Here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, we spend a lot of time looking at higher education alumni giving patterns. Loyal alumni drive a big part of the philanthropic support to higher education. They also tend to be the biggest athletics fans. So, the NCAA basketball tournaments each spring offer an interesting laboratory for us to ask some fun questions. Last year, one of our RNL consultants asked a really interesting one:
What if the NCAA brackets were decided based on alumni giving statistics?
So, we created our March (Alumni Giving) madness tournament to answer that fun question. It’s a fun way to look at how institutions compare in alumni giving participation percentages, donor counts, total dollars from alumni, and even online giving strategy. On today’s podcast, we break down the 2017 results that lead to victories for Penn and Northwestern. You can see all the results, with commentary, round by round at ruffalonl.com/givingmadness. I got Josh Robertson, Vice President here at RNL on the line to go through this year’s methodology and results.
Over 10 billion dollars – That’s what higher education alumni gave in 2016. That’s a huge portion of the philanthropy that makes a difference for students, faculty and all the great life-changing experiences that colleges and universities provide. It turns out that if you base the tournament on giving, not basketball, the winners end up a bit different.
If you’d like to see how you compare to peers on some of these statistics, drop us a line. You can head to ruffalonl.com/givingmadness to request a customized donor comparison report. And we’ll talk about how you can recruit your best possible alumni giving team for next year’s tournament.
If you’re an annual giving professional—particularly in higher education, you’ve probably heard about Annual Giving Network. Dan Allenby, founder of the network has done a great job addressing whatever is hot in annual giving strategy today while focusing on the fundamentals. With great content, webinars, a job posting network, and great member interaction, annualgiving.com has become a destination for those of us who want to stay educated about the best ways to engage donors. In fact, Dan comes off like he was born into annual giving. And based on what he told me, that’s not too far from the truth. I wanted to get Dan on the line to talk about AGN’s strategy and what he’s trying to accomplish with the network.
Dan offers a lot of great insights for how we can do the best job possible engaging, asking, and thanking our annual giving donors. Like he said, we restart every year in annual giving—but the fundamentals of a donor engagement strategy never go away.
Find out more about AGN:
And check out the 2016 insights report we talked about:
Are you ready to take your annual giving to the next level? Ruffalo Noel Levitz has great resources, and a great team of experts ready to help you accelerate your annual giving strategy. Head over to ruffaonl.com to find out about our phone, multichannel and digital solutions which are designed to engage 21st century donors at your maximum return on investment.
Tim Sandoval, reporter for the Chronicle of philanthropy, has his finger on the pulse of where people are giving, and how fundraisers are marketing to their supporters. He regularly covers big trends, like tax policy and regulation, but also jumps headlong into tactics being used by the best organizations. You read articles from him almost daily in the Chronicle. I’ve had a few chances to talk with Tim in the past about philanthropy news and trends, and I wanted to get him on the line to talk about what he’s seeing in the first part of 2017, and were we might be going next.
Tim makes great points about reaching out to donors during a time of change. The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a great source for news, tactics and advice on how to shape your fundraising program. You can head over to philanthropy.com to see their coverage, as well as special reports and fundraiser tool kits. Monitoring the broad trends in philanthropy and public policy are important to deciding what to do next with both your annual and major donors.
You 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 hold 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.
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.
Online giving is growing rapidly. We’ve all seen our online donation activity rise, and this is a big transition for many fundraising programs, as online giving grows at up to three times the rate of over all giving. Mike Kim at iATS payments knows a lot about this. As one of the largest payment processing providers for non-profits, the company has seen a lot of growth in online giving, and is following the trends closely. I got Mike on the line to talk about payment integration, building trust and security with donors, how to optimize the online giving experience, and what’s next for online giving.
Included in the podcast are:
Telling a compelling to story--highly personalized, evoking emotion, encouraging action right now--is a big part of fundraising success in the 21st century.
