Major Gifts + Giving Days = Win, even on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday can be a catalyst for major givingHappy #GivingTuesday, fellow fundraisers! This year seems like it will be another record-setting event, with charities around the world receiving a ton of support as we move further into the holiday season.

A whole lot of this giving is boosted and amplified by major giving. In fact, in our recent study of 47 giving days totaling $37M in donations, we found that online giving drives the bulk of individual donations, but offline giving such as major gifts, challenges and matches made up over two-thirds of the total funds.

Why does this work? The first reason is that matches and challenges are a time-tested way to get people on the “bandwagon” and give them a sense that even though their gift is smaller, they are part of something bigger. Secondly, competitions between academic areas, groups of alumni, even states and regions “gamify” giving and just make it more exciting. Here are just a few examples from today’s #GivingTuesday of institutions using the RNL Giving Day Platform:

It takes two key things to make this effective donor motivation strategy work on a giving day:

  1. The right technology to offer the incentives and show donors a growing total.
  2. Strong relationships with your major and planned giving team who are most likely to find the big donors who can showcase a gift on your giving day.

As you plan for next year’s #GivingTuesday, or your special giving day, make both a priority.

We’ll be covering these key tactics, and how you can use giving days as a 365-day, full-team strategy, in our upcoming webinar on December 5. Register now to find out how to bring your giving day to the next level.


#GivingTuesday and giving days: free webinar

What if college football was decided by alumni giving?

What if college football rankings were determined by alumni giving?The first College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings of 2017 were released recently, and we’ve already had some crazy weekends that stirred up the standings. Because we are both sports fans and alumni giving geeks, we are once again using fundraising data to answer a sports question: what if college football was all decided by alumni giving?

We applied the same methodology as our 2017 March (Alumni Giving Madness) tournament, using the first 25 ranked football programs from the initial CFP rankings as the group. The teams were ranked based on these criteria in a weighted simulator:

  • (25%) Overall team strength: the 2016 alumni participation figure reported to the VSE Survey.
  • (20%) Upward momentum: the increase or decline in alumni donor count from 2015 to 2016.
  • (20%) Recruiting strength and past performance: The total increase or decline in alumni donors between 2007 and 2016.
  • (20%) A strong bench of dedicated team members: The total alumni giving in dollars divided by the alumni of record over the last three fiscal years (2014-16).
  • (10%) Getting a touchdown pass (gift) off: Our team of expert referees weighed in on a comparison between the institutions’ online giving presence, including ease of online giving, giving day portal (if any), and crowdfunding. They graded how easy it was for an alumnus to “make a pass”/make a gift.
  • (5%) Pure luck: Our simulator assigns a small portion of each team’s score to a random factor.

When I fed the data into the simulator for these 25 schools, I saw many of the same things we noticed during our March (Alumni Giving Madness) tournament: a few close calls and several institutions moving up because of recent successes. And the subjective components and random number did affect a few institutions’ ranks. Institutions that raise a very high amount of money per living alumnus continue to dominate, especially if they have had recent alumni donor growth.

College Football Playoff rankings (initial 25 teams) as decided by alumni giving

1. University of Southern California

2. Ohio State University

3. University of Notre Dame

4. Stanford University

5. University of Washington

6. Auburn University

7. University of Georgia

8. Clemson University

9. Washington State University

10. Mississippi State University

11. Texas Christian University

12. Louisiana State University

13. University of Memphis

14. University of Miami

15. University of Wisconsin

16. Michigan State University

17. University of Oklahoma

18. University of Alabama

19. Oklahoma State University

20. University of Arizona

21. Penn State University

22. University of Central Florida

23. North Carolina State University

24. Virginia Tech

25. Iowa State University

These 25 institutions all have a lot to be proud of. Alumni combined to give more than $3.7 billion to these institutions from 2014-2016. And not surprisingly, these institutions have alumni giving participation percentages higher than the national average.

A huge portion of philanthropy to colleges and universities comes from alumni. And because about three quarters of big donors give multiple times to the annual giving program before making their first big gift, your alumni giving pipeline could greatly impact your future success. Good coaches know the importance of recruiting.

How can you put together a great alumni giving strategy?

