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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Fundraising best practice: Unique URLs to track multichannel online responses

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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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Tracking URLs across channels is a fundraising best practice that provides valuable tracking data.

Tracking URLs across channels is a fundraising best practice that provides valuable data for tracking the effectiveness of your outbound communications.

The fundraising world is abuzz with “online giving” being up. Blackbaud’s 2015 charitable giving report indicated that online gifts increased 9.2 percent from the previous year.

More gifts arriving via electronic methods should not be a stunner. We all use online payment methods for more financial transactions each day. Think about it – how many checks do you write now vs. 5-10 years ago? Some stats have indicated at least 1 in every 5 millennials has never written a paper check in their lifetime.

The Federal Reserve’s 2013 triennial report indicated:

  • The number of checks paid in the U.S. dropped 9.2 percent from 2009 to 2012.
  • The total number of checks written in the U.S. was more than cut in half from 2003 (37.3 billion checks) to 2012 (18.3 billion checks).

While your organization needs to be able to accept gifts via all sorts of electronic means, that is only the second half of the tracking equation. The first half of the equation is a fundraising best practice for 2016: know which solicitation source inspired the online transaction.

Create a unique URL for every online fundraising solicitation

By generating unique, trackable URLs for every online and offline solicitation, you will be better positioned to know what outbound communications channels influence your donors and prospects.  Here are a few tips for this fundraising best practice:

  1. URLs: Never give the donor a generic URL such as www.giveto.organization.edu. That link is not trackable for solicitation analysis.
  2. Emails: Embed a trackable link where donors click to go to your payment page. Depending on your in-house capabilities, you may even want to create and embed a different link for various segments. Remember, renewals are going to act differently than lapsed and non-donors.
  3. Direct mail: Create a URL alias unique to that mailing. Again, you may need to create different aliases for different segments. Make the alias something simple and memorable that the donor would be willing to type into their browser. For example, a winter-themed solicitation mailer in March could give donors a giving URL like www.organization.edu/snowgifts or www.organization.edu/Marchgift. The key is not to make the URL alias obvious that it is solely for statistical tracking, even though donors know you’re doing it.
  4. Crowdfunding: The rise of crowdfunding’s importance and influence is well documented, and of course almost all crowdfunding gifts come in “online.” But what influenced the gift? Was it a P2P email? The video? The Facebook page? Something else? At the minimum, you’ll obviously want to know a gift came in through a crowdfunding campaign, but additional tracking will give you much more insight to your donors.

If your organization doesn’t have the capability to create a lot of unique URLs for every solicitation for every channel, there’s still a way you can track online responses to all channels.

Ask donors to put a keyword in your giving form’s comment box, which in turn will alert your gift processing team to the solicitation source. That keyword could be anything you want as long as it is easy for the donor to remember and use. Consider creating a small stewardship incentive for someone to add that keyword.  Organizations use these incentives all the time for smaller gifts solicited via social media. You can certainly apply that practice to any solicitation.

Online giving is only going to increase with each passing year as society moves further away from paper payments. Knowing the online payment method used is unquestionably important, but so is having a way to analyze which outbound channels and communications generated those gifts.

If you have any questions about this fundraising best practice, or any other fundraising strategies, please email me and I would be happy to connect.

The next generation of planned giving donors

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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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Too often in fundraising, planned giving gets associated solely with targeting retirees or donors who are in their twilight years. In today’s environment, however, planned giving has a much broader potential audience.

planned giving white paper

Download this new white paper on how to engage planned giving donors in their 30’s and 40’s.

Society is now going through what is commonly referred to as “the great wealth transfer.” This is an unprecedented opportunity for your planned giving program to capture donor passion and transform your organization.

Which segment of your donor and prospect database is the best target for planned giving discussions? It may surprise a lot of fundraisers and nonprofit organizations to learn that research indicates the answer to that question is Generation X.

Our new Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising white paper, The Next Generation of Planned Giving, addresses Continue Reading »

5 ways to leverage college reunion weekends for alumni giving

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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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fivewaysthumbOctober is a common month for educational institutions of all sizes and types to hold reunion and homecoming weekends. In fact, this October I attended my own 20th year class reunion weekend at Northwestern University.