Caryn Stein, Vice President here at RNL knows this. She’s spent her career doing just that to help hundreds of charities. I got Caryn on the line to talk about the power of digital engagement, storytelling, and what she thinks is next for the future of fundraising.
She calls it storytelling "surround sound" and explains how engaging donors in a personalized, powerful way through technology can really amplify your results.
Covered in the podcast are:
If you want to find out how RNL uses these tactics to take your program to the next level, drop us a line.
Engaging our supporters in the digital world is really important for today’s fundraisers. We’re all reaching out via social media, email, on our web pages and giving pages to attract donor interest and passion. This supplements our more traditional appeals, and everything can get a boost in donor attention if it’s done right. But pretty soon, our donor rolls really will be dominated by a new group of supporters--younger people who have had mobile phones, tablets, and apps their entire lives. These have been dubbed the "digital natives," a group of young donors we’re all looking to engage. Matt Herzberger, Executive Consultant for Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, helps a lot of institutions do this. Matt talked about digital natives in a recent presentation, so I got him on the line to get a perspective on what courting this rising group of well-connected supporters means for fundraising strategy.
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.
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.
The RNL fundraising team has a passion for helping organizations capture donor passion and translate it into long term impact. Get in touch with us today to receive a customized calculator based on this study for what new donor acquisition can mean for you in the long term. We're ready to help make a plan for your great new donor engagement and retention program.
Derrick Feldmann is the president of Achieve and founder of The Millennial Impact Report, which has given us some of the best research we have on how young people engage causes, make donations, and express passion for social change. He'll be the opening keynote at our upcoming Digital and Millennial Engagement conference in Atlanta, and I got him on the phone to talk about his research and give a preview of what he'll tell us at the event.
As Derrick describes it, how your organization leverages people, relevancy and creativity make a big difference to gaining a group of people who are willing to "belong," With the right tools and resources, our job is to take those people from simply belonging to "owning" a cause.
There are some of the key point's of Derrick's new book: Social Movements for Good. This book is really good. It is an incredible resource for fundraisers or cause professionals to learn about how to engage any generation of supporters.
If you join us at the conference in October, you'll get a copy of Derrick's book, and hear more great insights and further your engagement of all your supporters online, as well as strategies to engage Millennials, who can really give your cause a boost. Check out the agenda and speaker list. Podcast listeners can receive a 20% discount, using code DIGITAL20.
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 supporters for important causes.
In advance of Katherine’s appearance as a speaker at our upcoming Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference, Oct. 13-14 in Atlanta, I got her on the line to talk about best practices for marketing to a generation that has increasing dominance over our fundraising 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, and get some ideas on how you can better engage millennial supporters.
Student philanthropy is a hot topic these days, with just about all higher education institutions organizing some student giving program. Two experts on this topic are Collin Hennessy at Penn and Lori Hurvitz at University of Chicago.
In advance of the upcoming CASE conference for student advancement, and the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium, which they are helping put together, I got these two experts on the phone to talk about their take on student philanthropy, current research, and their suggestions for the best ways to engage students around giving while they are still on campus.
CASE Conference for Student Advancement and Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium:
Colin D. Hennessy and Lori Hurvitz join the podcast to talk about the Conference for Student Advancement and the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium that they're organizing together. Colin is the executive director for the Penn Fund at University of Pennsylvania and Lori is the senior director of Annual Giving at the University of Chicago. They both discuss the future of philanthropy, what institutions are doing right, and how behind-the-trend institutions can get up-to-speed with their student philanthropy.
[1:25] How did Colin and Lori get involved with student philanthropy?
[3:45] How are the best institutions engaging their students right now? They're starting philanthropy early.
[6:15] Students are naturally very philanthropic. Millennials are engaged in causes.
[6:35] What suggestions do Colin and Lori have for institutions who are just starting down this path?
[7:50] Look at your own culture and see what's important to your students.
[8:15] Colin and Lori talk about the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium they're organizing.
[10:45] Colin recently finished his dissertation and talks about his study on the influence of learning and annual giving.
[11:45] There's a lack of understanding as to why philanthropy is important on college campuses.
