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Giving Tuesday 2017: Highs and lows

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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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For Giving Tuesday 2017, more than $270 million was raised from an estimated 1.64 million gifts. That’s an impressive total, but now what? How do institutions continue to raise the bar next year and the year after that?  The answer is to continue to infuse innovation in your fundraising strategy to more effectively engage and inspire your donors.

For the past several years I’ve given to a variety of nonprofits and institutions on Giving Tuesday to see just how institutions are evolving their strategy and technology to attract and convert donors. Here are some innovative approaches and lost opportunities that I saw for Giving Tuesday 2017 which you can use to inform your 2018 strategy.

All aboard the recurring giving train

We all know by now that recurring giving donors create more value for an organization with higher renewal rates and a stronger longer term value than a single gift donor. The good news this year is recurring giving was a consistent giving option at higher-education institutions I supported. However, nonprofits continued to innovate the most. Below are a couple examples of best-in-class recurring giving strategies.

  • A giving page pop-up box that asked me to switch my one time gift to a recurring gift before my gift was processed. Two nonprofits I supported used this strategy.

Giving Tuesday 2017: pop-up box

Giving Tuesday 2017: Pop-up box

  • A thank you landing page with another ask for a recurring gift. We all know that the best donor is the one who just gave. For one international nonprofit, they took that to heart by using the thank you page to ask me to become a recurring giving donor.Giving Tuesday 2017: landing page

Gift/array ask levels

While most giving pages provide suggested ask amounts, one nonprofit took it to another level by highlighting a level and including text that “most people are giving $125 right now.”  This is a simple but effective tactic at encouraging donors to support at a higher level than they might otherwise consider.Giving Tuesday 2017: Recommended donation

Higher education institutions imitating nonprofits

For Giving Tuesday 2017, we saw more higher-ed institutions highlighting causes such as food insecurity to make their message more compelling and competitive with nonprofits. It’s a smart shift as micro-causes on a campus can tangibly benefit from the attention, and it’s easy for donors to understand the impact.

“Digital light”

While I made my gifts online, there was a noticeable void with higher-ed institutions not using digital advertising to target past donors, and none of the ones I supported utilized retargeting as a means to bring me back to the giving page if I abandoned it without making a gift. These represent significant opportunities to utilize digital advertising to improve the online gift conversion. Nonprofits continue to invest heavily in these two digital strategies. Notice the “Be a hero for animals” appearing on a news page.

Giving Tuesday 2017: Digital strategy

Giving Tuesday 2017: Digital Strategy

Lack of personalization

Personalization is the new buzz word in philanthropy, but this year leads me to believe we have a long way to go. From personalized landing pages and ask amounts to simply acknowledging I supported last Giving Tuesday, there is room for improvement in an ever-crowded fundraising market.

Giving Tuesday is here to stay

Organizations that push the envelope by testing, innovating, and measuring their success will see their giving totals climb. It’s important to remember that what works on Giving Tuesday also has relevance to the entire fiscal year.

Read our report on successful giving days

Giving Tuesday 2017: Giving Day IndexWe just released our 2017 Giving Day Index, a study of more than $37 million in giving through the RNL Giving Day platform. You can read the full study here.

Our RNL Giving Day platform powers giving days on Giving Tuesday as well as throughout the year. Contact us today to learn how we can combine strategy and the best technology to take your giving day to the next level.

Ask for your RNL Giving Day tour »

Friday Update: Giving Tuesday

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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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Here are some great stories about this week’s Giving Tuesday results.

From around the web:

Spotlight: Giving Day Success Webinar

Do you want to have the Giving Day and Giving Tuesday success others are experiencing? How do you plan, run, and make the most of a 24-hour giving event for your institution?

Tuesday, December 5 | 2PM ET

Join us for this free webinar to find out what we learned from analyzing over $37 million in giving day donations. Our researchers studied giving day averages, including total dollars, online giving, and number of gifts to unearth the common qualities of top giving days. Register today >>

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New survey: Global donors want fundraising personalization

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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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Accenture, the global consulting giant, recently released the 2017 Non-Profit Public Citizen’s survey. Speaking with donors across six nations, the company confirmed some things we’ve been talking about here at RNL, especially regarding fundraising personalization:

“What do people want from their nonprofits? We asked people across six countries: Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, UK, and USA. Specifically constituents told us that they are open to nonprofit innovation, think that nonprofits can do more digitally, and most importantly that they are willing to give MORE for increased personalization.”

Six in ten respondents think that nonprofits should use more digital technology. Less than half are satisfied with the fundraising personalization they are receiving from causes they support.

You can check out the survey overview here.

Fundraising personalization study

From Accenture’s 2017 study.

Digital expert Caryn Stein from RNL recently gave a webinar on how fundraising personalization is the key to engaging 21st century donors. You can view a recording here:

If you’re ready to take your fundraising in a more personal and digitally connected direction, set up a meeting with our fundraising strategists. We can discuss how you can create in with donors in ways that engage their passions and retain their interest.

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

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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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#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?

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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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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

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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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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

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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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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

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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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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?

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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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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

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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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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

Client Highlights: University of Montana and University of St. Thomas

2 Phonathon Programs Hit $100,000!

Congratulations to University of Montana and University of St. Thomas! Both schools hit $100,000 this week, just a few weeks into their fiscal year!

University of Montana

The Griz calling staff and their RNL Program Center Manager, Liz Kruse, reached the $100,000 milestone on Sunday night. A target that was reached 11 days earlier than last year. The team celebrated with a party, complete with 100 Grand candy bars!

University of St.Thomas

The Tommie calling staff and their RNL Program Center Manager, Lindsey Donovan, reached $100,000 on Monday night, a target hit a week earlier than last year! One of the Tommie callers, Nick, even received his first “major gift’ of $15,000 which was instrumental in reaching the goal. To celebrate, the team was treated to balloons, banners and homemade cookies!

         

 

Congratulations reaching your $100,000 milestones! Keep up the great work!

Friday update: speak, advancement leaders!

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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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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.

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