increasingly rare. So, go ahead: embrace digital fundraising. Seek out shiny objects. They will help to keep your strategies fresh while attracting and engaging new donors. But don’t forget about the fundamentals. They may not be as flashy, but they’ll do more to advance your program in the long run than the latest digital trend. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Fundamentals of Annual Giving.

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What Would You Like To Enjoy?

Posted on 08/24/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There’s a restaurant tucked up in the green hills of Vermont, not far from the New Hampshire border, that gets it right. As soon as you sit down for dinner, you’re greeted - as you would be at almost any other reputable establishment - by a smiling server prepared to take your drink order. But instead of hearing, “What would you like to drink?”, you'll hear the same question framed in a different way. Here, they ask, “What would you like to enjoy?” Asking it this way makes all the difference. Rather than focusing simply on the beverage itself, it prompts the guests to imagine themselves sipping that drink and how doing so will make them feel. A margarita might help someone feel festive. A gin and tonic – sophisticated. A glass of wine – relaxed. An iced tea – refreshed. The way a drink makes you feel is much more important than how it looks or even how it tastes. This same idea can be applied in annual giving. When it comes to soliciting charitable gifts, there is often too much emphasis placed on the monetary aspects of the potential donation: "Would you consider a gift of $100 to help us reach our goal?" When you take this approach, you’re really just asking for a donation for the sake of a donation. Instead, focus on what that donation will accomplish and how giving a gift will make the donor feel. Will they feel like a leader? Will they feel like they belong to something important? Will they feel like they're making an impact? With this in mind, try framing your solicitation a different way: "Will you become a leader in our community and make a difference in the life of a needy student with a gift of $100?" Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Face-to-Face Solicitations.

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I Don’t Know

Posted on 08/18/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Picture this: Your boss pokes her head into your office doorway and asks how the annual fund is doing. You respond (proudly) that it’s up compared to last year and on track to hit its goal. She nods and gives you a smile to suggest that she’s pleased with the news. But then she throws out another question. This one catches you a little off-guard. "Do you know why we're up?" she asks. There’s an awkward silence for a few seconds, which (to you) feels like a few minutes. You begin to mumble something about higher quality appeals or a better economy or something like that until you stop and, looking embarrassed, admit the truth. "I don't know," you reply. Little has improved the field of annual giving in recent years more than data and analytics. The ability to harness and mine information empowers programs to identify and understand prospects, deploy resources in efficient and effective ways, and report progress in real time. Better access to data also allows annual giving professionals to pinpoint trends and explain which factors are contributing to their program’s performance. In this case, start by looking for changes in donors or dollars within the three key donor behavior segments: new donors, retained donors and reactivated donors. Then look for similar changes among key constituencies, fund designations, solicitation channels or gift amount ranges. Recognizing such changes (also known as "gaps" or as "variance") may provide insight, but is also the first step in addressing shortcomings before it's too late. Access to data doesn’t mean that you need to have all of the answers all of the time. You do, however, need to know how to go about finding the answers. So follow up your "I don't know" with, “But I can find out.” Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Analytics for Annual Giving.

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Alumni Declension

Posted on 08/10/2016- by Dan Allenby
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. Alums are useful for a range of industrial, culinary or medical processes. While it's understandable that an alum may be quite relevant to a scientist, chef or doctor, it may also be surprising that it's not particularly useful to those who work in advancement. On the other hand, an alumnus (male) or alumna (female) is clearly 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 both males and females. Too often, those who work in annual giving and alumni relations don't take the time to use these terms (and many other terms) correctly. When that happens, it not only makes you look casual, ill-informed and unprofessional, but it reflects poorly on your institution. In the same way that the clothes you decide to wear to work each day make a statement, the language you use to communicate with your colleagues, your constituents and your volunteers says a lot about you and your organization. Keeping this in mind, take time to select the right words and to use them in the proper way. It's more important than you might think. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Writing for Annual Funds.

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Fantasy Reunion

Posted on 08/03/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In the late 1950’s Oakland businessman Wilfred Winkenbach organized a contest for his friends and colleagues where individuals selected a “team” of professional golfers and tracked their scores over a period of time. When the tournament ended, the team with the best score would win. This was the earliest record of what’s known today as fantasy sports. Online fantasy sports have exploded in recent years. Players assemble virtual teams of real professional athletes and compete based on the statistical performance of those athletes in actual games. Today there are over 57 million participants, as reported by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Players tend to be younger and better educated, and have higher household incomes than non-players, according the Association. On average, participants spend over $556 each on league-related costs. Johns Hopkins University has come up with a way to capitalize on the fantasy sports craze, engage volunteers and mobilize alumni to support class programs. It’s called "Fantasy Reunion." Led by team captains, alumni organize themselves into affinity-based teams of eleven and then earn points for participating in various activities. The teams that earn the most points between January 15 and April 1 are awarded prizes (e.g., apple watch, event tickets, swag). There is also a prize for the individual with the highest score. Points are awarded for: Registering for reunion, with extra points granted for registering early or from out-of-state Donating to the reunion class gift campaign Providing information about participant interests and affinities Communicating with one another Fantasy Reunion is a great way to engage volunteers online, encourage support for the university and ensure that reunion programs are successful. For more information, check out the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association website. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Engaging Volunteers Online.

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Campaign Speak

Posted on 07/13/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Annual Giving programs live and die by the calendar. They have 365 days each year to acquire as many donors and secure as much money as they can. Accordingly, annual giving professionals set goals and coordinate appeals on an annual basis. But as more advancement programs find themselves in or planning major comprehensive fundraising campaigns, it's important that annual giving programs also think outside of their annual box. They need to learn campaign speak. One way to exercise campaign speak is to remind others what the annual fund represents as a percentage of the total campaign revenue. For example, if the campaign goal is to raise $100 million dollars over a 7-year period and the annual fund raises about $2 million annually, you can say that annual giving will represent about 14 percent of the total funds raised in the campaign. You can also establish campaign goals for your annual giving program that transcend individual fiscal years. For example, if one of your campaign goals is to increase alumni participation from 8 percent to 12 percent, then map out a path for achieving (and sustaining) that rate over a period of years. In addition to defining goals for alumni participation rates in each individual year, you should also specify targets for each of the key drivers of alumni participation, such as alumni of record counts, donor counts and retention rates. The following table not only states where you want to end up, but it also describes how you intend to get there. Campaign speak will not only help keep your annual giving program top of mind for senior leaders and campaign managers, but it will also help expand your view of your program's potential growth and impact over a longer period. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Annual Giving in a Campaign Setting.

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Soft Launch

Posted on 07/06/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Owning a restaurant can be risky business. In fact, some estimates show that 90 percent of new restaurants fail in the first year. To help increase their chances of success, some new restaurant owners hold a “soft launch” a few weeks before the real opening where only a small group of guests are invited to dine. This gives the staff an opportunity to test the menu, the kitchen equipment, and the overall service before officially opening their doors to the public. Testing is also an important part of annual giving, where programs are challenged each new year to find fresh ways to appeal to prospective donors. There’s a seemingly unlimited number of things you can test, such as the sizes, shapes, and colors of your appeal envelopes or the “teaser” notes that you print on them. You can test signatories for your letters, ask amounts in your phone scripts, images on your websites, or subject lines in your emails. Want to know if offering premiums will resonate with your constituents? Test it. One of the most important components of a test is the hypothesis. This is simply a statement (a guess, really) about what you think will happen. For example, “I think the red envelope will generate a higher response rate then the white envelope.” Hypotheses are important because they help you focus on the question you’re ultimately trying to answer rather than sitting back and waiting for some data point to stand up and say, “Hey, look at me!” Data points rarely do that. There's no need to make it complicated or overly granular. You can also test concepts or ideas simply by rolling them out on a smaller scale. For example, if you’re interested in knowing whether or not crowdfunding might be a way to enhance your annual giving efforts, then try running one or two small crowdfunding campaigns before you make any big decisions. The exercise itself will not only teach you a lot about what it takes to run a crowdfunding campaign, but the outcome ...

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Selfie Involved

Posted on 06/22/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

A Chinese proverb goes like this: Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand. Annual Giving programs are well equipped to show and tell. Letters, emails, infographics, and videos are useful tools for telling stories and showing why a donor’s support is needed. Our institution is doing important things! Your support is necessary to achieve those things! One of the benefits of show and tell is that it has economies of scale. The cost to reach an individual prospect goes down as the size of the target audience goes up. Unfortunately, scale isn’t as easy to take advantage of when it comes to involving prospects. That requires a little extra creativity. Union College came up with a great way to involve large numbers of constituents in their giving day. Two weeks prior to the online event in April they sent a mail piece to 24,000 alumni, parents, and friends. It provided details about the day and included a detachable blank sign with the header, “I support Union because…” Recipients, which included past donors as well as those who had never supported the college before, were asked to do three things: Write in their reason for supporting the college Take a selfie picture Post it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the giving day hashtag Participants could then visit Union's giving day website to view all the selfies and get updates on the day’s fundraising progress. The idea involved a lot of new and existing donors and helped them better understand the important role philanthropy plays at the college. In 24 hours, Union College secured gifts from 1632 donors - nearly 25 percent of whom had already made a gift earlier in the fiscal year. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Planning a Giving Day.

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Where Did You Go?

