Friday Update: Phonathon success

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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 fundraising tactics for telefund and phonathon success.

From around the web:

  Phonathon Success at Ohio University
Phonathon Success
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Phonathon success strategies

Spotlight: Learn the latest tactics for phonathon success

2017 Phonathon Workshops

Join us in Denver for the annual RNL Phonathon Managers Workshop and CAMPUSCALL Workshop. You’ll learn how to maximize phonathon response and return on investment, and find out what the best programs are doing to power this crucial personal engagement channel.

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Maximize your phonathon ROI with cell append research

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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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Your phonathon campaign is at risk of not reaching your potential donors. Increasingly, donors have cut the cord on their land lines and only use mobile phones, so many of the numbers in your database may be bad. The good news is that RNL has a cost-effective way to seek quality cell phone numbers for your donors and prospects.

RNL Cell Phone Append Research allows you to:

  • Grow your phone solicitations and raise more money by calling people for whom you don’t currently have a phone number associated.
  • Have a second number available for people whose number is confirmed to be disconnected or wrong.

Try our free RNL Cell Phone Append ROI Calculator to estimate the additional pledge dollars you will raise this year with an investment in cell phone append research. We’ve populated the calculator with our average statistics from hundreds of thousands of numbers researched during 2015-2016..

Contact RNL to learn how we can help you reach your donors and increase phonathon ROI.

“Over the past two fiscal years, [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] cell append research has allowed us to reengage with 22,695 alumni resulting in over $363,690 from 4,637 pledges. Cell append is now a key component of our annual giving strategy!”

Elizabeth Ullian
Senior Associate Director of the Florida Fund
University of Florida

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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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 »

4 strategies for engaging Gen X and Millennial donors

Brandon Trissler

Brandon Trissler

Director of Communications at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brandon Trissler has more than two decades of experience in marketing and communications, and has produced papers and reports on fundraising and enrollment management for Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Beginning his career at Oxford University Press, he has worked at RNL since 2001.
Brandon Trissler

Latest posts by Brandon Trissler (see all)

Making connections with Millennial donors

How can you connect and cultivate relationships with Millennial donors who have different behaviors and expectations about giving?

Generation X and Millennial donors present a unique challenge and opportunity for engagement. These segments are philanthropic, but with two disparate donor behaviors. On the one hand, we see increased engagement in micro-giving to many causes (via crowdfunding and other mechanisms). On the other, we see a tendency to focus large donations to fewer recipients. These donor segments also demonstrate a strong focus on “causes” (rather than institutions), and a tendency to combine volunteerism with their primary charitable giving. Consider one recent report in which 47 percent of Millennial alumni reported making a donation to their alma mater, while 75 percent noted they would donate to other organizations before their alma mater. 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.

How technology enables better fundraising conversations with 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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What do you need to know to ask a donor for a gift? Certainly their last gift amount. Probably some information about their history with your organization. In higher education, this includes a class year, major, and school when having fundraising conversations with donors.

A good phonathon caller can take this information and turn it into a conversation like this:

Thank you Mrs. X, for supporting the University fund last year as a member of the class of 1986. Can we ask you to continue your support this year with a gift of X?”

But what information do you need to take a good conversation and elevate to a level that really engages the donor? You can really transform those conversations when you have relevant data such as:

  • An expanded giving history of several years
  • How donors gave before and what they donated to
  • Information about their involvement when they were in school and after graduation, including volunteer experiences
  • Full contact and employment information

The fundraising conversations that come from this information, from a great phonathon caller, might sound like this:

“Thank you, Mrs. X for giving every year for the past five years. And for increasing your gift. Can you tell me about your time in the Physics program at the university? I see you’re a VP at an engineering firm. What do you most value about your experience in school that helps you do your work? Thanks for sharing that. As I said, your loyal donations really make a difference so students like me can receive a great education today. I’d like to ask if you would be willing to once again increase your giving and join the Dean’s Club with a gift of X…”

Now you have a conversation that has the best chance of engaging the donor and showing them that you are seeing them as an individual.

This screen from our CAMPUSCALL software illustrates how having donor data available for student ambassadors can personalize a call and greatly increase donor engagement.

This screen from our CAMPUSCALL software illustrates how having donor data available for student ambassadors can personalize a call and greatly increase donor engagement (click to enlarge)

The next step is to conclude these powerful fundraising conversations with an instant transaction—the ability to process a pledge with a donor’s credit or debit card to make giving easy— and then sending a follow up email to thank the donor while also sharing  stories about the impact of gifts at your institution. That’s how your donor engagement—and your results—move to the next level.

Investing in the right technology allows a shift to powerful, donor-centered personalization.And when your technology allows this to happen efficiently and in a way that callers can put into action call after call, your response level from donors can go up exponentially. This requires investment on your part to seek and assemble the data for callers, and a good system that allows callers to see information and put it into action instantly.

You wouldn’t fly out to meet with a donor prospect without fully reviewing their giving history, involvement and background with your institution.You wouldn’t open the conversation after making the trip with a generic question. You would do your homework and show that you value the donor by personalizing the interaction as much as possible. Personalization is what good gift officers do.

Your student telefund ambassadors are gift officers. They connect with hundreds of prospective and loyal supporters each night. They need the tools to have quality, personalized conversations and follow through to the gift. And the great thing is that a personalization system like this allows callers to capture more information, which feeds back into your database and increases the effectiveness of future conversations and solicitations.

To find out how CAMPUSCALL, the industry standard in phonathon enablement, makes this all happen, attend a webinar illustrating how phonathon platform effects engagement, and afterward, we’ll talk with you how your program can grow to the next level.