[12:05] Lori discusses her research and her dissertation on building a culture of student philanthropy.
[13:25] What is the University of Chicago currently doing to engage students in philanthropy?
[15:00] What is Colin's university doing right with philanthropy?
[17:50] The conference will be held at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta on Aug 4th through Aug 6th.
"Student philanthropy is a great way to engage students and it gets students to connect with alumni and role models."
"Student philanthropy gives us an opportunity to educate students early."
"Students are, by their nature right now, very philanthropic. Students have causes these days."
A lifetime relationship. This is what we are hoping for with our students, who later become alumni, supporters and donors. It’s certain that admission, orientation, financial aid, student affairs, athletics all play into this relationship, well before our alumni are handed off to advancement, alumni relations, and fundraisers.
But at most institutions, these areas are separate, and the offices don’t even talk much. That’s not the case at The Michigan Technological University. These areas are all under the leadership of one office, and one leader, Les Cook - Vice president for student affairs and advancement.
He has one of the most interesting and impactful jobs in higher education. I got Les on the phone to talk about what combining all of these areas into one division can do for the student, alumni, and donor experience. Les has picked up some great insight from this massive endeavor.
[2:10] How did Les get started?
[5:45] What does Michigan Tech gain when they combine student affairs with other activities?
[8:00] If you build a sense of pride with your students, then they will come back to invest in the university later in life.
[8:50] Les shares some personal examples of how he and his team engage his students.
[11:00] There's always huge turnover in gift officer positions, but is Les seeing something different at his university?
[11:20] It's not about getting talent it's about growing your own talent.
[14:25] Les is trying to minimize the gap between the alumni experience and the student experience.
[17:25] Michigan Tech's fundraising philosophy is similar to their student recruitment philosophy.
[19:30] If you can keep alumni involvement/engagement pretty steady over the course of their lives, it will benefit the university in the end.
[21:15] Les talks about his dissertation and what he learned from it.
[23:10] As Les talks to more people in his industry, what is he currently learning from his colleagues?
[23:40] People are intrigued with Michigan Tech's growth.
[25:20] What are some of the biggest lessons Les has learned during his student advancement career?
[28:20] In order for change to work, you need to have a president willing to support new ideas.
[29:40] What's next for university advancement?
[34:10] It's all about making a difference in the lives of others.
"Awareness to greatness, greatness to engagement, engagement to investment, and investment is commitment."
"Advancement officers work more closely now to bring donors and students together to share what's going on."
"There's a magic that occurs when the donors and the students come together."
Justin Ware, the new Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder talks about crowdfunding, giving days, and how social media is changing how we work work with donors. Listen in for a description of "active" vs. "passive" online giving and the role of digital ambassadors.
RNL Vice President Autumn Horton talks about starting her career in phonathon, what she learned as a caller and manager, and what's coming next for this time-tested donor outreach tool. A lot of fundraisers started in phonathon programs, and we talk about what we all gained from the experience.
Janna Finch, researcher at SoftwareAdvice.com talks about the results of a recent study based on conversations with non-profit software buyers about what fundraisers want in software, why data is important and what integration means for today's charity leaders.
Aaron Galliher a senior student at Appalachian State University and Summer Wisdom, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs & Annual Giving talk about Appalachian Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow, and the great programming they are doing to engage students with the message of philanthropy.
Ed Lang at Buffalo UK talks about some of the differences between UK and US university fundraising, and tips on contacting international alumni donors.
Mariya Yurukova of the innovative York University phonathon program talks to us about planning an experiment that looked at differing responses to script messaging. We discuss how to organize an experiment and why connecting to donors with a personalized message is important.
Dr. Bill Withers at Wartburg College talks about how his research into corporate communications applies to how we work with alumni and donors. It’s the relationship and we want those relationships to be long term and permanent. How do we achieve this when so much communication is quick and digital? Well, some insights come from a course Bill taught entirely on Facebook. Yep, he’s that kind of professor.