Posted on 06/15/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Don't assume that digital communication (e.g., email, texting, social media) is the only way to maintain contact with young alumni. Traditional channels like phone calls and print mail can also be useful ways to keep recent graduates connected. But you can’t take advantage of either one if you don’t have a current phone number or mailing address. Maintaining good contact information on alumni is rarely an easy task. Keeping tabs on young alumni can be an even bigger challenge. For one thing, they’re mobile. More likely to change jobs and less likely to be married, have children or own a home, recent graduates have more freedom to move around than older, more settled alumni. This means that you have to be more proactive and vigilant when it comes to keeping track of them. Advancement staff at George Washington University were worried that many of their younger alumni were not receiving the alumni magazine, event invitations or print annual fund appeals. Their office was getting back a lot of returned mail, and they also noticed that a large percentage of their recent graduates' home mailing addresses were the same as their parents'. What's more, a larger than usual percentage of younger alumni weren’t answering when the phonathon called. The advancement staff did, however, have good email records since most students kept the same address after graduating. To collect better contact information, the advancement team sent a series of emails to recent graduates asking them to confirm or update their home and employment information. Anyone who completed the survey was entered into a drawing for a chance to win an iPad mini (see below). The first email, to all graduates of the past decade, had a response rate of over 20 percent. A follow-up email, sent to all graduates of the past two years, had a 40 percent response rate. By the end of the campaign, the university was able to update information on nearly 70 percent of all survey respondents. Want ...

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Asking Too Often…Or Not Enough?

Posted on 06/08/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

One of Aesop's great fables is about a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock. Time and time again the villagers come to his side only to discover that his cries are just a hoax. In the story’s tragic ending, a real wolf finally does appear. When the boy again asks for help, the villagers ignore him and the sheep are eaten. Besides the important moral about telling the truth, this story also has a lesson for annual giving professionals: be wary of asking too often. Understanding that donors usually don't give unless they're asked, many annual giving programs struggle to figure how frequently they should solicit their prospects. An aggressive strategy can have an upside. It can keep your institution (and its need for support) top of mind for your constituents. There’s a lot of static and competition out there. The more often you ask, the more likely it is that your appeal will be heard. Being assertive can also produce results. There is, in fact, a correlation between higher appeal frequency and higher participation rates. However, frequent appeals can also have a downside. The more you ask, the more you risk alienating your prospects. It doesn’t take much for someone to click the unsubscribe link in your email or ask to be taken off your call list. Asking too often also risks desensitizing your constituents to all of your institution’s communications – appeals and otherwise. The optimal frequency depends on a number of factors including budget, culture, and goals. But good solicitation and segmentation strategies consider more than just frequency. They also require balance in terms of message, method, and timing. What, how, and when you ask are just as - if not more - important as how often you ask. You'll know when you've found the right balance for your audience when you start to notice an uptick in your results. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's ...

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Suggesting Gift Amounts

Posted on 06/01/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Suggesting gift amounts is a simple but effective way to raise donors’ sights and secure more leadership gifts. One way to do this is by requesting a specific amount in the body of a direct appeal or within a phonathon caller’s script. Although there’s no exact science for determining the right ask amount for each donor, a general rule is that it should be significantly higher than the donor’s most recent gift but also reasonable and realistic based on what you know about the donor’s capacity and inclination. The trick is to do your homework and find an amount that is ambitious but not off-putting. A similar method is to provide donors with a range of potential gift amounts for them to consider on the reply device. This is known as an ask array or ask ladder. Although it would be a lot of work to create a unique ask ladder for each individual prospect, you can build them for key segments. The idea is that segments containing prospects with higher levels of past giving or known capacity should receive more ambitious ask arrays. In phonathons, ask ladders can be used to guide callers on what gift amounts they should solicit from prospects as a first ask, and in subsequent asks if needed. Again, the trick is to find the right levels: ambitious but not off-putting. Online giving forms provide an opportunity to combine suggested gift amounts and ask arrays. Harvard Business School’s online giving form includes a range of five specified gift amounts as well as an option to write in the gift amount of the donor’s choice. However, the form has preselected the $250 option, suggesting that $250 is a common (or even minimum) gift from the school’s alumni. This tactic might compel an otherwise $100 donor to think twice about the amount of his or her gift. Almost immediately after updating the form with these higher gift amounts, the Harvard Business School’s advancement team noticed an increase in the average gift size of online donations. Want to ...

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Measuring Alumni Engagement

Posted on 05/25/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Annual Giving and Alumni Relations are team sports. Unfortunately, there are plenty of things that can get in the way when they try to work together. Sometimes the obstacles are organizational: the teams have different bosses, report to separate units or are located in different offices or buildings around campus. Other times, the obstacles are strategic: one team viewing its role as separate and distinct from the other's. For example, the annual giving team might be focused on generating donors and dollars while the alumni relations team is concentrated on planning events, offering career and educational programs, and connecting alumni through online, regional or affinity networks. Whether they realize it or not, annual giving and alumni relations teams ultimately share one common goal: increasing alumni engagement. When people see value in an organization they're more inclined to act when called upon to do so. In the case of educational institutions, alumni who see value in their alma mater (and/or in their association with it) are more likely to attend an event, volunteer, or make a gift. These actions are just a few of the many ways alumni can engage with their alma mater. The reason why alumni engagement is so important is that each of its forms can give way to another. For example, alumni who attend events are more likely to be donors, and alumni who volunteer for their alma mater are more likely to attend an event (and vice versa). So how do successful annual giving and alumni relations teams work together toward the common goal of increasing alumni engagement? Start by determining how engagement should be measured; then develop a plan to increase it. Consider the following exercise as one approach: Pull a random sample of 200 alumni records from your database. Assign 1 point to each record when you see evidence of any of the following actions: attending an event, serving as a volunteer, making a donation. Sum up ...

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11 Tips for the 11th Hour

Posted on 05/04/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There are a number of expressions one could use to explain the mood of an annual giving department near the end of its fiscal year. One is “hustle and bustle.” That's because teams are busy monitoring progress, preparing final appeals and communicating with donors and volunteers. Another is “11th hour.” That's because there's a sense of urgency and only a limited amount of time remaining to do what needs to be done. Annual Giving Programs have exactly 365 days each year to secure as many gifts and raise as much money as possible. That’s about eight thousand hours or just over a half million minutes. While that might feel like a lot of time at the beginning of the fiscal year, that’s no longer the case once the sands have started slipping through the hour glass. The final months of the fiscal year are critical. What you do during this time can determine whether or not your goals are achieved and your institution receives the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. So here’s a fiscal year-end checklist: 11 tips to guide you and your team through the 11th hour of your annual giving campaign. Review your goals - Make sure everyone is on the same page, centered around the same priorities, and monitoring key performance metrics. Spend your budget - If you don’t use it, you might lose it. Some finance offices assume that unspent money is unnecessary money. Those who think you can’t address an issue or solve a problem by throwing money it, probably just don’t know how to throw money. Focus on last year’s donors - They’re the most likely prospects to give now. The three keys to a successful annual giving effort are retention, retention, and retention. Remind those with open pledges - Verbal commitments can be easy to forget. Don’t be shy about sending reminders via print or email - or both! Try second asks - Go back to those who already made a gift in the current fiscal year and ask them to give AGAIN. This might ...

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How To Annoy Annual Giving Professionals

Posted on 04/13/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Annual 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: Code all managed prospects “do not solicit” Hide the call center headphones Fail to use an appeal code Do a rain dance on their Giving Day Mail in a credit card gift and leave the expiration date section blank Add the President to the appeal seed list Call them "friend-raisers" Take vacation during the last week of the fiscal year Collate before the ink is dry Forget to fulfill your pledge Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Strong Teams and Collaborations.

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How To Ask For Money

Posted on 04/06/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There 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 for AGN's Webinar on Face-to-Face Solicitations.

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March Matchness

Posted on 03/30/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

March 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.” Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Constructing Donor Challenges.  

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The Benefits of “No”

Posted on 03/23/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Despite 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 ...

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Setting SMART Goals

Posted on 03/09/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The 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 ...

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Collaborating with Major Gift Officers

Posted on 03/02/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There 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 ...

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Light on the Horizon

Posted on 02/10/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Phonathons have been a staple of college and university annual giving programs since the 1970s when (as legend has it) Yale University first decided to employ students to make fundraising calls to alumni in a last-ditch effort to reach its campaign goal. Among the many benefits of a phonathon is that it's interactive, allowing callers to engage (and even negotiate) with prospects in individual and conversational ways. Because they’re more personal, phonathons tend to have higher conversion rates compared to other appeal channels. This makes them particularly useful when it comes to acquiring new donors or upgrading past donors to higher giving levels. Beyond soliciting gifts, phonathons also have the added benefit of allowing callers to update prospect information and even survey prospects to gather their opinions, preferences, and feedback. But over the past several years, phonathons have experienced a period of darkness. Contact rates have declined year-over-year for nearly a decade due to the massive migration to mobile communication devices, the waning use of landline phones and a general negative stigma surrounding telemarketing. Today there’s only about a one in two chance that a prospect will even answer the phone when their alma mater calls. This makes the already challenging job of running a phonathon program even harder. Imagine what it’s like to be a caller, spending hours dialing prospects only to have the majority of your attempts met with a voicemail greeting or, worse yet, rejection. For many program managers, it can be difficult to keep callers motivated and retain employees for much more than a few months. Now, before you dismiss the value of phonathons entirely, keep in mind that there may be some light on the horizon. According to Ruffalo Noel Levitz, not only have many college and university phonathon programs seen a stabilization of overall contact rates over the past year or two, but many have experienced an uptick among ...

