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.

Friday update: 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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Here are some great stories about reaching your donors online and strengthening digital engagement.

From around the web:

Spotlight: Digital Engagement Webinar

We’re about to release the results of our major survey of fundraising professionals, who told us about their work with young donors and digital technology. Here are few teasers:

  • 80 percent of organizations don’t have a coordinated young donor/young alumni communications plan.
  • Over 2/3 of organizations have utilized time-sensitive giving programs like giving days and crowdfunding in the past year, and these are the top choices for new online donor acquisition.
  • Only 3 percent of organizations personalize based on recent donor digital activity or demonstrated interest.

Register today for our free webinar where we will release the results of this new survey and discuss ways you can take your digital giving program to the next level.

Fundraising update: alumni engagement + fundraising = win

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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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Looking for new resources on alumni engagement in advancement? Take a look at what we found around the web on using your valuable alumni network to drive philanthropy.

From around the web:

  Stay Relevant: A guide to modern day alumni relations
Fully Funded: How to bring an alumni chapter to the next level
How To Smother Alumni Engagement In 5 Easy Steps
How to Track Alumni Engagement and Set Goals in Alumni Relations

Spotlight: Purple briefcase provides multi-tier tools for career services that can strengthen alumni engagement

We’re excited to welcome Purple Briefcase to the RNL family. From managing relationships with students and employers, to setting up and tracking events, to recording and reporting student outcomes, Purple Briefcase offers powerful tools. An easy to implement mentoring system allows you to engage alumni and friends to connect directly with students — deepening the connection with your institution.

“Adding Purple Briefcase to the RNL family enables us to provide even more value for our clients and the students and alumni they serve,” said Stephen J. Meyer, Ruffalo Noel Levitz CEO. “RNL is uniquely positioned to serve our campus partners in a more comprehensive way: from recruitment, through graduation, to career development, and continued alumni engagement and giving.”

Read the press release and contact us today to leverage Purple Briefcase to take your career services engagement to the next level.

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Friday Update: Fundraising data

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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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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week, some great articles about using fundraising data to engage donors and raise more money.

From around the web:

Spotlight: Have the fundraising data you need to engage the next generation?

Fundraising data: The Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference will feature sessions on online giving and young donor acquisition

If you’ve been to a RNL fundraising conference before, you know we feature a lot of fundraising data. From the in-depth results of institutions that have been successful in engaging young donors to the latest digital engagement benchmarks, we’ll have it all at our upcoming Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement conference in Denver. Register today!

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Podcast: EmotionRaising With Francesco Ambrogetti

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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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EmotionRaising looks at how emotion influences donor givingEmotion—it’s a key part of fundraising, and definitely impacts the response we receive from donors. We don’t talk about emotion in fundraising enough. We’re usually more concerned with which segment we’re calling or mailing or what we need to tell donors. We don’t often think about how donors feel when we reach out to them.

Francesco Ambrogetti has a long career as an international fundraiser, and his groundbreaking book Emotionraising: How to astonish, disturb, seduce and convince the brain to support good causes, really gets at this issue.

He’s combined the best concepts in emotive response, including research in neuroscience and psychology, to provide some great examples and tips for fundraisers. I got Francesco on the line to lay out a few of the concepts and tell us what he thinks them mean for the future of fundraising.

Emotionraising, and the concepts introduced by Francesco Ambrogetti in this provocative and insightful book, could just be what your fundraising campaign needs. The science of emotional response is important to your success. As fundraisers, we shouldn’t be afraid to investigate and embrace this new research and try it out on our appeals.

You can find Emotionraising at Amazon.

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Fundraising Podcast: Content Marketing for Nonprofits

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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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Hear Robert McGuire on content marketing for nonprofits

Hear Robert McGuire on content marketing for nonprofits

Getting great content in front of your donors, things that are interesting and invoke a passion for giving, is a sure-fire way to build your base of support. Robert McGuire of McGuire Editorial knows this well. He’s spent years creating strategies for content marketing for nonprofits and higher education institutions. Increasingly, the communications you provide that are outside of the ask are crucial to engaging and retaining donors. I got Robert on the line to explain what content marketing means for fundraisers, and have him provide some tips on how to accelerate your content.

