RuffaloCODY Your goals. Our passion. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 19:22:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Ways to Boost Fundraising Results in the Second Half of Your Fiscal Year Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:52:55 +0000 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:

1. Focus on your 2013 calendar year donors with no gift in calendar year 2014

Pay special attention to donors who gave between July and December 2013. What percentage of those donors renewed by December 2014? Those who have not renewed are probably still LYBUNTS in your database, but notice these donors now missed a calendar year, which could be a red flag!

The same approach can be applied for one-year lapsed donors who gave between January and June 2013. In all of those cases, let the donor know that you specifically noticed they didn’t give during calendar year 2014. It’s a very donor-centric message that simply says to the donor that you paid attention to them.

“Last gift in calendar year 2013” calling pools are perfect targets for your phonathon campaign early in the 2015 calendar year.

2. Incorporate leadership giving “bump up” solicitations

If your organization has a leadership giving society (often starting at the $1,000 level), contact those donors who are at least halfway to that level to let them know their status and to solicit for the additional amount needed. This is also a good way to focus on donors who were not members of your leadership society last year. Not only can you increase your giving society membership counts, but this is also a top target audience for faster increases in dollars.

All of your leadership giving bump up asks should reflect the fact that you appreciate the donor has already made a gift in the current fiscal year. Make all of these communications branded with your giving society and personalize everything in a donor-centric manner.

3. Be aggressive on matching gift communications in January

Contact every donor who made a gift during calendar year 2014 (even if it was in the previous fiscal year) if their database record indicates they work for a matching gift company. Remind and ask these donors to please be sure to get their gifts matched immediately by their company.

Many companies base their matching policies on a calendar year basis, so you can still potentially impact this fiscal year’s giving revenue even though a gift was from last fiscal year. But time could be precious depending on the company’s matching gift timelines and policies.

All of the channels should be considered for this effort – phone, email, direct mail. Whenever possible, provide the donor with at least the date(s) and amount(s) of their gift(s). This will make it easier on the donor and eliminate one potential barrier to them not submitting their company request form.

How much money is at stake? Based on information from HEPData, in 2013, the average total matching gift dollars received by colleges and universities was $210,920 with a grand total of more than $3.1 billion matched. Be sure to get your share of that pie!

4. Solicit new sustaining donors

If you have a monthly giving program, add a focus over the next couple of months on acquiring new sustaining donors to increase both your donors and dollars. Not only are these programs good for overall results, but getting them into the sustainers club at your institution should put them in a stronger stewardship category.

Shorter term lapsed and recent alumni non-donors are recommended targets. Be careful about soliciting LYBUNTS as you may accidentally downgrade their overall fiscal year giving. Also, make at least one of your suggested monthly dollar amounts capable of putting the donor in an appropriate giving society.

Once again, multiple channels can be used. Dedicate some phonathon time to these segments. Email is easy to do, and provide the link to your electronic sign-up form. Incorporate sustainer asks in your next direct mail cycle as well.

5. Send a short thank you video to your donors from the 1st half of your fiscal year

January and February are great times on the calendar to cultivate and steward donors, and it is widely predicted that video marketing will take a huge leap in 2015. Donors of all ages are watching videos and engaging with their favorite activities and causes. It’s not limited to just GenX or Millennials. A short video can be recorded anywhere anytime, and quickly uploaded to your YouTube channel.

To maximize impact, keep the video under 3 minutes and make sure the video is mobile friendly. As an added bonus, after you email the video directly to donors, post a thank you message with a link to share the video via Twitter and Facebook!

As always, be sure to track whatever you implement. This is critical not only to evaluate the success of your efforts, but also to apply lessons learned about your specific donor audience into your future plans.

For tips on boosting your Calendar Year-End fundraising results, read our blog post titled “Your Fiscal Year Just Ended. Time to Start Looking at Calendar Year-End?”.

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Making A New Year’s Fundraising Fitness Resolution Tue, 06 Jan 2015 13:14:05 +0000 My gym is full this week. Many of us have New Year’s resolutions to get in shape, and the gym should be packed for the next few months. The new year is also a great time to evaluate the fitness of your fundraising program. Do you have a resolution to get your program in better shape? Here are some ideas to get started…

Get a Baseline

Over the past few years, some great comparative tools have arrived through data sharing collaborations, from the AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project to the great online giving data provided by Network for Good. In higher education, the VSE survey is a great tool, along with the CASE Fundraising Index. These and other sources can give you some idea of how you compare to national peers. It’s also a great time to network with colleagues at similar institutions.

Get a Personal Trainer

There are plenty of experts out there asking important questions and providing answers, from industry bloggers like Michael Rosen and Penelope Burk as well as white papers and new research being released throughout the year. Invest some time in webinars, many of which are free, and the paid webinars you can join from national organizations or offered by your particular professional association will be worth the investment if you invest the time afterward to apply the knowledge to your program and goals. It might also be time to get a personal “coach,” a fundraising consultant to help your organization evaluate and develop a plan for the year.