Increasing phonathon pledge fulfillment by making a better case for credit cards

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

Capturing gifts immediately on credit cards is the best way to improve phonathon pledge fulfillment and dollar fulfillment rates. The higher the percentage of pledges completed on the phone, the more pledges and dollars your institution has in the door right now.

Below are 5 simple credit card tips that are easy to implement and will have lasting results for your phonathon pledge fulfillment:

1. Recruitment

Credit card success starts at recruitment. Present your candidates with the fact the job requires them to process credit cards, because by doing so, it sets the precedent for the job’s priorities. Below is a recent flyer I used, which mentions credit card processing as part of the job.

Start increasing phonathon fulfillment rates by emphasizing credit card processing in your caller recruitment

As you may notice, there is no indication of pledge cards in the advertisement. By doing so, we set the precedent for our preferred fulfillment practice – credit cards.

2. Interviews

In the past, I’ve blogged about 1:1 interviews and group interviews. Regardless of how you hold interviews, when reviewing the job description with your candidates, be sure to address credit cards. Explain how they are utilized and why they are the preferred method of gift processing. If you have callers read through a sample phonathon script during the interview, have it include credit card asks. Avoid discussing the option of sending donors pledge cards at this stage.

3. Training

Initial training:

After you’ve selected your candidates for hire, train them to be credit card champions! Spend considerable time reviewing the importance of gift fulfillment and best practices. Set the bar high in terms of their credit card percentages. Only after you review the process of accepting credit cards extensively should you introduce the notion of pledge cards.

Continue Reading »

Four tips for engaging young donors through multichannel fundraising

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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It’s an uncertain time for higher education fundraising. In terms of dollars, total giving is on the rise. But from 2007 to 2015, 69% of higher education institutions saw a decline in their alumni donor counts, with an average loss of 26%.

This is an unsustainable scenario. Institutions are becoming increasingly dependent on small groups of large donors, and at some point, that will undermine total giving.

A healthy donor pipeline is the lifeblood of a college or university, and the annual gift is often the starting point for donors.

The long-term solution is to build a robust giving pipeline with young alumni. The difficulty, however, is that young alumni are a tough group to engage. Today’s young alumni receive more solicitations from more nonprofits, direct their giving to fewer charities, and are less inclined to make a gift purely out of loyalty than previous generations. So what can your institution do to engage this group and build a foundation for giving that could eventually lead to major gifts? Here are four ideas to increase your chances of success with young donors and strengthen their engagement with your institution.

1) Understand the changes in young alumni behavior and the increased competition for their attention

There have been seismic shifts in demographics, technology, and behavior that have radically changed how young alumni interact with their alma maters. Recent graduates are more mobile, interact online, and rely on social networks for confirmation of their behavior. While young people are definitely giving to charities, their loyalty cannot be expected, it must be earned.

In addition, young donors have grown up in an age where they have been bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages per day. There is so much competition for their attention that your message can easily be drowned out.

Continue Reading »

4 Calendar Year End Tips from Phonathon

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

I know December is here at University of Rochester Calling Center when the student callers are lugging around ten-ton backpacks, the office perpetually smells of freshly brewed coffee, candy wrappers litter the calling areas, and we are sporting colorful winter apparel. We are working hard to keep our callers energized and round out our calling for the calendar year on a strong note!

Here are four tips that can help to ensure success during this critical time at your own telefund:

1. Track to goals. Make a plan and take action.

If you have not already thought about goals that your program should attain by the end of the calling year, this is the time to establish and work towards them. Take a look at how far you are from your goals. What do those goals look like divided per remaining week, day, shift, and hour left of calling? Are they attainable, and if so, what will you do to achieve them? Continue Reading »

Anatomy of an incredible #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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ggeeksmallGiving Tuesday has really transformed the holidays for me. The day and movement was born out of the efforts of the 92nd Street Y in NYC along with some enterprising and socially conscious leaders who pioneered the idea in 2012 as a counter to the biggest shopping combo of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving is now one of the biggest charity days of the year. This year’s total exceeded $116 million donated and more than 1 million gifts.

Giving day guru Justin Ware, who works with our ScaleFunder platform, offered some great tips on how to get your own giving day organized as well as excellent insights in his recent podcast interview. To add to this great advice, I’d like to break down what I saw as a donor and fundraising geek in the donations that I made on Tuesday.

A central example of #GivingTuesday greatness is one of my alma maters, Illinois State University, where I used to work and now geek out as a doctoral student studying how and why people give to higher education. We partner for their phone program, but their giving day program is a creation of their energetic and creative advancement team.

Here are the things that I saw that impressed me on Tuesday at Illinois State and other charities I gave to and why I think they worked.

Showing where the gift goes

ISUgiveTuesday

4 compelling reasons to give to Illinois State University, all on one screen.

Giving Tuesday is a movement. We’re all getting solicitations. Everyone wakes up and quickly realizes “something is up.” But you absolutely cannot expect that the day or increased communication alone will motivate donors to act. We still must show why giving is important. This helps your donors sift through the requests and reminders they will get and focus on their passion, and also allows you to make several cases for support. Illinois State did this with four key messages which appealed to just about any donor.

Continue Reading »

Six fundraising takeaways from a year of blogs and podcasts

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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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In 2015, with over 150 posts, the Ruffalo Noel Levitz and ScaleFunder blogs were hopping, and we also started a new podcast. I took a look back at the last year, and here are few big themes that repeated throughout the year:

money_tree

Big donors don’t grow on trees: This year, we released important research about the annual gift to major and planned gift pipeline. In a study of eight higher education institutions, we found that 75 percent of donors who have $25,000 or more made smaller gifts for at least 11 years before making their major gift. Loyalty and consistency have a big impact on your annual revenue—and they absolutely amplify future big donations. Check out this blog post, and read the white paper to find out more. Continue Reading »

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