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Participate Events

Posted on 01/13/2016- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Shoaling is a term used in biology to describe when a group of fish stick close together. In general, fish shoal with others of similar size and appearance, choosing members of their own species whenever possible. There are many reasons why fish shoal. Collectively, it makes them more effective at searching for food and moving through the water. It’s a defense strategy — large groups as less vulnerable to predators than individual fish — and is also thought to increase the likelihood of finding a mate. Since their beginning, alumni relations programs have expended a considerable amount of time and effort helping alumni shoal. Among their more traditional approaches have been putting on campus events like homecoming or class specific celebrations such as reunions. For many programs, regional chapters and clubs have also provided a way for alumni to gather at happy hours or sporting events. Realizing the value of bringing alumni together, today’s annual giving programs are also beginning to leverage events as a way to achieve their fundraising goals and provide better donor stewardship. A few years ago, the University of Chicago launched “Participate” — a series of festive parties organized to encourage young alumni to give. To get on the invitation list for a Participate event you must have a) graduated in the last ten years and b) made a gift in the current fiscal year of any size to any designation. Events are organized in key regions throughout the country where there are significant populations of alumni. They're promoted through email, social media, and word of mouth by volunteers. Attendees are treated to high-end drinks and delicious appetizers while they greet old friends and make new connections. There’s no dress code but — as the university’s website jokes — that doesn’t stop many alumni from looking snazzy when they show up. For those who aren’t sure if they qualify for an invitation, the annual fund's website ...

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Rulins

Posted on 12/30/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In January 1943, American folk music legend Woody Guthrie famously jotted down a list of 33 resolutions in his diary. He called them rulins – personal promises to help start the year on a good note – like "learn people better" and "dream good." Each one was ambitious, simple, and sincere. With a new year underway, it's a good time to make some personal (and professional!) promises of your own. To help your program get off on the right foot, here are 10 Annual Giving Rulins for 2016: Increase alumni participation Engage young alumni better Launch a donor challenge Thank your volunteers Be data-driven Test more email appeals Make giving fun for students Get along with major gift officers Improve caller retention Send more handwritten notes Happy New Year – and good luck! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Developing an Annual Fund Plan.

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The Donor Funnel

Posted on 12/16/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When asked to describe annual giving, many are tempted to talk about its activities: appealing for gifts, processing payments, sending acknowledgements and stewarding the donors. Others describe annual giving through its common metrics. They’ll tell you how much money it generates or how many donors it helps to secure. And then there are those who talk about annual giving mechanisms—the solicitation channels or the constituency-based programs employed by annual giving departments to cultivate and solicit donors. While all of these things are very important parts of a program’s anatomy, they don’t really get to the heart of annual giving and its role within the larger context of an advancement program. To explain this, a "pyramid" diagram is sometimes used and includes different levels to indicate various types of giving that a donor can engage in during their lifetime. As you can see above, annual giving can be a key initial step in the process of converting occasional donors into special donors, then major donors, and ultimately principle donors over time. For advancement programs, this is a model for effective prospect management and cultivation over a lifetime. The problem with using a “pyramid” model, however, is that it places annual giving near the bottom of the process, suggesting that it may not be as important. After all, it’s the small set of big donors that "matter" according to the 80/20 rule. But this visual misses the mark. A more appropriate model would be to invert the pyramid so that annual giving is near the top of a “funnel.” Instead of viewing annual giving as a means of moving donors “up” into higher forms of giving, it can help ensure that all of the other aspects of a prospect management strategy fall into place. Remove or hamper the top of the funnel, and fewer gifts will get through to the narrow spout. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Leadership Gifts for Annual Funds.

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Salary & Professional Development Report

Posted on 12/02/2015- by Dan Allenby
Sarah Rubin

In the fall of 2015, Annual Giving Network (AGN) conducted a survey of 870 annual giving professionals who are actively employed at colleges, universities and independent schools in order to identify their characteristics, pinpoint obstacles to their success, and establish salary benchmarks. Click here to download a FREE copy of the report, which will address the following questions: Is your institution paying competitive salaries? How much experience do you need to take the next step? Which advanced degrees will give you the biggest advantage? Where can you turn for career advice? And more! Click here to download a FREE copy of the report today. Annual Giving Network (AGN) helps fundraisers advance their programs and careers. As the world’s leading resource for annual giving professionals, AGN provides access to training, webinars, workshops, case studies, and the latest research.

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Class Exodus

Posted on 11/25/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The following article was published in an issue of Currents Magazine. To download a PDF version of this article, click here.  The world of advancement is facing a crisis—in numbers. In 1990, 18 percent of college and university alumni gave to their alma mater, according to the Council for Aid to Education. By 2013, that number had been cut in half to less than 9 percent—a record low and a culmination of a trend that has persisted for more than two decades. Some shrug off the decline as a new reality—a problem too far along to fix. Others ask, what's the big deal? After all, in this era of big campaigns and mega-gifts, colleges and universities have raised more money even though fewer alumni are giving. But the implications of this trend cannot be ignored. Alumni participation rates can have a major impact on institutional reputation. U.S. News & World Report considers undergraduate alumni participation rates a barometer of alumni satisfaction and factors them into its rankings. No matter how you feel about rankings, they are a big deal. Rankings create reputation, reputation affects enrollment, and enrollment affects tuition revenue. But it's bigger than that. Substantial participation allows us to build a broad base of support and expand the pipeline for major gifts and future campaigns. Mega-gifts may have helped educational institutions raise more money over the past several decades, but relying on them isn't a stable model. What if the pipeline dries up? And while a large group of supportive alumni can influence the direction of their school and its effect on the world, putting the future of our institutions in the hands of a relative few is not in our best interest. It's time to ask some new questions and set better goals for our institutions. It's time to examine what is and isn't working in our advancement practices and to look at how we can provide the best service to our alumni base. Why Participation Rates Are Falling As ...

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Capacity and Inclination

Posted on 11/11/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

According to a recent AGN poll, 51 percent of annual giving professionals report that they are the ones who are primarily responsible for identifying annual fund leadership gift prospects, with the remainder citing research staff (24 percent) or major gift officers (15 percent). The other 10 percent reported that they were either not sure or that no one is responsible (on no!). The next time you set out to find someone with leadership gift potential, keep in mind that all good prospects have two common characteristics: capacity and inclination. When a prospect has capacity, it means that they have the financial ability to make a leadership gift. There are several ways to identify capacity. Analyzing their biographic and demographic characteristics is a good start. For example, having a zip code from an affluent area (e.g., 90210), a senior level job title (e.g., CEO, Vice President), or an advanced degree (e.g., JD, MBA, MD) can all point to the possibility of wealth. Past giving can also be an indicator of capacity. For example, if someone donated $1,000 in the past, it suggests that they may have the means to do it again in the future. When someone has inclination, it means they have some interest in making a gift. Similar to capacity, there could be many clues within your data (and other data sources) that can reveal something about someone’s inclination. For example, there’s a correlation between past giving, event attendance, volunteering, and even recently-updated contact information (e.g., email, phone number, home address) and the likelihood that someone will make a gift in the future. In other words, these things can be a sign of donor inclination. Of course, not everyone will have the same level of capacity and inclination, which is why it helps to have some kind of scoring system that allows you to track and compare prospects. For example, assign alphabetical codes to prospect records on a scale of A through E so that A suggests very ...

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The “Ations” of Student Philanthropy

Posted on 10/28/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

For educational institutions, building a culture of philanthropy begins by teaching students about the importance of donor support and showing them how it can make a difference in the life of their institution. The reason students go to school is to learn. It’s hard to imagine a more opportune time to teach them about philanthropy than while they’re right there on campus. Borrowing the idea from another institution, The University of Central Florida Foundation found a way to teach students about philanthropy that is both clever and engaging. As part of their celebration of Student Philanthropy Week, they created a daily theme that encouraged students to think about and take part in a unique aspect of philanthropy. Since each theme shared a common suffix, each theme is playfully referred to an “ation.” Education Day – Students were given token gifts (e.g., mugs, apparel) with printed facts or statistics related to philanthropy and its impact on the university. Appreciation Day – Students were asked to produce handwritten thank you notes to donors. The Foundation provided stationary, lists, bullet points and a place to write. Participation Day – Students were asked to make their own gift of $19.63 in honor of the founding year of the university. Celebration Day – Students celebrated the week's end by signing a banner and displaying it in the Student Union. They were also invited to attend a Philanthropy Symposium of donors that was moderated by the Student Philanthropy Council Chair. Offering structure to the week’s events not only gave students a variety of different ways to get involved and learn, but it allowed the foundation staff to do a more thorough job of teaching about important topics, and not simply glossing over them in a generic way. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Student Philanthropy Programs.

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5 Tips for #GivingTuesday

Posted on 10/07/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

#GivingTuesday is an online event that takes place on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Its purpose is to celebrate and support philanthropy and to kick-off the charitable giving season. Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday was initially conceived as an alternative to the commercially-driven Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, #GivingTuesday will take place on December 1st. According to an AGN poll, 32% of educational institutions (i.e. colleges, universities, and independent schools) participated in #GivingTuesday last year. Many of those who elected not to participate reported “too much competition from other charities on that day” as their reason. Alternatively, a lot of schools launched their own “Giving Day” - many of which occurred in the spring. In fact, 77% of educational institutions reported that they are either planning or have already held a Giving Day of their own. If your institution is planning to join in #GivingTuesday this year, consider setting a participation goal. Not sure what that goal should be? Figure out how many people gave on December 1st last year and increase it by 10%. Then, try these five tips to encourage your alumni, parents, and friends to give back: Send an email announcing that it’s #GivingTuesday and asking for support. Ask volunteers to change their Facebook profile pictures to your organization's logo and spread the word through their social networks using your institution's #hashtag and the #GivingTuesday hashtag. Populate your institution's social feeds with stories and pictures about gift impact. Edit your phonathon scripts to mention #GivingTuesday early in the call. Tweet thanks to @everyone who makes a gift using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Planning a Giving Day.  

