FM Blog

Welcome to our Fundraising Management Blog! Be sure to visit us often for the latest information on fundraising news, trends, and best practices.

Podcast: Building Online Transaction Trust with Mike Kim at iATS Payments

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Building online transcaction trust podcast with Mike Kim

Mike Kim, iATS Payments

Online giving is growing rapidly. We’ve all seen our online donation activity rise, and this is a big transition for many fundraising programs, as online giving grows at up to three times the rate of over all giving. Mike Kim at IATS payments knows a lot about this. As one of the largest payment processing providers for nonprofits, the company has seen a lot of growth in online giving and is following the trends closely. I got Mike on the line to talk about payment integration, building online transaction trust and security with donors, how to optimize the online giving experience, and what’s next for online giving.

Included in the podcast are:

  • How you’re doing more than collecting gifts with your online giving.
  • Keys to building relationships and trust with your online portal.
  • Taking donors from interest to transaction completion.
  • The difference between merchant accounts and payment aggregators
  • New trends in online transactions

Find out more about iATS at iATSpayments.com

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Podcast: 21st Century Storytelling with Caryn Stein

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Caryn Stein on the power of fundraising storytelling

Caryn Stein

Telling a compelling story–highly personalized, evoking emotion, encouraging action right now–is a big part of fundraising success in the 21st century.

Caryn Stein, vice president here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz knows this–she’s spent her career doing just that to help hundreds of charities. I got Caryn on the line to talk about the power of digital engagement, fundraising storytelling, and what she thinks is next for the future of fundraising.

She calls it storytelling “surround sound” and explains how engaging donors in a personalized, powerful way through technology can really amplify your results.

Covered in the podcast are:

  • How telling a compelling story is important to your fundraising
  • How using technology is a way to make this more personal
  • The future of social and digital engagement with donors
  • Taking donors on a personal journey
  • How fundraising storytelling leads to donor action

If you want to find out how RNL uses these tactics to take your program to the next level, drop us a line.

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Phonathon Average Pledge Matters for Gift Retention and ROI

Sean Shaikun

Sean Shaikun

Director of Market Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Sean has 20 years experience in fundraising and works with hundreds of programs each year. He drives strategy related to current industry trends, benchmarking and new fundraising products at RNL.
Sean Shaikun

When it comes to fundraising on the phone, phonathon average pledge is an important metric.  We use it in program planning and forecasting, we use it to determine suggested ask levels or gift arrays, and we know it can really affect dollars raised and ROI.  In some cases, universities have even focused on lowering the phonathon average pledge in order to increase response rate and increase donors: all to drive the important institutional metric of alumni participation.

But if you really want to increase participation, you also need to retain donors in the second year and beyond. As we consider suggested donations levels, an interesting question comes up:  What do average pledge numbers actually tell fundraisers about donor retention? This could be important especially for those first-time donors we have worked so hard to acquire. As it turns out, average pledge sheds a lot of light on the retention question.

The study: Over 59,000 first-time gifts

To really dive into the numbers, I collected non-donor data from a variety of university phonathons. Data came from 72 RNL higher education phonathon programs, with 95,899 first time pledges in fiscal year 2015. I included a mix of small, medium, and large public and private institutions from all over the US.  I then narrowed the group to only those records where we attempted to contact the individuals again in FY 2016. This left me with 59,782 making a pledge in 2015 that were solicited by phone again in fiscal year 2016.  I used this data to see how average pledge in 2015 might impact the retention of those prospects in the 2016 fiscal year.

Phonathon average pledge matters for retention

To help visualize the data in this study I decided to break the pledges into ranges. The distribution of gifts was predictable. The first-time pledges from fiscal year 2015 came in all sizes, with a majority of the gifts clustered into the $50-$99.99 range.  As we would expect, the smallest number of pledges came in at the extreme low and high values. Here is a quick look at the distribution of both the 2015 acquisition pledges and the 2016 renewal pledges, showing a similar spread in the groups:

phonathon average pledge distribution

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Podcast – Digital Natives as Donors

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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HerzbergerEngaging our supporters in the digital world is really important for today’s fundraisers. We’re all reaching out via social media, email, on our web pages and giving pages to attract donor interest and passion. This supplements our more traditional appeals, and everything can get a boost in donor attention if it’s done right. But pretty soon, our donor rolls really will be dominated by a new group of supporters–younger people who have had mobile phones, tablets, and apps their entire lives. These have been dubbed the “digital natives,” a group of young donors we’re all looking to engage. Matt Herzberger, Executive Consultant for Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, helps a lot of institutions do this. Matt talked about digital natives in a recent presentation, so I got him on the line to get a perspective on what courting this rising group of well-connected supporters means for fundraising strategy.

