Friday Update: Major major gifts

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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 from the major gifts and campaign world.

From around the web:

Spotlight: What gift officers say about productivity

With growing expectations and rising costs, big dollar major gifts are being seen as a key to long-term funding success. How can your institution discover more major gifts and planned gifts when resources are tight and turnover is a growing concern? Join us for the release of one of the largest surveys ever of major and planned gift officers. You’ll be one of the first to hear the results!

Register for this first-of-its-kind look at the major opportunities—and obstacles—gift officers face when working to secure transformational gifts.

Major gifts webinar

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Friday Update: Planned 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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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 on planned giving programs.

From around the web:

Spotlight: Major and Planned Giving Success Kit

We’ve recently released a Major and Planned Giving Success Kit, which collects some of our recent webinar, white paper, and podcast material on major and planned gifts. Download the success kit today to explore how you can amplify your fundraising results from your major and planned giving programs.

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2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness – The Sweet (Alumni) 16

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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 final winners have been chosen—see which institutions won

We’ve had a great response to our first round of the 2017 March (Alumni Giving) Madness tournament. It’s time for Round 2, which names the top 16 of our alumni giving tournament winners.

This alumni giving tournament is our fun way to look at higher education fundraising and dive into the stats. 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.

After narrowing to a field of 32 in our last round, there ware some great match ups for this round. Here are the round 2 results: (UPDATE: Final Winners Released!)

Click to expand

Second round insights:

I saw some similar things with the wins I commented on for the first round, but a few insights this round, focusing on alumni giving dollars:

  • Big gifts made a difference. While a significant portion of our methodology is on donor participation, several institutions just blew opponents out of the water with generous alumni major gifts or recently realized planned gifts. This “strong bench” factor, the total alumni giving over the past three years divided by the alumni of record, was weighted at 20 percent of the game. But there are extreme differences on the stat across higher education.This year’s teams ranged from $6 per living alumnus to $2,230 per alumnus annually. I’d call that a bit of a range. There was one match up where this stat was within $1, but that was a rarity.
  • Big giving is concentrated. Fewer than 1 percent of institutions raise 28 percent of higher education contributions, and that showed in this year’s alumni giving tournament. We covered this phenomenon in a webinar with Ann Kaplan, VSE director, a few weeks back.
  • Recent alumni wins swayed the results: For a few institutions, a relatively recent campaign or a few very large alumni gifts boosted this giving stat. One institution had a year that was 6x their average year, making a big difference in their overall score.

When we talked to hundreds of giving professionals last year, boosting major and planned giving was a top concern. Every institution wants the right strategy in place to help gift officers quickly identify, qualify and engage the most likely big donors.

As a coach, you wouldn’t go into a recruiting season without a plan. You also wouldn’t just do the same thing every year without making adjustments based on the prospect pool. Unfortunately, a lot of programs are just flying blind on major gift identification strategy. We’re in the midst of a historic wealth transfer, and the time is now to engage your biggest givers. Or another team (charity) is going to recruit them.

How do you win with major and planed giving productivity?

Does your team have what you need for a major and planned giving program with high productivity? You can’t engage big donors at scale without the right tools. Request our free calculator to see how you could improve your program immediately.

Stay tuned, next week we’ll release the results of round 3 which will take us to the Elite (Alumni) 8 of this year’s alumni giving winners.

Friday Update: Opportunities and fundraising myths

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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 we have some links to posts by a few provocative contributors who ask questions about our assumptions and challenge us to take advantage of fundraising opportunities before it’s too late.

From around the web:

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Podcast: Major and planned giving productivity

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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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Podcast on major and planned giving productivityYou just can’t book big gifts if your fundraising team isn’t productive. This is a top concern for fundraisers who are being asked to book bigger and bigger giving totals each year. Ruffalo Noel Levitz talked to hundreds of major and planned giving fundraisers in 2016 and heard some common roadblocks that are holding teams back: finding the right donors to talk to, supporting gift officers with good information and training, and preparing donors and fundraisers for great visits. Add in gift officer turnover, and many organizations are struggling to reach their fundraising potential.

So we embarked on the creation of a solution that’s great for both donors and fundraisers. This podcast features 7 RNL leaders providing a look “under the hood” to show how the solution came together.  They discuss what increasing productivity can mean for your aspirational fundraising goals.

Included are:

  • How predictive analysis of your donor base can take you beyond wealth rating.
  • How warming up donors before a conversation makes a difference.
  • Getting help with a first conversation to qualify donors and schedule a gift officer meeting.
  • Why productivity matters for your overall goals.

Ready to ramp up major and planned giving productivity?

Making Major Giving and Planned Giving More Productive

Click to get the paper

Start with our white paper, Making Major and Planned Giving More Productive, which illustrates how increases in efficiency and productivity can have a dramatic impact on your big gift results.

Find our more about RNL major and planned giving solutions, including case studies and testimonials at advance.ruffalonl.com.

And read more about our take on major and planned giving productivity at blogfm.ruffalonl.com.

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.

Continue Reading »

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. Read part 2 on donor warming.

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.

Continue Reading »

Take Control of Your Annual Fund

Dawn Stever
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Dawn Stever

Vice President and Consultant at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Dawn Stever joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz as a Vice President and Senior Consultant in Fundraising Management in August 2014. She brings 11 years of experience in higher education annual giving. Dawn works with nonprofit organizations in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada to design and implement successful annual giving programs. Her experience includes in-depth strategic planning, new program development, frontline fundraising, collaboration with high-level volunteers, crowdfunding, giving days, and phonathon management.
Dawn Stever
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tug of war phone cordsmallAre you calling rated prospects through phonathon?  What about donors of $1,000 or more?  Does the annual giving team solicit donors of $2,500, or do you rely on a major gift officer to close those gifts?  These questions about high end donors often elicit sighs from directors of annual giving.  “We’d love to, but … ”

No more sighing. It’s time to take control!

Blackbaud’s Target Analytics Higher Education Benchmarking data shows the importance of focusing on these prospects.  Their research over a broad range of higher education institutions tells us that donor retention rates increase with the size of the gift.  On average, institutions retain 53% of donors giving $25-$49, but that number shoots up to 83% for donors giving $1,500-$2,499.  And that’s where it gets interesting.  For many colleges and universities, retention rates flatten out or decline after that.

Why?  The decline often occurs at the point where prospects are “handed off” to major gifts. Continue Reading »

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