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The Stereotypical Donor

Posted on 09/23/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In real life, giving patterns vary. Every donor gives in a manner and at times that are uniquely right for them. For many institutions, the majority of alumni won’t even make a single gift during their lifetime. Few will ever make a major or planned gift. In the life of the stereotypical alumni donor, however, a giving pattern might look like this: Before graduation, they make their first gift through the senior class gift campaign 1-15 years out, they make consistent donations to the annual fund 15-30 years out, they make leadership gifts to the annual fund 30+ years out, they make a major gift or planned gift These stages suggest a model or ideal for cultivating alumni in a way that’s more likely to be in line with their own circumstances. For example, it’s probably not realistic to expect a recent graduate to be able to make a major gift since they are just starting out in their careers and are only beginning to accumulate assets. Nor is it realistic to expect someone who has never donated before to make a major or planned gift if the institution has done nothing to build a relationship with them over time. Encouraging people to move through these various stages of giving is often referred to as building a pipeline, and it’s one of the most important functions of an annual giving program. It begins with identifying and acquiring new donors, encouraging their consistent support, and raising their sights in a way that leads to their increased giving over time. A strong pipeline will ultimately produce a pool of prospects that have been regularly solicited, appropriately stewarded, and prepared for a conversation about a major or planned gift. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Upgrading Donors to Higher Giving Levels.

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Calendar vs. Fiscal Year

Posted on 09/09/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The following chart shows the percent of total annual fund gifts and revenue by month for one educational institution. For both metrics, you can see that the highest volume is in December and June. This should come as no surprise considering that these mark the end of the calendar and fiscal years - two periods when many organizations concentrate their fundraising appeals. Look closer and you’ll see something else. While the single biggest month for gifts is December, the single biggest month for revenue is June. Why is this? While many donors are motivated (in part) by the tax credits they'll receive for making charitable contributions before the end of the calendar year, only a few are aware of your organization's budgetary timelines. Fiscal years are internal constructs that are irrelevant to the average constituent. However, it's more likely that your leadership donors and key volunteers are in tune with your fiscal years. They're the ones who tend to make the larger gifts that cause the spike in revenue at the end of the fiscal year. For everyone else, it helps to give little reminders. The University of New Mexico sends a "Happy New Year" postcard to all of its past donors, letting them know that one fiscal year has ended and another has begun. It not only serves as a way to thank them for their past support, but it also prepares them for the new appeals they're about to receive. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on End-Of-Year Appeals.

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Overcoming Objections

Posted on 08/05/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The worst thing you can hear after asking someone for a gift is “yes.” Why? Because it means you could have asked for more. But what do you do when you hear “no?” Whether you’re on the front lines or working in a call center, the ability to overcome objections is a skill that every fundraiser needs. To keep the conversation alive after someone declines your initial request, you should: Keep it positive - Remember that little yeses lead to bigger yeses. Be specific, confident, and concise - Avoid sluggish talk like “well then” or “how about.” Acknowledge their concerns - Lead with phrases like “I understand” and “I’m sorry to hear that.” Insert a reason before each subsequent ask. While it’s easy to let “no” get you down, it can actually be a chance to engage a prospect in a meaningful conversation and (possibly) change the way they think about your institution. Here are some common objections, with suggestions for how you can respond. If they say: “This is not a good time,” then you say, “Of course. Is there a better time when we could call you back?” “That’s more than I can afford,” then you say, “I understand. Is there a specific amount that would be more comfortable for you?” “I had a bad experience with the institution,” then you say, “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you considered that your gift could ensure that others have a better experience?” “I don’t like the direction the organization is headed,” then you say, “I’ll make a note of your concern. Please know that the institution listens carefully to its supportive alumni.” “My gift won’t make a difference,” then you say, “Every gift counts. Participation rates can have a positive impact on institutional rankings and often influence major donors and foundations.” Sometimes no simply means no. Other times it’s just an opportunity in disguise. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for ...

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4 Tips for Annual Fund Success

Posted on 06/17/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Don't settle for mediocrity. You owe it to your institution to run the best annual fund possible. But that's no easy task in an industry that's complicated, constantly changing, and filled with competition. Here's some advice to help you accomplish your goals and become the best annual giving professional you can be. 1. Study - Get to know everything you can about your institution. Click through its website, read the alumni magazine, take a campus tour, check out a book on its history. Ask a faculty member to lunch or coffee. They’ll have plenty to tell you, not just about the institution, but about the teaching and research they're doing through the institution. 2. Participate - Become an active member in the life of your institution. Attend lectures, join the fitness center, go to games, audit a class, volunteer to help during an event. Have you liked the alumni Facebook page? Joined its LinkedIn group? Are you following on Twitter? Participating in the life of the institution not only gives perspective, but it equips you with stories and examples that you can share with others. 3. Benchmark - Get to know what’s going on at other institutions. This will not only help you understand what makes your institution unique, but it will show you where your institution has opportunities to grow. Attend conferences, subscribe to newsletters, and read magazines, blogs, and other publications. Network! 4. Give - Support your institution. It'll not only help you appreciate things like how long it takes for a gift receipt to arrive or how your name appears on a donor roster, but it will give you the moral authority to ask others for their support. There's nothing more empowering than being able to say "join me." Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Developing an Annual Fund Plan.

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Text Trivia

Posted on 06/03/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Explaining philanthropy to students requires some creative thinking, which is why the annual giving team at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington launched its Phil Campaign. Short for Philanthropy, "Phil" is a fictional character created by the annual giving team as a way to teach students about philanthropy. One of the most innovative parts of the Phil campaign is the text trivia program. Based on an app developed by two faculty members, students can register to receive a text message every other week. It’s sent on Thursday after lunch and includes a multiple-choice question about philanthropy at the university. Every student who responds with the correct answer is eligible to win a prize, which has been donated by a local business. All prizes are worth $50 or more. “Text trivia has been a great way to educate students about philanthropy. It not only helps to deliver important information to students, but it lets us know that they’re learning the things we want them to know about,” said Missy Kennedy, Director of Annual Giving at UNC Wilmington. “More than 80% of the students respond with a correct answer each time.” Another unexpected benefit of the program is that it has given the annual giving team a way to collect mobile phone numbers from students – something that will help the office stay connected long after they graduate and become alumni. Here's a sample question: Thousands of alumni give to UNCW every year. Which class do you think had the most donors last year? Class of 2012 Class of 1988 Class of 1954 The correct answer is #1. Even though recent graduates are new in their careers, many still make UNCW a philanthropic priority. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Student Philanthropy Programs.

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The George Eastman Circle

Posted on 04/08/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

It started as a back of a napkin idea when The University of Rochester was making plans to launch a major comprehensive fundraising campaign. Its leadership knew the campaign wouldn’t be considered a success unless it built a strong prospect base and inspired a “community of leaders.” It was with these goals in mind that they launched The George Eastman Circle, a new leadership giving society for the annual fund. While gift societies are certainly not unusual for colleges and universities, this one was unique in that membership requires a multi-year commitment at a leadership level. With a minimum pledge of $7,500 (i.e., $1,500 per year for five years), members are able to support their passions and interests with a gift to any of the university’s 200+ annual funds. In return, they’re given access to exclusive leadership networking events and recognized as leaders in the online donor roster. Additionally, “Plus One” events are offered periodically where members can bring a friend. “There was a lot of effort (and a lot of fanfare) spent on securing charter membership during the first two years of the program,” said Martha Krohn, AVP for Advancement & Annual Giving Programs. “We set a goal of 250 charter members and ended up with 1,087.  For the next few years, we’ll focus on renewing charter members, whose pledges are now beginning to expire. We’ll also be launching regional councils to provide volunteer opportunities to our members and key volunteers.” As of 2013, The George Eastman Circle has welcomed more than 2,650 members and raised over $50 million for the university’s annual fund. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Gift Clubs and Societies.

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Ugly Betty

Posted on 03/25/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

They call her Ugly Betty. And, while she may be lacking in fashion sense, she knows a thing or two about renewing gifts from prior donors. Who is she? She’s a no-frills direct mail package that’s gaining popularity among annual giving programs. She doesn’t contain a wordy case for support or compelling pictures. In fact, she looks more like an invoice than a traditional fundraising appeal. "There’s a lot of noise out there," says one annual fund manager, referring to mailboxes cluttered with charity appeals and consumer offers, “and Ugly Betty helps convey our most important message in a succinct way. In addition to our more traditional letters, we send as many as four Ugly Betties to our recently lapsed donors each year.” Megan Doud, Director of Annual Giving at The University of Michigan, describes Ugly Betty as one of their most successful appeals. “On average, we see a 14% response rate for prior year donors and 3.5% response rate for 1-2 year lapsed donors. Some schools and colleges see response rates from priors of around 20-25%!” See an example below. Today’s donors are busy. Even those who are committed to supporting your organization can use a little reminder now and then. Ugly Betty may not be the best approach when it comes to acquiring new donors, but she may be able to help you convey an important message to your most loyal supports: it’s time to renew your support! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Successful Direct Mail.  

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TAG Day

Posted on 03/11/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Heidelberg University was searching for a way to increase philanthropy awareness on campus and introduce their own Student Philanthropy Day. So the Heidelberg Fund team and the Student Alumni Association put their heads together and came up with an innovative idea: TAG Day. “We considered the idea of a Tuition Freedom Day – a popular idea on other campuses as a way to point out when (in the academic year) tuition dollars would theoretically run-out and private support would take over,” says Ashley Helmstetter, Executive Director at Heidelberg. “But that model didn’t resonate for us. Since 99% of our students receive scholarship and financial aid, we were mostly interested in highlighting the specific impact gifts that we have on our campus.” The word “TAG” is an acronym (Thank-A-Giver) as well as a call to action. Students use the day as an opportunity to reach out and thank donors for support - many write handwritten notes, and they put together a great thank you video. In addition, they spend the day “tagging” stickers onto items around campus that exist as the result of donor support. This includes material items like buildings, books, and artwork as well as people, including faculty, staff, and students. Now in its third year, TAG Day continues to gain momentum. “We add a new (fun) element every year,” says Helmstetter, “but our fundamental focus remains on stewardship, engagement, and education.” Go Student Princes! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Student Philanthropy Programs.