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#GivingTuesday Live Blog – 2016

RNL Fundraising

RNL Fundraising

The Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising management team has decades of experience working with organizations to engage donors and improve results.
RNL Fundraising

Latest posts by RNL Fundraising (see all)

liveblogOur Giving Tuesday 2016 Live Blog is now complete. For the fifth annual #GivingTuesday, our team of fundraising experts and giving enthusiasts shared:

  • The best strategies for engaging donors on #GivingTuesday—and any giving day.
  • The coolest, most interesting ideas and developments we saw during the day
  • Our own giving passions as we made our #GivingTuesday gifts.

To find our more about strategies mentioned in these posts, drop us line to speak with a RNL consultant about our suite of customized giving solutions which can help take your giving program to the next level.

>> See the live blog posts here.

liveblog3If you see something you like, and want to find our more, drop us a line at ContactUs@RuffaloNL.com.

High Conversion Drives Digital Giving Day Success

Aneesa Memon

Aneesa Memon

Senior Product Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Aneesa came to Ruffalo Noel Levitz after years as a technology creator and senior executive focused on providing high quality end user experience. She has worked with hundreds of charities and institutions to produce technology-enabled giving solutions to engage 21st century donors.
Aneesa Memon

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Giving Days have really taken the fundraising industry by storm and as we get closer to this year’s #GivingTuesday, we’re getting questions about what makes up the best online days of giving. One key thing to consider is how likely people are to make a donation once you’ve attracted them to your site. This metric is what we refer to as conversion.

What is digital conversion?

Conversion is the act of a visitor who has come to a site fully completing a giving transaction. In the case of a Giving Day, it’s a visitor who actually makes an online gift after landing on the page.

How does RNL define conversion?

We define conversion rates as the rate of users who land on our Giving Day (or crowdfunding project) main page and then complete a donation. We start at interest and end with actual gifts.

conversion_funnel

Donor conversion rate really begins at initial interest.

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3 Ways to Stand Out on #GivingTuesday

Caryn Stein

Caryn Stein

Vice President at Ruffalo Noel Levtiz
Caryn Stein is the Vice President of Marketing and is dedicated to helping organizations combine data and technology with compelling fundraising experiences to create more effective marketing for their missions. She is a nationally recognized speaker, having helped hundreds of organizations improve their fundraising campaigns and write more effective donor communications.
Caryn Stein

Latest posts by Caryn Stein (see all)

How can your fundraising organization stand out on #GivingTuesdayAs #GivingTuesday continues to grow in popularity for good causes as well as for donors and consumers, I’m often asked, “How can my organization stand out to our supporters on #GivingTuesday?”  It’s a good question, especially since most people will receive 2-3x the amount of emails during the holiday season. But, that doesn’t mean your organization can’t stand out and inspire donors on the big day.

We already have a fall campaign (or do other giving days), how does a #GivingTuesday campaign fit into our strategy?

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Millennial Myth Busters: Phonathon Fundraising

Sean Shaikun

Sean Shaikun

Director of Market Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Sean has 20 years experience in fundraising and works with hundreds of programs each year. He drives strategy related to current industry trends, benchmarking and new fundraising products at RNL.
Sean Shaikun

Millennials are quickly making up a large part of the donor prospect base. A lot of attention has been given to this group that has grown up in the era of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Their communication is mediated by technology in a way that older generations can sometimes hardly believe.

Fundraising definitely needs to change and evolve to match the preferences of this new group of donors–especially at a time when many programs are concerned about the health of their donor acquisition programs. We recently shared that thinking of these programs as a “loss leader” is dead wrong — new donors contribute significantly over their lifetimes and can mean a lot of money to your organization. Many programs are considering big shifts in their traditional methods of acquiring donors, with the phone program a primary target. We hear things like “young people hate the phone,” or “they text, they don’t talk.” So we looked into our records of millions of phone calls to non-donors over the past 2 years to see if what we “feel” holds up to what the data say.

Analyzing 12 million phonathon fundraising records

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Major and Planned Giving for the Modern Advancement Team

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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The first in a four-part series on how institutions and nonprofit organizations can re-imagine how to identify, warm, and qualify major giving and planned giving prospects, along with how to analyze the success from those efforts.

Part 1: Going beyond wealth ratings to find your best major giving and planned giving prospects

Just about every major giving and planned giving program uses wealth ratings to look for qualified donors. While these services are far from perfect, they have been helpful in focusing the efforts of giving teams and ensuring that they are not flying blind and guessing about donor capacity. From conversations with hundreds of giving professionals, we’ve learned that the reduction of time between campaigns is now causing institutions to take a hard look at how they are identifying major giving and planned giving prospects; now questioning if wealth ratings alone are truly the golden fleece institutions need.