Talk with us about how you can take your alumni giving to the next level. We’ve got a great win record, and we’ll work with you to put together the right strategy.

Thanks to RNL contributor Brandon Trissler for help on this post.

Media Coverage of our Digital and Millennial Fundraising Report

Our recently released Advancement Leaders Speak survey report on digital engagement tactics and young alumni trends is getting attention. Check out these articles:

In the report, we outline who’s using what to connect with donors digitally, as well as common successes and frustrations of fundraisers.

Download the full report today to find out how fundraising programs are using emerging digital technologies and how they feel about their connection to young alumni and donors.

Check out the podcast to get the highlights of the report:

And, check out this Inside Higher Ed piece about mega-campaigns and our insights:

If you’d like to take your digital engagement to the next level, drop us a line. We’re ready to help.

Friday update: major gift officers

Here are some great stories about maximizing results for major gift officers.

From around the web:

Spotlight: The best major gift officers

Tuesday, November 14th | 3pm ET

Colleges and universities are relying on their gift officer teams more than ever to fund their institution’s operation and growth. What are the best ways to navigate a more challenging fundraising environment to build relationships with major donors and planned giving prospects to book more big gifts?

The experts from Advancement Resources share the secrets of the most successful major gift officers and which skills they have in common in this upcoming webinar. Register today >>

Infographic: Digital Engagement

How are you engaging donors digitally? Interested in how your young alumni/young donor program compares? Check out our recently released survey report. It includes information about how many of your peers are using emerging tactics like crowdfunding, giving days, and targeted digital advertising to engage all of their donors.

Here are some highlights:

The survey tells us that digital engagement is highly valued by fundraisers for engaging new donors in particular–but we haven’t yet tapped its full potential.

Download the full report now to find out more.

We’re out to reinvent fundraising here at RNL, and if you would like to take your digital engagement to the next level with a platform of highly personalized engagement tools, drop us a line.

How does your digital and young alumni donor engagement compare?

What’s working today in digital fundraising and Millennial donor engagement?

Download our latest research, Advancement Leaders Speak 2017: Digital Tactics and Young Alumni Engagement Strategies.

This report examines the use of emerging digital tactics by today’s fundraisers, along with how they are engaging Millennials and other young alumni. Key findings include:

  • Few institutions are deploying coordinated and personalized campaigns dedicated to young alumni
  • 81% of higher education fundraisers in the study solicited young alumni within one year of graduation, after an average of only three engagement communications
  • Only 3% of respondents reported personalizing their messaging based on recent online activity from the donor

You can also check out the podcast where Caryn Stein and I go through the report’s key takeaways from the survey:

Participate in our annual giving survey – receive an Amazon gift card

Annual Giving Multichannel Best Practices Survey

We’d like to hear your opinions about annual giving best practices. Please complete our brief survey, which covers topics including solicitation practices and multichannel donor engagement. The survey should take 15 minutes or less of your time.

Your responses are anonymous and will be compiled in an upcoming report on Annual Giving Best Practices. All participants will receive a complimentary early access copy of the research.

To thank you for your time, the first 50 survey respondents to this blog invitation will receive a $15 Amazon gift card via email.

This survey will help us complete Part 5 of “Advancement Leaders Speak,” the cornerstone of RNL’s fundraising research agenda this year.

Check out our previous research in this series:

Advancement Leaders Speak: In-depth interviews with 40 chief advancement officers

Advancement Leaders Speak: Major and Planned Giving productivity

Advancement Leaders Speak: Annual Giving Priorities

Coming Soon: Advancement Leaders Speak about Digital and Young Alumni Engagement

Friday update: speak, advancement leaders!

Here are some great stories about how fundraisers are doing — and thinking about, their jobs.

From around the web:

Spotlight: What Advancement Leaders Really Think

What is the real future of fundraising? How can colleges and universities meet the current challenges and future opportunities to increase participation, retain donors, and raise more money—all while increasing productivity, efficiency, and return on investment?

Join us for this free webinar on Tuesday, October 17 to discover the top goals for today’s advancement leaders and the best strategies for reaching them.

Friday update: Year-end fundraising

Here are some great stories about how to amplify your year-end fundraising efforts.