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5 Common Mistakes

Posted on 03/04/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

What does it take to have a successful career in annual giving? For starters, you need to be goal-driven, creative, personable, analytical, flexible and committed. You need to be open to new ideas and willing to take risks. You also have to make decisions (lots of them) such as who to visit, when to send appeals, how to segment audiences, and which messages to communicate. In other words, you have to do a lot. With so much going on, it's easy to slip up, get distracted, and misstep. Here are five common mistakes made by annual giving professionals that can get between you and a long and successful career. They try to go it alone. It’s a team sport. Your colleagues, your bosses, and your volunteers will likely have as much (if not more) to do with your program's success than you will. Know when to step up, when to delegate, and when to stay out of the way. They don’t use enough data. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” and “That’s what I assume” won’t get you very far in this business. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Study what other programs are doing. Test, don’t guess. If you can’t find any data to support an assumption, then that’s all it is – an assumption. They use too much data. If you’re spending more than 10% of your day staring at reports, then you need to find a better use of your time. Avoid analysis paralysis. Get out there and do something. They don’t focus on their current donors. Your best donor is the one you already have, so make sure that's where you're spending your time and resources. If fewer than 60% of last year’s donors don’t give again this year, then you have a problem. They get distracted by “shiny new objects.” It’s important to keep up with the latest trends and try new things, but don’t forget about the fundamentals. Crowdfunding, Giving Days, and Text to Pledge may be important, but they’re not silver bullets. Remember where the majority of your gifts and donors ...

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Stewardship is A RIVER

Posted on 02/18/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The word "stewardship" gets used a lot in the world of annual giving. But ask a group of people to explain its meaning and you’re likely to get a lot of different responses. That’s because stewardship isn’t just one thing. It’s many things. And it’s not something you do just once. It's constant and fluid. In many ways, it's like a river. A RIVER is also an acronym to help you think about and remember the many ways stewardship should flow through your fundraising operation: Acknowledgment – Let donors know that their gifts have been received as soon as possible. This might include something as standard as a receipt or as personal as a handwritten note. The best acknowledgments arrive quickly. Recognition – Nothing stands out like the letters in one’s own name. Identifying donors in print or online not only lets them know that their support is recognized, but it can also incentivize others to donate. It can be just as motivating to notice that your name is missing from a list, as it is to see your name on it. Impact – It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money does. Show donors the impact of their gifts. Provide examples. Tell stories. Value – Most donors aren’t looking for something in return, but offering them small tokens of appreciation (e.g., invitations, keepsakes, discounts) can go a long way. Give and you shall receive. Experience – Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, they sell an experience. What kinds of experiences are you giving to your donors? Reminders – Chances are that your donors have as much (if not more) going on than you do. Reminding them when their pledge payments are due or that a year has elapsed since their last annual fund gift isn’t nagging. It’s good stewardship. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Stewardship for Annual Fund Donors.

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Caller Thank You Videos

Posted on 02/11/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There’s a lot that can influence someone’s decision to respond to an appeal. When does it occur? Who’s asking? How compelling is the case? How much is asked for? How long has it been since any previous gifts and what have you done for them since? Personalization also plays a big role. Suffice it to say, the more personal that an appeal feels, the higher the likelihood that the prospect will respond positively to it. That’s one reason why conversion rates for email and direct mail appeals are generally lower than conversion rates for phone calls or face-to-face asks. The Phonathon Program at The University of California, San Diego has found a great way to connect with their prospects in a personal way. After each pledge, they use an iPad camera to film the student caller saying a personal thanks to the person with whom they spoke. Then they email it to the prospect with the subject line: A Quick Thank You. They record using QuickTime movie and send it in an email as an attachment. Because they're short and quick, they're actually a really small file size (2MB) and easy to email. "Right now, we send thank you videos to anyone who makes a pledge or gift,” says Meredith Johnston, Executive Director of Annual Giving & Regional Advancement. “When our supervisors were short-staffed, we had to cut back to first time and newly reacquired donors, but we're back to all donors again!” The videos are unscripted and usually shot in one take, and as a result, they’re often admittedly unpolished - even intentionally unpolished. Johnston said that they really set out to make them quick and timely, so they arrive within a few minutes of getting off the phone. They also felt strongly that they needed to be real, organic, and “charmingly authentic.” She feels like the fact that they are clearly not slick, pre-shot videos fosters a stronger feeling of connection between donors and students. And the 60 seconds or so that it takes to make and send ...

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Egyptian or Mayan?

Posted on 01/28/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Gift pyramids can help us visualize the distribution of our donations and identify where the majority of the money we raise is coming from. They can be useful for assessing all types of fundraising efforts including complex multi-year comprehensive campaigns, recurring annual fund drives, or stand alone direct mail appeals. An important question to ask when analyzing your gift pyramid is whether it’s Egyptian or Mayan. Egyptian pyramids have pointed tops. They reflect campaigns in which a very large majority of the revenue comes from one or very few gifts. On the other hand, Mayan pyramids have flat tops. They reflect campaigns in which small and midsize gifts make up a more substantial portion of total revenue. Here’s an example of a gift pyramid from a campaign that raised $50,000: $10,000+ (1 gift totaling $25,000) $5,000-$9,999 (2 gifts totaling $10,000) $2,500-$4,999 (5 gifts totaling $7,000) $1,000-$2,499 (4 gifts totaling $5,000) Less than $1,000 (25 gifts totaling $3,000) As you can see, 50% of the total money raised came from a single gift. In the short term, this can be an efficient and effective fundraising strategy. You’ll have a much better chance of success raising $1,000 by trying to find one donor who’s capable and willing to give you $1,000 than by trying to find 100 donors to each give you $10. Over time, however, organizations that rely on Egyptian pyramids run the risk of becoming top heavy and weakening their base of support. And you know what ultimately happens to organizations that are too top heavy, don’t you? They tip over. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Research & Prospect Management.

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Tax Statement Appeal

Posted on 01/06/2015- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

People tend to be more responsive when deadlines are involved. Ask me to call you on the phone sometime and I may do it. But ask me to call you tomorrow and the chances go way up that your phone will ring. Fiscal years and tax years provide us with two deadlines to motivate donors. The truth is that a fiscal year often means more to the institution than it does for the donor. On the other hand, the tax (or calendar) year is more widely understood. Nearly 90% of the U.S. households deduct charitable contributions on their tax return. The University of Indianapolis gets in sync with its donors each January when it sends a “tax statement appeal” to everyone who made a gift in the previous calendar year. This simple piece provides the donor with an itemized list of their gifts made from the previous January through December including the amount, date, and fund designation of each transaction. The mailing also includes a reply device for donors to make their gift for the subsequent tax year. See an example below. "The tax statement appeal is one of our best mailings in terms of ROI,” says Lora Teliha, Director of Communications for Alumni Engagement at UIndy. “Last year, it got a 4.38% response rate and an average gift of $204.” Go UIndy Greyhounds! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Successful Direct Mail.

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Dear Angry Donor

Posted on 12/24/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

It's that time of the year when people are receiving your year-end appeals. It's also that time of year when you're probably receiving more complaint calls and emails than usual. You spelled my name wrong! I already gave! Stop sending me so many emails! You ask for too much! When a donor complains, it's important to respond right way. But don't feel like you have to resolve every problem that comes your way. It's likely they just want to be heard. Keep your responses simple, like this: Dear Angry Donor: Thank you for your message and for your generous support. Your commitment to our mission will have an impact for years to come. We count on you. I appreciate your feedback and will make a special point of sharing it with my colleagues. In the meantime, please let me know if there's anything I can do to be helpful. With gratitude, You Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Stewardship for Annual Fund Donors.

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Two Boats And A Helicopter

Posted on 11/26/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Several years ago in a small coastal town, there was a terrible flood. Fortunately, most of the townspeople were able to evacuate safely in advance. However, there was one person - a development officer - who insisted on staying put. As the floodwater rose, the development officer climbed onto the roof. A rescue boat soon arrived and called for him to climb in. He refused, claiming that, as someone who had spent his life doing noble work, he would be watched over. "Go save others," he said. The rain continued to fall and the water rose. The development officer climbed higher onto the roof and soon a second boat arrived. Once again he refused to climb in. “I’ve devoted my life to helping others and important causes,” he said. “God will protect me.” Well, the rain didn’t let up and the water rose higher. The development officer climbed to the very top of the roof. As he clung to a weather vane, a rescue helicopter hovered overhead and let down a rope ladder. Once again, he refused help. Sadly, the flood got worse and the development officer drowned. When he arrived in heaven he took the first opportunity to speak with God. Trying his best to hide his frustration, the development officer asked, “God, I devoted my entire life to helping others and important causes. Why didn’t you save me?” God sat quietly for a moment. Then, with a warm smile and a gentle shrug of his shoulders, he said, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?” Now here's the moral of the story: Don't spend your valuable time looking for something better. Appreciate what you have now. The same is true in fundraising. Don't spend all of your time and resources seeking out the next big gift or donor. Instead, try to appreciate the donors you have now. Pay attention to them. Remind them that they're important. Make them feel special. When you focus on the donors you have now, everything else will take care of itself. Want to learn ...