See What the Kids are Doing

Fundraising is a rapidly changing field, with channels like crowdfunding and online giving contributing more each year to the total effort. If your program hasn’t investigated some of these new strategies, it’s about time. If you’re sending the same old direct mail pieces when other causes are using custom links, videos, and social media, you’re probably seeing a decline as your traditional donors age. Take a look at what you can do to engage a different population. You don’t want to be stuck in Jazzercise while everyone else has moved on to Zumba.

Evaluate and Make Corrections

Your program may hit complications, plateaus, or even suffer an injury as you work on its fitness. Turnover on your team is likely your biggest risk, but you could also see an appeal fail or underperform.  It’s important to ask: “Why did this happen?” Find the best and most useful information you can about the source and potential solutions and move forward. Above all, if you’re looking to make corrections, you can’t do it in isolation from the data or your professional support network. Other people are having the same fundraising fitness challenges, and you don’t have to go it alone.

Just like a personal fitness plans, setting reasonable goals and developing long-term habits is the key to the fitness of your fundraising program.  Industry statistics show that up to 80% of gym memberships go unused by the end of the year. Set a goal to make evaluation, development, and overall fitness of your fundraising program something that you focus on for a little time each week instead of “business as usual” in the new year. It will pay off, and your cause and donors will benefit.

I’ll see you at the gym.

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Giving Tuesday Versus Cyber Monday: Phonathon Impact Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:13:39 +0000 I always struggle with the effectiveness of Giving Tuesday from a pragmatic point of view, wondering if we are simply receiving a smaller gift today versus a larger gift tomorrow. Are we really inspiring our donors to renew their support and to do so at a higher level?  I also wonder how Cyber Monday is influencing our results, causing me to speculate that after a day of spending money online, donors may be less likely to “share the wealth” with their alma mater.

When it came to Giving Tuesday versus Cyber Monday, my team began digging into our phonathon results to see what answers we might find.  We looked at how retention donors (donors that gave last fiscal year) performed on Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday versus the previous two months.

The results are surprising:

Did Giving Tuesday pledge rates out-perform October and November?


Answer: Sometimes.  Only 58% of the institutions we analyzed experienced a Giving Tuesday that outperformed both of the previous months.  Certainly, other factors could be at play, but on the surface, it doesn’t tell us that Giving Tuesday is hurting or helping with regards to pledge rate, at least with regards to the phonathon.

Giving Tuesday always outperforms Cyber Monday pledge rates?


Answer:  No. 46% of the phonathon programs we analyzed saw Cyber Monday retention pledge rates outperform Giving Tuesday.

Average Gift is stronger on Giving Tuesday than Cyber Monday?


Answer:  No. In fact, Cyber Monday at first glance appears to be a better day to phone your retention donors if you want to raise more dollars.

So what does this mean?

While Giving Tuesday is an important day in the world of fundraising, it’s just one day of 365 where we need to focus on our constituents.  Giving Tuesday or any “give day” can’t replace the work that happens during the rest of the year.

The excitement from Giving Tuesday may not translate to better results in all channels, especially as phonathon is concerned.

We need to understand why some institutions experienced phonathon success and others experienced a negative impact on Giving Tuesday. We will be sharing more in future blog posts on what those institutions did that made helped their phonathon excel.

We would love to hear how Giving Day impacted your phonathon!

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Results from the Student Phonathon Caller Survey Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:18:22 +0000 Last month, we completed a survey of over 700 student fundraisers employed in on-campus phonathon/telefund programs. The callers were from the US, Canada, and Australia and working with RuffaloCODY managers. We also completed interviews with about a dozen callers to get their insights on the job.

We found out that most students take a phonathon job for the money, but the challenge of the position, the influence of friends, and the flexibility of hours also had a big impact.

A recurring theme in the interviews was that phonathon is “the toughest job on campus,” and those who stick with the position have a real sense of pride in overcoming the obstacles to seek donations.

The second thing that was interesting was how experienced callers differed from new callers. Returning callers (with at least one semester of experience) reported greater ease in all areas of making a successful call and a higher level of enjoyment on even the toughest areas of a call:

It turns out that while engaging donors and making a persistent request for support is challenging for students, it can also be very enjoyable.

About a quarter of students responded that being a caller increased their interest in a fundraising career. All of us will raise money for a cause at some time in our lives. Some student fundraisers just might make a career of it.

What does this mean? Your phonathon program is serving a valuable educational and vocational function for students, along with the monetary support it brings in gifts.

Being a student fundraiser is powerful in engaging students in giving. 83% of callers said that being a caller increased their interest in philanthropy, and 94% said that after being a student fundraiser, they are more likely to give to their alma mater.

“I understand how important it is, both for the people who are calling and for the organization. It has softened my heart toward giving to areas that I’m not already involved in,” said one student.

Phonathon is a key engine of building the culture of philanthropy on your campus.

To learn more about the results of our recent student phonathon caller survey, visit our Developing Our Phonathon Callers with Challenge and Support page to download the white paper.

If you were a student caller or have an opinion on what phonathon means for students, please drop us a comment below.