From around the web:


Spotlight: Year end fundraising webinar

Our recent webinar on year-end fundraising was chock full of expert tips and ideas to increase your success. RNL’s Caryn Stein talked about how to create a “surround sound” environment for your donors, how to combat abandonment with targeting, and real examples of how testing and measuring lead to success.

Listen to the recorded webinar today to hear some great tips on how to take your year-end fundraising to the next level. And drop us a line for more information on these successful strategies that RNL partners are using.

Podcast: Crowdfunding Best Practices 2017

We’ve just released the 2017 RNL Crowdfunding Index, a study of 4,200 campaigns conducted through the RNL Crowdfunding platform (powered by ScaleFunder), raising more than $22.5 million. In the report we cover:

  • Average project totals, and the impact of major gifts, challenges, and early adopters.
  • How fundraisers are naming their campaigns.
  • The impact of ambassadors.
  • Average project lengths from first donation to last, and the impact of “participation” challenges.

I got on the line with Josh Robertson, vice president of project strategy here at RNL, to go through the results and discuss crowdfunding best practices. Check out our conversation on the Fundraising Voices podcast.

Download the Crowdfunding Index today, and if you’re ready to take your peer-to-peer fundraising engagement to the next level, contact us for a demo of what RNL Crowdfunding can do for you.

Find more great podcasts from RNL at

How should you name your charitable crowdfunding campaign?

We recently released the 2017 RNL Crowdfunding Index, where we looked at over $22.5M in crowdfunding gifts through the ScaleFunder platform. This powerful new fundraising technology has let higher education fundraisers and other charities harness optimized online giving, peer-to-peer communication, and engaging technologies like videos and live updates to bring new and loyal donors in to support specific projects.

A common question we get as institutions get ready to go “live” is just how to name a campaign. In preparing the Index, I found that in general, the most successful crowdfunding campaigns:

• Name the organization or group being supported in their project title.
• Use active language such as support, help, or send.
• Mention a challenge in their project title.

It is clear that donors are more inspired to give to specific projects. They want to understand why their gifts matter and will be more likely to respond when they feel a personal connection to the cause. These naming strategies also greatly increase the chance that a supporter will come across your crowdfunding campaign in a web search (this is known as search engine optimization, or SEO).

A visual of crowdfunding campaign project titles

We took the titles of 4,200 campaigns and created a “word cloud” of the terms that appeared 20 times or more across all the projects:

Crowdfunding Campaign Word Cloud

Click to see the word cloud at full size

The words that are more commonly used appear larger in the cloud. As you can see, it’s common for fundraisers to use words that describe key areas of support, like students and scholarships. This is a good practice, but looking at the cloud, it seems to me that there’s an opportunity to better use some different words.

In contrast, here’s a word cloud I made of the recent slogans of S&P 500 companies from this great list:

Crowfunding campaign: word clouds from business

Click to see full size

While we would definitely expect charitable fundraising titles to be a bit different from the corporate world, it’s probably worth looking at some of the strategy used to gain consumer attention. I see more action-oriented and “emotion” words.

Download the 2017 RNL Crowdfunding Index today and find out how your fellow fundraisers are having success with this new donor-centric technology. And if you’d like to get started, or improve your crowdfunding campaigns, contact us today to find out how we can help you with your fundraising strategies, including online fundraising like crowdfunding.

What works in charitable crowdfunding? New index released by RNL.

Benchmarks and best practices for charitable crowdfunding campaigns

RNL recently analyzed 4,200 crowdfunding projects totaling $22.5 million raised through RNL Crowdfunding powered by ScaleFunder. The project averages and best practices presented in this index provide a baseline for planning and program improvement as organizations utilize this powerful, donor-centric technology.

Download the Index today to find out about:

  • Trends in total funds raised, average gift amount, and participation by project type
  • Which factors boost campaign success—from goal-setting to donor engagement

How online ambassadors—volunteers who advocate for your campaign—amplify your resultsA sneak peak at the results

  • Campaigns raised an average of over $14,000
  • Challenges, major gifts and early adopters served to triple campaign totals in some areas
  • Ambassadors—volunteers who shared their support with peers over social media and email—increased campaign totals by over 20%

If you’d like to have this type of success with your supporters, contact us today for a demo of RNL Crowdfunding, powered by the Scalefunder plaftorm

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