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Stakeholder Calls

Posted on 11/18/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

There was a time when "engagement" was limited to physical presence. This is one reason we put so much time, effort and money into meetings and events for our supporters. Events bring people together. They remind us that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. Events can also entertain and provide special access – opportunities to network or an insider’s view into an organization. But, when it comes to event planning, geography can be a big obstacle. If I live in New York and your event is in LA, the chances that I’ll attend go way down (even if I want to be there). So, what about virtual events? The University of Chicago invites its highest level of Chicago Society donors and volunteers to attend exclusive webinars. These “stakeholder calls” provide supporters with an opportunity to hear from a prominent member of campus without having to take a day off work or buy an expensive plane ticket. They also provide attendees with a chance to ask the special guest questions in real time. The last call took place in April and featured the university's athletic director. Of the 125 donors and volunteers who were invited, 46 were able to attend. Of course, there’s no replacement for a live show. But sometimes a little virtual engagement beats no engagement at all. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Stewardship for Annual Fund Donors.

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Smaller

Posted on 10/22/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

We live in an era of big data. Today, we collect and store mountains of information on our prospects - the 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 also be used by fundraisers to segment a prospect pool, to decide how to allocate limited resources, 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 AGN's annual survey, 1 out of 3 annual giving program leaders considers predictive modeling to be an important part of their strategy. Moreover, 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, though it should be. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Predictive Modeling for Annual Giving.

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Snackable

Posted on 09/16/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Could 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: Tuition covers only about two-thirds of the real cost of undergraduate education. More than half of all Stanford undergrads depend on need-based scholarships from the university. Stanford's endowment covers only about 23% of the university's budget. Most gifts are restricted. Annual, expendable gifts provide vital flexibility. Federal support for university research is significant, but it's been declining for years in real dollars. Stanford's mission is global. Big ideas can be expensive. Making a difference is worth it. 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Demonstrating ROI in Annual Giving. 

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Fly Your Flag

Posted on 09/09/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

If 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 3x5 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 student 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 on 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. The current quid pro quo guidelines ...

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Barn Lifting

Posted on 09/03/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In 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 expensive. 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Storytelling in Annual Giving.

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The Cornerstone Club

Posted on 08/20/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Northeastern 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 ...

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Up To Snuff?

Posted on 08/13/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Is 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 a 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 emails, webpages, or social media) were taking 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 to "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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Annual Fund Websites & Giving Forms.

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Two Kinds of Money

Posted on 08/06/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Developing 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 and 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Fundamentals of Annual Giving.  

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Free Food

Posted on 07/30/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Phonathons, 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 also 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Maximizing Your Phonathon.

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How To Make Someone Feel Special

Posted on 07/23/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

We 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Stewardship for Annual Fund Donors.

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Decision Time

Posted on 07/16/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

According 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 start making decisions. But keep your eye on the clock. The harvest will be here before you know it! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Developing an Annual Fund Plan.

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The World’s Oldest Teacher

Posted on 07/09/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Every 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 to 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 than 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! Nearly 20% of all constituents made a gift, and there was an increase in the amount of money raised, by over 5%. Indeed, every institution has stories to tell. They are, in essence, the case for support. What's your story? Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Storytelling in Annual Giving.

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Pay For A Day

Posted on 06/18/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Generic 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 a 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. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on End-of-Year Appeals.

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Poem for the Timid Solicitor

Posted on 06/04/2014- by Dan Allenby
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 Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Overcoming Obstacles in Fundraising.

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The Perfect Pipeline

Posted on 05/28/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The 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. It's what makes the annual giving pipeline simple, efficient, and (with a little bit of practice) something that can be perfected. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Leadership Gifts for Annual Funds.

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The Bigger They Are

Posted on 05/21/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Robert “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.” 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 is 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. The 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, the smaller the gift size, the less likely it will be renewed. Just something to keep in mind the next time you step into the ring. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Increasing Donor Retention.

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Flat Ollie

Posted on 05/14/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

mascot – noun: an animal, person, or thing adopted by a group as its representative symbol and supposed to bring good luck. Founded 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 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 the young alumni participation rate from 13% to 16% and has helped BOLD alumni get on track towards 20% participation for this fiscal year. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Young Alumni Giving.

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Student Development Officers

Posted on 04/30/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When Anthony Cernera, then Director of the Annual Fund, walked into the University of Scranton’s phonathon center several years ago, he had two observations. One was that the program employed some incredibly talented students, who were a great resource for the university. The other was that this great resource was underutilized. For well over a decade, Scranton’s annual fund had enjoyed a mature, high performing phonathon. But, like many programs, it was struggling with a decline in prospect contact rates. The new reality was an all-too-often quiet room of students waiting patiently for someone to answer their calls. “We needed to start using these amazing young people to their fullest potential,” said Cernera. “So we decided to put them to work outside of the call center. The solution was to create a new role within the annual fund for Student Development Officers.” Inspired by the student discovery program pioneered by Georgetown University, these student development officers made personal visits to under-engaged alumni and parent prospects. They focused on local visits while school was in session and they visited prospects in their hometowns during academic breaks. The student development officer team was comprised of the most mature and talented student callers, who received additional training on how to secure, conduct, and follow-up on visits. Their primary goals were to collect information and solicit annual fund gifts. Most were assigned to non-and-lapsed donors with some indication of leadership gift potential. “Not only did this initiative help engage rated prospects in a more personal way, but it made better use of university resources,” said Cernera. “Student development officers also helped with stewardship projects, attended events, and helped to manage a four-year philanthropy program aimed at educating students beginning in their freshman year.” The program also helped prepare the students for careers in ...

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A Thousand Words

Posted on 04/16/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Every organization has its story to tell. The problem is that we live in a time famine. Today, people are busier than ever and getting their attention isn’t easy. So, when we finally do, we need to be able to tell our story in a way that’s compelling and succinct. The Annual Fund staff at Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ discovered this on their own. After years of using traditional black-on-white letters, they realized that their annual fund appeals required a new approach. “Our alumni weren’t responding at the levels we needed,” says Liz Dixon-Eversole, Director of the Peddie Fund. “We had to find a way to reconnect them, remind them about the school’s great stories, and demonstrate the impact of their support.” To achieve this, Peddie decided to bring their appeals to life with more creative, image-centric designs and formats. Their new appeal strategy focused on employing imagery that would resonate with each donor. Using variable-data printing technology, Peddie’s appeals incorporated photos that were specific to class years, athletic interests, clubs and other personalized information that was readily available via their database. The strategy paid off. Peddie saw an immediate impact in their first year with total dollars raised through direct mail increasing by 50%. “This wasn’t a one-time idea, it was a long-term plan,” said Dixon-Eversole. “We’ve continued to make images and personalized data a central part of our annual giving strategy and, as a result, we’ve seen a consistent increase in alumni response over the past several years.” As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. At Peddie, however, a good image might just be worth a whole lot more. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Successful Direct Mail.  

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Sustain

Posted on 04/09/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When someone says annual giving, what's the first word that comes to mind? We asked this question of 175 annual giving program leaders with the hope of better understanding how they view their work, their purpose, and their industry. Then we clustered similar responses, removed words that were mentioned less than four times, and used what remained to create the above word cloud. The more frequently a word was mentioned, the larger the font. What was the most commonly mentioned word? To our surprise it wasn't unrestricted, participation, or loyal. It was... sustain. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Increasing Donor Retention.

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Sound The Alarm!

Posted on 04/02/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The Council for Aid to Education recently released its annual survey results. Last year, once again, the percentage of U.S. alumni who made a gift to their alma mater (i.e., alumni participation rate) declined to 8.7% — a trend that has persisted year over year for more than two decades. For anyone who cares about or works in education, this is cause for alarm. Alumni participation is important for many reasons. For starters, it’s one way to measure alumni satisfaction and is a factor in institutional rankings. Longer term, though, it helps develop a broad base of support and serves as a pipeline for major gifts and future campaigns. Some oversimplify the problem, suggesting that the decline in alumni participation is the result of larger alumni populations - colleges and universities are indeed granting far more degrees today - or a growing reluctance by alumni to answer our calls. Unfortunately, the problem is much more complex. Rising education costs, student debt loads, and competition from other non-profits are also contributing to the decline. Probably the most significant reason, however, is that many educational institutions have gotten lazy – neglecting to talk about the importance of annual giving and, more importantly, failing to demonstrate the impact of support. The silver lining here is that institutional leaders, including Presidents and Boards, are starting to take notice. They’re recognizing the problem and are making bigger investments in annual giving. As a result, a new generation of annual giving leaders is beginning to emerge. Today we’re seeing an increase in the number of AVPs and Executive Directors in charge of annual giving programs with a seat at the decision table. And, for more and more campaigns today, annual giving is a top priority. The most concerning thing about the declining alumni participation rate is that it suggests a waning confidence in education as a cause worthy of individual philanthropic ...

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Prime Time

Posted on 03/12/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

My career in annual giving began nearly two decades ago when, fresh out of college, I sat down at a word processor to write a cover letter for a job running a student phonathon program at a university in Washington, D.C. My father, who worked in university development, noticed what I was doing and offered me two pieces of advice. First, he cautioned, never start a cover letter with I because it will make you appear conceited. Second, if you want to work in development, annual giving is a great place to start. I took his advice, and I also got the job. Back then, annual giving departments played a role similar to farm teams in baseball: they were filled with young professionals eager to be drafted into a more important role in the major (gifts) league. The development landscape was different too. The Internet was in its infancy. Caller ID didn’t exist, which made prospective donors available (and vulnerable) to telemarketers. Direct mail was simple and relatively cheap. Annual fund case statements typically focused on the need for unrestricted support. Give back was a good enough message to motivate alumni giving. The annual fund was an afterthought in most capital campaigns, and with the possible exception of elite institutions with a history of philanthropy, alumni participation simply wasn’t that important. Continue reading a printable copy of the full article here. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Strong Teams and Collaborations.