Content marketing for nonprofits

Marketing, communications, multichannel, omnichannel, whatever you decide to call it—content marketing for nonprofits helps them keep donors engaged in their message and mission. In a digital world, where you can track and respond to what donors are viewing, clicking on, and clicking through, you can even tailor content to specific donor interests. We call it the “personal journey,” and content is a crucial part of that journey.

You can check out some great content strategy resources from Robert at mcguireeditorial.com.

Getting those messages delivered is another big part of your content strategy. At Ruffalo Noel Levitz, we have a ton of experience crafting these multichannel plans. If you’d like to accelerate your content and message delivery strategy, contact us. We’re ready to help. And thanks for listening to the podcast.

2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness – The Final Eight

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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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UPDATE: The winners have been announced, click here to see who won

People are talking after our first two rounds of the 2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness tournament. This week, we’ll get down to eight teams—four from the men’s bracket and four from the women’s.

In case you didn’t know, this alumni giving tournament is our fun way to look at higher education fundraising and dive into the data of alumni giving statistics. It started last year when one member of our team asked the question:

What if the NCAA brackets were decided based on alumni giving statistics?

You can read about the methodology we’re using to answer the question this year in our first post. The data comes from public sources, the Voluntary Support of Education Survey and the U.S. News and World Report college ranking data.

Here is an updated bracket with the results of rounds 3 and 4, which take us to the final eight institutions. UPDATE: Final winners are announced!

Check out the final results here.

2017 alumni giving statistics tournament

Click to expand

Round 3 and 4 insights:

Trends from the first two rounds continued, but a few insights this round:

  • The battles were intense: As you would expect as you do anything with progressively narrowing alumni giving statistics, the scores are very close. There were wins of within .0025 points (out of a max 64), representing the best buzzer-beater final scores you’d see in basketball.
  • The final shot can make a difference: We saw a very wide range of giving portals and online giving presence from this year’s tournament institutions. While our refs rating of online giving presence (the only subjective score in this year’s tournament) was worth only 10%, it made a difference for a number of wins.

The Referees speak: online giving portal ratings

Our referee team is made up of online giving experts, marketing experts, and fundraising geeks at RNL. Below are a few things the refs said with their ratings.

“The giving site was not mobile responsive, and it was hard to even find the giving page from the University web site. They’re also asking for too much information. I am sure this means many people don’t complete a gift.” (below average score)

“A great, responsive design on this giving portal with an easy search function. They could have pre-populated some fields, but overall, very strong.” (above average score)

“It wasn’t really clear where I needed to click to give. Their giving page is a really rough and it took at least 3 clicks to give. Not very mobile friendly. They do have a crowdfunding site but you can’t find it with google search and they don’t link to it from giving pages.” (below average score)

“It only took 2 clicks to give and the site was mobile-enabled. Lots of giving options with a great site design. They have crowdfunding but the only link from the giving page was tiny bottom left corner of page.” (above average score)

“What a stellar website. I can easily make a donation of my choice from one landing page. I loved that that they are offering a match for every dollar you donate to the scholarship fund.”  (perfect score)

“The alumni option is a whole screen down, and the major call to action is to get a membership to the alumni society. The option to make a gift gets lost on the alumni page. Couldn’t find it at all on mobile.” (below average score)

“The web site was just overwhelming and difficult to navigate” (below average score)

“Scrolling donor wall, social media sharing, a crowdfunding platform—all really great. But still, over 6 clicks just to get to a donation page!” (average score)

“Clicking on ‘Give’ from the University home page took me to a mobile-optimized page where I was immediately prompted to enter my information and gift purpose. It’s surprising how many places don’t take you immediately to this page. Why make donors hunt?” (above average score)

 

My school isn’t in the NCAA baseketball tournament—can I still participate?