While wealth research can uncover capacity, it often misses on determining propensity. Propensity is more than just the giving history of your donors; it’s the level of engagement with your cause and how a donor is attached to your giving organization. To increase major gift productivity, you have to apply a more sophisticated level of analytics and modeling to uncover donors who have the right combination of capacity and propensity.

The New Propensity Model

  • Affinity: Wealthy givers are as diverse in their giving interests as they are in how they came to wealth. Pointing to a list of wealthy people in your town or in your database does very little toward determining if they really care deeply about your cause and are interested in investing. New fundraising mediums such as giving days and crowdfunding now allow you to understand the specific philanthropic passions of your donors.
  • Real-Time Engagement: Marketing automation provides a complete view of the donor journey, allowing you to see in real-time how a donor is engaging with the institution. Being able to understand everything from event attendance and engagement in other activities like athletics, arts, and community to how donors are interacting with all your channels is key. If you’re not tracking which of your high capacity donors are clicking on emails, attending events, talking to student callers, and responding on social media, you could be missing donors ready to give “right now.”
  • Involvement:

    Volunteers are up to four times more likely to donate in most organizations.

    Volunteers are up to four times more likely to donate in most organizations. Making sure you consider involvement, like serving on boards, attending volunteer events and even providing mentorship to students and charity recipients is crucial in separating “sort of” interested givers from those who are already showing deep investment.
  • Life Stage Giving: It’s just not true that donors who stop or change their giving are dropping you. Based on the donor’s situation, life stage and wealth profile, this could actually signal that they are moving into the next stage of their philanthropic engagement. It could be time to distribute wealth, and they now look at annual giving differently. Dropping previous givers who change their behavior off your radar without investigating further is just bad fundraising.
  • Capacity Profile: Total net worth is more than a score. Assets can be hidden from view, or be part of complicated joint ownership. Looking deeper into the wealth profile itself is crucial in crafting the best approach for donors and their families. Do you know how many of your high wealth donors have a family foundation? How many regularly contribute to a donor advised fund? These philanthropic engines are now as powerful as major charities and you should be paying attention to them.

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Podcast: Value of New Donors in the Long Term

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Acquiring new donors is important for any fundraising program. Encouraging new people to give every year is crucial. As fundraisers, new donor acquisition is usually not something we’re real excited about- in the first year it’s expensive, but we do it anyway.

Sean Shaikun, Director of Market Research, discussing value of new donors

Sean Shaikun, Director of Market Research

We wondered if these fundraiser assumptions are really true when you consider contributions over the long term. Do you really, when you consider long term donor value, lose money on new donors? Sean Shaikun,  Director of Market Research, recently embarked on a project to answer the question “Is donor acquisition really worth it?.” He looked into millions of donor records from 16 institutions who used our RNL360 analysis program to see what new donors 20 years ago actually did over two decades. Sean joins us in this podcast to unpack the results.

 

You can download the study results  and read more on the RNL blog. Continue Reading »

Insights from our Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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More than100 giving and engagement professionals joined us in Atlanta for #RuffaloCON16, a summit on digital fundraising strategies and tactics to engage Millennials and use emerging digital solutions. We had a blast, and here are few things we learned:

The Millennials are rising

This important group will soon make up half of most higher education institution alumni bases, and institutions want to increase engagement with this influential and passionate group of young donors. It’s a hot topic that we received a lot of questions from all types of attendees at the conference, from vice presidents of advancement, to directors of annual giving, to direct digital appeal professionals and leaders of non-profit organizations.

The time for digital is now

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Don’t be a zombie about digital fundraising

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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It’s that time of year when our streets will be filled with vampires, scary clowns, and Pokemon Trainers. Unfortunately, our fundraising offices might also be filling up with zombies.

Digital fundraising strategies add life to fundraising managament

Don’t be afraid of digital fundraising, it helps you reach donors in channels they use every day.

What do I mean? When we hit the road to talk with fundraisers about emerging digital fundraising strategies, we heard this:

“Yeah, I know that I need to get on that digital thing, but I’ll work on it next year.”

“My VP went to a conference and says I need to ‘go digital’, but I don’t know enough. I’m paralyzed.”

“We’re afraid to change our strategy, even though our appeal results are declining.”

Out of tradition, fear, or lack of knowledge, many fundraisers are just repeating their traditional strategies like zombies. Continue Reading »

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