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Set The Bar High

Posted on 02/19/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The worst thing you can hear after soliciting a gift is, "yes." Why? Because it means that you didn’t ask for enough. The truth is that you'll never know how much someone will give unless you ask them. Whether it's $10 or $10,000, people are more likely to donate a specific amount when they are asked for a specific amount. But, once they’ve said yes, you can’t go back and ask for more (at least not right away). On the other hand, when someone says no it creates an opportunity for you to try again. This same idea is important in the context of leadership annual giving programs. Consider, for example, the minimum gift requirement for membership in a donor recognition society. As the above chart shows, the majority of organizations begin gift society membership between $1,000 and $1,499 (according to AGN's 2013 survey). However, when we analyzed those organizations that begin membership above $1,500, we found that revenue per alum was nearly double that of organizations below the $1,500 threshold. It's probably safe to assume that higher membership thresholds may result in fewer members. However, if your goal is to raise money, then your strategy should be clear. Set the bar high. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Leadership Gifts for Annual Funds.

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Flapitude

Posted on 02/05/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

What can you do to inspire a culture of philanthropy on your campus or within your organization? The good people in the annual fund at Saint Joseph’s University have an answer: flapitude. What is flapitude? It’s the "attitude of gratitude" displayed by 407 students, faculty and staff who gathered to flap their arms for five straight minutes to show their thanks for the university's scholarship donors - a feat that, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, had never before been accomplished. “We used the flapitude event to launch a new scholarship initiative on campus,” says Molly Robbins, Executive Director of The Saint Joseph’s Fund. “We thought it would help raise awareness about the impact of giving and allow us to thank our donors in the process. Our mascot (the hawk) never stops flapping just like we hope that our alumni will never stop being part of our community and never stop supporting the university.” As they hoped, people did show up and word spread quickly afterward. In fact, it was featured on ESPN’s play of the day and an adjudicator from Guinness was in attendance to make sure that it was accurately recorded for the books. But even though the event was a big success, it left the university with some important questions to consider. If inspiring a culture of philanthropy involves broadening awareness about the impact of giving, what else does it involve? And, while flapitude may be a good start, what else needs to be done to keep alumni engaged and supporting their alma mater year after year? Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Student Philanthropy Programs.  

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The Economy, Stupid

Posted on 01/15/2014- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

During the 1992 U.S. Presidential Campaign, James Carville coined the phrase “The Economy, Stupid” as one of his party’s core messages. What the democratic strategist meant was that it’s often the economy, above all other issues, that influences an election. And, in 1992, he may have been right. Bill Clinton went on to defeat George H. W. Bush, whose approval rating declined from 90% to 64% during the recession of the early 1990s. As fundraisers, we spend a lot of time looking for those things that influence our campaigns. We’re always asking WHY? Did we get the donor's attention? Did we ask for the right amount? Was our case compelling? These things are, in theory, within our control. But what about those things that are out of our control? The above chart (compliments of CAE and Marts & Lundy) shows the trend in annual giving (i.e., current unrestricted gifts) compared to major economic indicators at 50 private research universities over the past decade. One could conclude that there is a correlation between annual giving and the economy. So what? There will always be things that are beyond our control - individual moods, institutional scandals, the economy. The truth is that your best chance to influence an outcome has nothing to do with analyzing these things. It does, however, have everything to do with identifying happy prospects, hiring quality callers, recruiting passionate volunteers, articulating a case, demonstrating gift impact, and doing good stewardship. Focus on the things that are within your control. Focusing on anything else is just, well, stupid. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Fundamentals of Annual Giving.

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Chewing Food

Posted on 12/18/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Mail and phone are great tools for engaging and soliciting prospects. At most institutions, gifts through these channels constitute the majority of annual fund revenue and donors. New media (e.g., video, online networks) can also be useful. These tools can help us connect with prospects in ways that are convenient and relevant to them. But don't forget about the importance of personal meetings. Make time to meet with your prospects face-to-face. Sit down, have a cup of coffee, or enjoy a meal together. That's where the really important work takes place, where the really important listening happens, and where lasting bonds begin to take shape. Make a point of chewing food with your prospects. Just be sure to do so with your mouth closed. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Face-to-Face Solicitations.

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630 Challenge

Posted on 12/10/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The great Sy Seymour wrote, "what we have plenty of time to do is often the thing that never gets done." With this in mind, Marshall University wanted to find a way to end their fundraising year with a bang. “In the past, we'd enjoyed increasing success during the final month of the fiscal year,” said Griffin Talbot, Director of Annual Giving, “so we wanted to see if we could close out the year with our strongest June ever.” The annual giving team launched the MU Challenge, a 30 day campaign with the goal of acquiring 630 donors by 6/30. Building on a commitment from two alumni to donate $10,000 if the goal was met, the team put in play a targeted direct mail appeal followed by several email communications. Progress was tracked in real time and available for all to see on the campaign's website. When the campaign was over, the team had tallied 648 donors during June, hitting their goal and surpassing the previous June donor count by over 50%. What's more, Marshall decided to eliminate one of the scheduled emails because they hit their goal with days to spare. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Constructing Donor Challenges.  

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Two Paths

Posted on 12/04/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Consider two paths for growing donor participation. The first is to focus on donor retention (i.e., renewing donors from the previous year). The second is to focus on new donor acquisition and the reactivation of lapsed donors. The tables below show examples of both strategies. Table A shows how one organization increased its donor participation rate from 10% to 15% over a 5-year period. Its strategy focused on stewardship and resulted in a 1% increase in donor retention each year. By the final year, this organization produced 3,250 more donors than it did in the first year with the majority of this growth coming in the form of retained donors. Table B shows how another organization also increased its donor participation rate from 10% to 15%. Its strategy focused less on stewardship and more on creative marketing efforts and high appeal volume. As a result, its donor retention rate remained flat over the same 5-year period. By the final year, this organization also produced 3,250 more donors with the majority of this growth coming in the form of new donor donor acquisition or lapsed donor reactivation. Both strategies can help increase your overall donor participation rate. However, the retention strategy is generally simpler and more efficient while the acquisition more expensive and far less likely to be sustainable over a long period of time. Which would you choose? Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Increasing Donor Retention.                  

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What Should Count?

Posted on 11/06/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Inside every annual giving manager lives an accountant. She is confident and diligent, making sure that annual fund gifts and revenue are properly tracked and recorded so that shortfalls can be addressed and successes can be celebrated. However, if you could crawl inside her head, you might be surprised to discover a tiny speck of doubt. It may be small, but if you look closely you’ll see it. And, if you listen carefully, you might even hear the echo of a doubtful question. What should count? The truth is that there is no universal definition for annual giving. In fact, our recent study reveals that a wide array of criteria is used by organizations to define their programs. This chart shows how more than 175 different organizations define annual giving. This doesn't mean that you don't need to be thoughtful and strategic about what you count. If unrestricted gifts are what your organization needs from your program, then that’s what you should count. However, if your organization depends on annual giving for something other than what’s being counted (like expendable gifts or alumni participation), then it's probably a good time to reevaluate your criteria. Remember, you'll achieve what you measure. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Reporting Annual Fund Results.

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The First Giving Day

Posted on 10/23/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

One year ago today, Columbia University celebrated its first ever Giving Day with the goal of increasing awareness about annual giving and testing how a grassroots-style online fundraising campaign would resonate with alumni. The idea wasn’t something that was cobbled together at the last minute. In fact, planning for the event began more than six months in advance. The first step was to share the idea with the institution’s leadership. Columbia’s trustees enthusiastically responded by giving $500,000 in challenge match dollars to incentivize participation from alumni and friends. The first public mention of Giving Day didn’t come until one month out, when the event was featured in an alumni magazine advertisement. Two weeks later, a Giving Day postcard was mailed to all alumni, followed by a stream of promotional emails. This is also when a group of well-organized alumni volunteers (referred to as “social ambassadors”) began the big push of spreading the word to their networks through Facebook and Twitter. During the 14 days leading up to the event, staff and traditional volunteers also ran an early giving opportunity - a process that, in many ways, resembled the “silent phase” of many larger, comprehensive fundraising campaigns. During this time, key volunteers and leadership annual fund donors were asked for their input and invited to participate early with lead gifts. The day itself was a celebration filled with online events (e.g., chats with Nobel Laureates, Dean’s roundtables) and friendly contests made possible by the challenge money. What made the day even more exciting was that it took place around Homecoming, a time when the campus was filled with alumni, faculty, and students. When the day was over, and the dust settled, Columbia’s annual giving team declared its first Giving Day a huge success. It raised a total of $6.8 million and secured more than 5,000 donors  - 40% of whom were either new or reactivated. Wo...

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Content vs. Distribution

Posted on 09/18/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The web has provided us with great new tools for fundraising (e.g., crowdfunding). In annual giving, we’re only just beginning to figure out to integrate them into our strategy. It’s also given us a new way to think about cost. In traditional marketing, the cost of developing content is fixed and relatively low while the cost of distributing that content is variable and relatively high. For example, if you have time and if you’re a decent writer, you can probably compose a direct mail appeal letter for free. However, the cost of sending it out (printing, postage, production) can get expensive. The opposite is true online. The cost of distributing content through email or social media is fixed and relatively low. However, there’s a lot of static online so, if you want people to open or share something, it better be good. Video is a great example. It’s probably worth spending some money to produce a really good video because, if it’s interesting or clever, people are likely share it. Now ask yourself, how much money are you spending on new media content this year? Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing.  