2017 March Alumni Giving Madness tournamentYou can find out how your alumni giving compares to your peers by requesting a Donor Comparison Report. Using data from the VSE survey, this report allows you to benchmark your alumni giving statistics and identify alumni giving trends. Request your free report here.

Donor warming: 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 second 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. Read part 1 here.

Part 2:  Keeping your major gift prospects warm

You have donors with propensity to give and you have donors with predicted wealth. As we discussed in the first blog in this series, when those two attributes combine you have what many consider to be the perfect major giving prospect.  For those entering or in a campaign, you likely have identified a large new cadre of major gift prospects that you hope and expect are primed for making a transformational gift.

So now it’s time to assign a major gift officer and begin qualifying this large pool of new major giving prospects through personal outreach…or is it?  There are two roadblocks that we have to overcome before we embark upon the engagement and qualification calls that are part of donor warming:

  1. Donor education about major giving: Most major giving prospects will have a long history of giving and may be inclined to continue giving. That said, past communication from your organization may not be conveying your transformational gift opportunities. Educating these loyal donors is key before any qualification call.
  2. Major gift officer portfolio size: While having a large group of identified prospects can seem like a great problem to have, the reality is a large group of new prospects with no history of making major gifts can very easily fall under your gift officer radar. These new opportunities aren’t likely going to rise to the top of a major gift officer list of donors to engage, especially when they are trying to close gifts from proven major donors. Commonly, these prospects are also removed from at least some of the annual giving appeals, which means a group of proven donors can begin to languish, ignored, without the same level of outreach that they have come to expect from your organization. Big gift officer portfolios, instead of opportunity, can spell disaster.

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New Fundraising Voices Podcast: Millennial 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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Katherine Lisciani

Katherine Lisciani has been named a Top Millennial in Marketing by LinkedIn and will be a keynote speaker at the Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference.

Katherine Lisciani is a millennial, and over at Millennovation.com she has been named a top millennial marketer by LinkedIn. She’s helped organize powerful campaigns to engage and energize young supports for causes.

In advance of Katherine’s appearance as a keynote at our upcoming Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference (Oct. 13-14 in Atlanta), I got Katherine on the line to talk about best practices for marketing to a generation that has increasing influence over our results. For many causes, and particularly higher education institutions, young people are the largest part of our constituent base, but we’re engaging them with the same old tactics that we’ve used on their parents and grandparents.

Listen to the podcast to hear a taste of what Katherine will talk about in October.

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One thing we talk about in the podcast is the Global Citizen Festival, Continue Reading »

5 ways to boost your annual giving performance

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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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Phonathon Score Card

Evaluate your phonathon with our scorecard Take our short survey and receive a scorecard that compares your program to other phonathon programs and shows how you can increase your results. Click to start.

In a time when budgets are tight and it’s increasingly tough to capture donors, making good solicitations isn’t enough to increase your annual giving results. It takes great solicitations. Phonathon is a perfect example: Putting skilled callers on the phone with a compelling message alone won’t generate the results you want. The work you do before and after the call is crucial.

After consulting and helping hundreds of institutions that are managing their own phonathon program, we noticed a pattern. We saw consistent gaps in call preparation and follow up after calls were made. So we developed RNL Accelerator, which uses a combination of data enrichment, donor warming, and stewardship to fill these communication gaps and boost phonathon performance. The strategy comes from years of experience with small and large programs, as well as research into our database of more than $1 billion in successful phonathon solicitations.

5 steps for increasing your annual giving results

The RNL Accelerator approach uses five steps that pave the way for a successful call and increase fulfillment of pledges from donors.

5 ways to boost annual giving results using RNL Accelerator

The idea behind the RNL Accelerator method for boosting a phone program’s results is to enhance each phase prior to and following a call. First, you can complete calls to and actually speak with more prospective donors because you have more accurate contact information for a greater number of your records. Then adding mail and e-mail engagement before the call offers a substantial boost as donors are “warmed” to the idea of giving. And for those who do not give a credit card right on the phone, you need to get the gift in. Providing prompt, direct and easy-to-complete fulfillment materials is crucial. Finally, we experimented with thanking donors and found that contact and response results were significantly increased the next year.