Most institutions have reunion giving programs, some more formalized than others.  A lot of the activity takes place prior to the reunion weekend (often in order to make a big-splash announcement with a ceremonial check). But what are you doing afterwards to secure more gifts from alumni who attended the various reunion weekend activities?

Here are five things you can do to leverage reunion weekend attendance into more annual gifts:

  1. Upload and utilize attendance and registration information
  2. Segment attendees into short-term CYE pools
  3. At least one significant cultivation activity in November
  4. Send follow-up thank you notes from specific sessions
  5. Surveys

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Are Matching Gifts a Waste of Time?

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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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Focusing on matching gifts for your phonathon is a waste of time, unless you are concerned with the following:

matchinggiftsblog

 

I’m going to assume I now have your attention. Read on to learn more about some of the latest strategies and tactics I shared during my webinar today hosted by HEPData on Using Phonathon to Positively Influence Matching Gifts.

Target Audience

The use of segmentation and calling pools in phonathons is nothing new. It gives you the ability to target the right constituents with a relevant message to improve results. However, are you using calling pools to increase the volume of matching gifts and, ultimately, dollars? Continue Reading »

Five Ways To Improve Your Case For Giving

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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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5waysHughesAFP defines the case for giving as “the reasons why an organization both needs and merits philanthropic support.”  It is the core of every nonprofit organization, yet how much time have you spent lately thinking about improving and evolving your organization’s case to meet the interests of today’s donors?

Putting quality thought into evaluating your current case could position your organization for improved retention, acquisition and reacquisition in the coming months and year.  Here are five things you can do to enhance your case for giving:

  1. Focus on what makes your cause unique
  2. Build and brag upon your library of successes
  3. Don’t incorporate a one size fits all approach
  4. Create separation in the marketplace
  5. Ask your donors’ and prospects’ opinions

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Five Ways To Cultivate Your Newest Alumni

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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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5waysHughesJuly brings forth many things, but in the world of higher education annual giving, it often means a new crop of recent alumni have been added to the database.  Some of these individuals may have given during their spring graduating class gift campaign, but this will mark the first year they have been asked to give as alumni.

Don’t begin your new alumni relationship by immediately asking for money.  Instead, utilize this summer and fall as the perfect time to establish a strong emotional tie for alumni giving.  Here are five things you can do in order to specifically cultivate these new alumni:

  1. Establish annual giving as a brand
  2. Social media signups
  3. Create exclusive, online events
  4. Showcase recent impacts of grassroots giving
  5. Confirm contact information

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How Can You Reach the 98% of High Net Worth Households That Donate Annually?

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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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5waysHughesThe Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s 2014 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy reveals a lot of opportunities and trends that you can use to generate annual gifts from wealthy donors.

The great news is that 98.4% of households with incomes above $200,000 and/or a net worth of more than $1 million made charitable gifts in 2013.  Here are a few takeaways and recommendations based on the study that can help drive strategic decisions as you cultivate, steward and solicit these donors for gifts: Continue Reading »

5 Ways to Maximize Your Year End Budget

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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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5waysHughes

Every person who has ever managed a budget at one time or another has found themselves with leftover funds at the end of a fiscal year. For annual giving offices, the question becomes how to use those leftover funds to achieve success not just this fiscal year, but the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

Here are five things you can do in order to maximize your annual giving program’s end of budget year leftovers:

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Earth Day Green Practice: Coupon Codes to Enhance Online Giving

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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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go_green_smallToday is the 45th Anniversary of the first “Earth Day.” This is a day when significant attention is paid to ways to improve the global environment. In the fundraising world, one of the “greenest” practices is to enhance your online giving program. One way to do that is to consider using coupon codes. Continue Reading »

Five Ways That Social Media Can Enhance Annual Giving

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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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social media icons shutterstockHow to best utilize social media in order to impact your fundraising program is an important discussion for every organization. In today’s society, incorporating social media into your multichannel mix is a must in order to engage your donors year-round.

With a growing number of options for the social media channel, here are five things you can do in order to maximize the effectiveness of social media for your annual giving program:

  1. Continue Reading »

5 Ways to Boost Fundraising Results in the Second Half of Your Fiscal Year

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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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jan1_calendarJanuary is often a time for development offices to reflect on their calendar year-end push as well as the current results at (for many) the halfway point of their fiscal year. Whether your numbers are up, down, or flat, here are five ways you can do to boost fundraising results during the winter months:

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