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X Marks The Spot

Posted on 08/24/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Many real estate experts will tell you that the three most important things to consider when buying a home are location, location, and location. The right house at the right price - but in the wrong area - is probably not a place where you’ll enjoy living and is unlikely to be a good investment in the long run. This can also be applied in fundraising when deciding where to meet with a prospective volunteer, sponsor, or donor. Meetings are an opportunity to listen, observe, and understand. With that in mind, the next time you arrange one, suggest a meeting spot in the following order: Their home Their office The center of your institution A neutral location Your office Meeting someone in their home or at their office allows you to see them in their own environment, to look for clues, and to better understand what's important to them. If their space isn’t an option, then try to meet them in a place where they can see your institution’s mission in full effect like the student center, the hospital cafeteria, or a project work site. Lastly, a neutral location such as a restaurant or coffee shop isn't ideal, but it's better than meeting at your office. Remember, it's not about you, it's about them. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Face-to-Face Solicitations.

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February Faceoff

Posted on 06/11/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

“Our young alumni participation rate was relatively low,” said Susan Auchincloss, Director of Annual Giving at Salisbury School, “and we wanted to find a way to increase it without sacrificing the amount of money we raise.” She knew this would be no easy task in a world where recent graduates are hard to reach, attention spans are limited, and competition for charitable donations is fierce. So they decided to launch a month-long challenge called The February Faceoff. It included three key components: Competition – During the month of February, gifts from the classes of 2000-2012 to Salisbury’s Annual Fund were recorded and displayed along with the comparable class results from six of Salisbury’s peer schools. Using “Us vs. Them” as a slogan, the challenge tapped into the school’s competitive spirit. Each class also designated a “captain” to ignite some internal competition between classes and build a strong network of volunteers to spearhead the challenge. Integration – Over the course of one month, every recent graduate received a carefully orchestrated wave of appeals using new (email, social media) and traditional (direct mail, phone) media. The goal was to make it easy for alumni to contribute in a way that was convenient for them. Personalization – Starting with a postcard (which contained a QR code) and followed by four weekly email appeals, alumni were driven to a personalized online giving page (i.e., a PURL) which contained specific pre-determined ask amounts based on giving history, class year, and estimated giving potential. The February Faceoff proved to be a huge success as Salisbury’s young alumni participation rate doubled from 8% to 17%. The amount of money donated to the Annual Fund by young alumni doubled too, with nearly 43% of donors contributing $100 or more. And, if that’s not impressive enough, the campaign inspired an anonymous donor to make a $10,000 gift in honor of the challenge. Go ...

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The Decline of Unrestricted

Posted on 04/17/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Has the unrestricted gift lost luster with donors? This chart suggests that may be the case. If your annual fund isn’t performing at the level you expect (or need), then it may be time to rethink your strategy. Start by asking a few basic questions: Do you only count unrestricted gifts in your fund totals? If so, why? Is your approach institutionally-centric or donor-centric? Does your case for support highlight generic needs or specific priorities? Would your donors be more inclined to provide regular support if they had more control over how their gifts were used? It may be time to stop stressing the importance of unrestricted gifts and, instead, to encourage donors to support those areas within your organization that matter most to them. It’s really their institution. It’s your job to remind them that their institution can be as great as they want it to be. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Analytics for Annual Giving.

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Preparing Major Donors

Posted on 03/09/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

When Lacie LaRue, Senior Director of Annual Giving at The Oregon State University Foundation, made a list of her program’s priorities last year, she knew that strengthening the major gift pipeline needed to be at the very top. With the university’s first-ever campaign underway, her team needed to begin to raise the sights of OSU's top annual giving prospects while preparing a new generation of major gift donors. To accomplish this, they developed a customized proposal for current and recently lapsed members of OSU’s gift society (i.e., The President’s Circle). The goal was to produce a highly personalized piece that stood out in mailboxes and resembled a proposal like those presented to major gift donors. This "special touch" - they hoped - would compel prospects to increase their support. The direct mail package also contained a cover letter, a full-page response form with suggested gift levels, and a reply envelope. All of the contents were collated with a gold paper clip and inserted in a hand addressed, hand stamped 9x12 booklet envelope. The results speak for themselves, with an average gift of over $2,000 - a 125% increase over OSU's other leadership gift appeals. It also helped LaRue and her team reach their direct mail goals five months ahead of schedule. As LaRue says, “This initiative enabled us to upgrade our donors in an accelerated timeline and prepared them to make their first major gift.” Go OSU Beavers! Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Upgrading Donors to Higher Giving Levels.

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The Pareto Principle

Posted on 02/28/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In the early 1900's, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained nearly 80% of the total peas in his crop. He later went on to observe a similar trend in real estate, noting that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the population. The Pareto Principle is significant in fundraising too. In any campaign (large or small, annual or capital) you can expect most of the funds you raise to come from a disproportionately small number of your donors. But don't get caught taking a short-term view of your donors and the impact that they can have on your organization. While one donor may not have the capacity or inclination to make a large gift today, it doesn't mean that they won't do so at some point in the future. In fact, many institutions' largest gifts come from donors whose initial gifts were significantly smaller or made many years earlier. Good annual giving programs prioritize participation and stewardship at every level. They underscore the importance of lifetime value and they understand that while today’s seemingly insignificant gift may not be critical to reaching your goal for this campaign, it may be critical to the success of the next campaign. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Stewardship for Annual Fund Donors.

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What’s A Camel?

Posted on 01/23/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

What's a camel? It's a horse designed by committee. Working with volunteers who sit on boards, councils and committees can take a lot of effort and energy. The hope is that you provide them with support and, in return, they give back their time, talents, and treasures. But working with volunteers isn't always easy and it’s rarely efficient. Next time your feeling frustrated, consider the following: Everyone has at least one good idea. Consider it your job to uncover it. Be a good listener. Information leads to better decisions. Give them data and show them trends. Help them understand what their peers are doing. Benchmarks can be enlightening and motivating. People (whether they show it or not) don't want to be alone. In fact, they're driven by a desire to belong to something bigger than themselves. Remind them (often) of the greater mission that you all share. Ideas become real when someone owns them. Help them take ownership of ideas, even if those ideas originated somewhere else. So, if you feel like you've been handed a camel when you were expecting a horse, stop and consider the significance of volunteers. Indeed, working with volunteers is not always easy. Their schedules, styles, and methods (both as individuals and as a collective body) may not always be matched up with yours. Their goals, on the other hand, should be. And remember, whether they're simply showing up or they're writing a check, this is someone who is doing something because they want to, not because they're required to. That’s powerful stuff and it's your job to harness it. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Engaging Volunteers Online.

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Annual Fund vs. Annual Giving

Posted on 01/09/2013- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

The Annual Fund is a place where money goes before it's spent on something important. It's often viewed as a symbol of what a nonprofit organization values most. It should almost always be capitalized. Annual Giving, on the other hand, is a behavior. In philanthropic cultures, it's viewed as an expectation and its importance is widely understood. When the math is done right, it provides an organization with an amount of support that can reasonably be expected from its community year-in and year-out. And, while it doesn't always need to be capitalized, it does always need to be talked about. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Branding for Annual Giving Success.

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How To Say Thanks

Posted on 11/22/2012- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Language Spelling Pronounciation Africaans dankee dahn-kee Arabic shukran shoe-krahn Chinese, Cantanese do jeh daw-dyeh Chinese, Mandarin xie xie syeh-syeh Czech dêkuji deh-ku-yih Danish tak tahg Finnish kiitos kee-toas French merci mehr-see German danke dahn-kah Greek efharisto ef-har-rih-stowe Hawaiian mahalo ma- hollow Hebrew toda toh-dah Hindi, Hindustani sukria shoo-kree-a Italian grazie gra-see Japanese arigato ahree-gah-tow Korean kamsa hamnida kahm-sah=ham-nee-da Norwegian takk tahk Philippines (Tagalog) salamat po sah-lah-maht poh Polish dziekuje dsyen-koo-yeh Portuguese obrigado oh-bree-gah-doh Russian spasibo spah-see-boh Spanish gracias gra-see-us Sri Lanka (Sinhak) istutiy isst-too-tee Swahili asante ah-sahn-the Swedish tack tahkk Thai kawp-kun krap/ka’ kowpkoom-krahp/khak Turkish tesekkür ederim teh-sheh-kur=eh-deh-rim Vietnamese cam O caam-ungh * source - Dr. Robyn Silverman Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Donor Recognition.

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Philanthropy is…

Posted on 07/17/2012- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Philanthropy is... from Ancient Greek, meaning love of mankind private action for public good volunteering assets, ideas and/or time characteristic of civil society a statement of values not a purchase or a favor an alternative to spoiling family, friends, or self easy to do, but hard to do well gratifying contagious Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Fundamentals of Annual Giving.

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Portfolio Participation

Posted on 06/18/2012- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

In annual giving, as in any campaign, it's likely that most of the money raised will come from a relatively small number of donors. It's also likely that those few lead donors will be managed by major gift officers. But what can you do to ensure that major gift officers are fully supported in their annual giving efforts? Try monitoring the participation rates of their prospect portfolios. This not only helps the gift officers understand how their portfolios are performing compared to others, but it will help ensure that portfolios remain current and that they contain a manageable number of prospects. Every prospect is a unique case, but sharing portfolio participation rates can be an extremely effective way to increase the visibility of annual giving across your organization. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Research and Prospect Management.

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Firsts

Posted on 03/24/2011- by Dan Allenby
Dan Allenby

Question: What's more important than the first gift? Answer: The second. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN's Webinar on Increasing Donor Retention.

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