Here’s how this might play out in one segment of a phone program, with 10,000 completed calls:

Historic Results Potential – After Accelerator
Completed Calls 10,000 11,175
Contact Rate (actually reaching donors) 52% 55%
Pledge/Gift Rate 20% 24%
Fulfillment Rate 65% 76%
Total Donors 676 1,121
Average Pledge $90 $98
Total Dollars $60,840 $109,865
Stewardship Effect in Year 2 +10%
Expected Dollars Year 2 $120,852

 

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Too often, programs decline or lose growth opportunity not because the institution, callers, and scripts aren’t great, but because the work hasn’t been done before and after the call to put together a great solicitation.[/pullquote]

Under this model, the donation dollars have doubled by the second year. Not to mention a great increase in donors, which could help this institution meet participation goals.

Your results could be very different based on the quality of your data, who you are calling, other communications you are sending and other factors, but what I’m trying to show here is that the results increase very quickly because of the combined effect of multiple “boosts” to the preparation, engagement, and follow up with donors.

When you consider how many people per hour your callers are likely to speak to, and the significant investment you are already making, it’s absolutely crucial that you get the highest possible return. Too often, we find that programs decline or lose growth opportunity not because the institution, callers, and scripts aren’t great, but because the work hasn’t been done before and after the call to put together a great solicitation.

It’s the difference between “phoning it in” and “phoning it great.”

And perhaps the most important thing: calls that come with great context, personalization, follow up and stewardship provide more joy to donors. Which means that in the long run, you will have more of them.

Accelerator_score_cardAssess your phonathon with our free scorecard

Take our short survey and receive a phonathon scorecard. You’ll see how your program compares to other phonathon programs, based on our database of $1 billion in successful solicitations.  Click to start.

Five Things: Personalization in fundraising communications is more than mail-merging a name

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Chris Hughes

Director of Fundraising Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Chris Hughes is a former Director of Annual Giving who has more than two decades of experience in fundraising, marketing, public relations and organizational success in higher education and nonprofit fundraising.
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5 ways to use personalization in your fundraising communicationsPersonalization in fundraising communications is all the buzz in 2016. However, the definition of “personalization” appears to vary from one person to the next—and certainly one organization to the next. How you personalize your fundraising communications can make a big difference in the number of donors and dollars generated for your program.

Years ago, personalization meant simply putting the person’s name and address in a letter. Those days are gone. Personalization in 2016 is, and must be, more than just mail-merging someone’s name.

Here are five things every organization should use to personalize fundraising communications with donors:

  1. Use informal names with donors.
  2. Make content relevant to donors.
  3. Make more strategic ask amounts.
  4. Use visuals to communicate quickly.
  5. Have the signatory be meaningful to donors.

1) Use informal names with donors

While personalization is more than just a name, how you address the donor at the start of your fundraising communication sets the tone. This goes for cultivation, stewardship and solicitations alike. In the fundraising world, we all talk about wanting to build relationships with our donors and supporters; charitable organizations want donors to feel they are part of one big family.

If donors are part of your family, and you want prospects to be in your family, ask yourself this question: how many members of your family call each other Mr./Mrs./Ms. anything? Don’t friends and family members usually call each other by their first names?

If you’re not consistently using first names in communications, consider doing it in 2016. Set a relationship tone with your donors and prospects that evokes emotion, friendship, and familial ties.

2) Make content relevant to donors

Make your fundraising communications relevant to your donorsContent relevancy can be especially tough in higher education fundraising communications. Does a donor care about their area of study? Sports teams? Musical and theatrical ensembles? Research? Endowment vs. immediate use? Student life? There are hundreds of options.

So how do we know what is relevant to donors?

The easiest place to look is at their current and past gift designations. Those designations are a means of self-identification of what is important to the donor. Use that information and develop content to increase the donor’s giving.

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