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Giving Tuesday is Done. Welcome to Stewardship Wednesday! Wed, 03 Dec 2014 20:23:10 +0000 Giving Tuesday has come and gone, and many nonprofit organizations enjoyed a significant influx of gifts and donors during that 24 hour span.  Across the U.S., it is realistic to expect more than 300,000 charitable gifts worth approximately $54 million to be made solely on Giving Tuesday 2014.

Now, to the next step in the donor cycle:  what are you planning to steward and cultivate your share of those donors to retain them next year and beyond?

Welcome to Stewardship Wednesday!

Many of those 300,000+ charitable gifts will come from donors classified generationally as Millennials or GenX.

Did you know that 86% of Millennial-aged donors want regular updates on the impact of their giving?  And, 50% of GenX donors feel the same way.

Be sure to maximize your success of Giving Tuesday through appropriate follow-up stewardship activities.

Here are 3 easy ways to steward and cultivate your Giving Tuesday donors to help turn it from a one-day event to a longer-term donor relationship:

  • Make thank you phone calls and/or mail thank you notes.  Thank you calls can be done through your normal telefund calling, personal staff calls, or consider using a 30-second broadcast voice message from a prominent member of your organization’s community.
  • Send videos via email and social media channels.  Total online video viewership in the U.S. is up 43% from last year, and simply including the word “video” in an email subject line has been known to increase email opens by 20%.  Remember, many great videos can be filmed and edited on short notice using commonly available software.
  • Develop short informational pages about areas directly impacted by giving on your website, and don’t forget to incorporate those videos!  Now, spread the word about those web pages using any number of channels including direct mail, email, telephone, social media, peer-to-peer, and so forth.

For more information, download our recent white paper on stewardship

For more information, recommendations and suggestions on stewardship activities that can be applied to your entire year (including Giving Tuesday), be sure to download our recent RuffaloCODY white paper titled Stewardship: Creating Strategic Programs That Inspire Loyal Donors.

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Your Next Team Member is in Your Call Center Tonight – A Perspective from a Former Student Phonathon Caller Wed, 26 Nov 2014 02:08:39 +0000 girl_headsetI wasn’t surprised to hear that in our recent survey of over 700 student callers, a significant number indicated an interest in fundraising as a career, and about a quarter said that working at the phonathon made them more interested. That was me. I was a student caller, and like most, I took the job because I needed the paycheck, not because I specifically sought out a position in fundraising. I eventually parlayed that part-time job and experience into a career after graduation.

Those of us who have been student phonathon callers or have managed calling programs know how this “hardest job on campus” can teach skills like communication, persistence and negotiating. These are transferrable skills that help students in all career paths. Phonathon can be one of the most educational experiences on campus, along with the great charitable support it provides for student scholarship and other needs. This is why we want to showcase the hardest job on campus as the “best job on campus.”

I was someone who didn’t start off as a particularly strong caller. However, I was enthusiastic about my school and energetic about the work we did. Calling helped me build confidence and affirm that the work we do makes a difference, and I wanted to continue being a part of that.

Your phonathon contains students that embody one of the most difficult characteristics to “teach,” and that is passion. Your phonathon is filled with students who are passionate enough about their school that they are willing to work the “hardest job on campus,” three nights a week to make a difference. We need to work to leverage this source of passion, energy, and talent to help create the next generation of fundraising professionals.



The first answer is coaching. Callers will evolve if we take the time to train them well and coach them. That’s how young professionals grow. Natural skills only go so far. There’s always room for improvement, and we need to make sure we are helping our students continue to fine-tune those important skills they are developing. Our survey also found that returning callers enjoy the challenge quite a bit and find it significantly easier over time, so investing in caller retention with money and time is very valuable.


The second way we can grow student callers as leaders is to let them lead. Many programs have structured lead caller or student supervisor positions. These should be given to students who excel, are entrepreneurial, and passionate about the cause. These leadership positions add another dimension of transferrable skills such as management, coaching, motivation, statistical analysis, among many others. Outside of the phonathon, some larger institutions like Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan have created formal internship programs for those interested in fundraising and higher education development. It’s time for more institutions to step up and help provide opportunities to not only educate our students on potential careers for them in our industry, but to also have more opportunities to have students be a part of our teams. As we all know, fundraising positions involve odd hours, a constant eye toward metrics, and a real love for the institution. Our student fundraisers embody those traits, and providing student caller’s advancement opportunities could be key to ending the increasing turnover in fundraising positions.

That’s what happened to me. I had great coaching, and mentors who took an interest in me and helped me decide that this was a career path through experience and leadership opportunities. They weren’t always easy on me, but they made an investment, and I’m grateful for it.

It’s about a lot more than recruiting fundraisers. It was also great to see that 94% of student callers say that they are more likely to give back to their alma mater after being a phonathon fundraiser.

The next generation of donors and fellow fundraisers are dialing the phone in your call center tonight. Do you know who they are?

To learn more about the results of our recent student phonathon caller survey, visit our Developing Our Phonathon Callers with Challenge and Support page to download the white paper.

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