RuffaloCODY Your goals. Our passion. Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:29:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In College Football, Do Big Wins and Losses Immediately Impact Non-Donor Phonathon Results? Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:03:07 +0000 bcs_footballLabor Day weekend marks the opening of the 2014 college football season.  For many colleges and universities in the United States, football Saturdays are some of the most visible days of the entire year and can provide a common rallying opportunity for all alumni, regardless of whether he or she is a big sports fan.

But does a win or loss immediately impact phonathon results?

Several of our regular RuffaloCODY fundraising bloggers have strong affinities to major college football (including one who used to work within collegiate athletics), so we decided to run some stats to find out.

We investigated non-donor calling stats for:

  • 27 games featuring 10 schools representing 5 different conferences that were ranked in last year’s final BCS top 25
  • We identified major wins (excluding bowls) and major losses (excluding bowls) for each of those 10 schools.  Priority for wins and losses was based on a school’s top rivals, opponent’s ranking, and direct impact on conference and national rankings.
  • Stats were run for Sundays during the 2013 college football season (September 1-December 15, 2013), both overall and immediately following the “big wins” and “big losses.”
  • We evaluated 24,277 contacts (conversations), 2,977 pledges and $284,880 total pledge dollars.

Pledge Rate: It seems counterintuitive, but the calling on those Sundays after a loss enjoyed higher pledge rates than the fall average over 75% of the time.  Wins resulted in higher pledge rates over the average pledge rate only 47% of the time.bcs_football

bcs_football2Average Pledge:  While the average pledge is higher after a win, 58% of the time the average gift exceeded the overall fall average gift after a loss.  Only 40% of wins resulted in higher average gift versus the overall fall average.



What does it all mean?

1. Alumni may love their football, but they also can separate the final score on Saturday from the need to support their institution.

2. While the average gift may vary, you’re not going to see a major impact from wins or losses on dollars raised from your non-donors

3. Enjoy the game this weekend and don’t fret about the impact on your phonathon on Sunday.

Co-authored by Josh Robertson and Mike Brucek.

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Good News from the CASE Fundraising Index Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:37:13 +0000 CASE-FI-graph-tnWe have some good news from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. The CASE Fundraising Index, a survey of fundraising leaders, estimated that giving to higher education grew by 5.4% during the past fiscal year ending June 30. This matches the trend reported by Giving USA earlier this year.

Fundraisers at community colleges reported the largest gains, coming in at a 7.2% increase.

According to the survey, fundraisers at public institutions predict growth of 6.1% in the coming year, with private institution fundraisers predicting 5.5% growth. It’s great to see this upward trend and strong confidence as we move out of the recession which has hindered many of our programs.


As I’ve described before we still have a lot of ground to make up with a decline in alumni donors. That’s still declining, and many institutions are expending new resources to attract the younger generations of donors.

Read the full press release here.

And if you’re not a CASE member, strongly consider joining this incredible group of higher education advancement professionals.

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Thanks to the 500+ Who Attended Our Aligning Experts Summit July 21-23 in Chicago. / /#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 02:07:46 +0000 Many thanks to the more than 500 who attended our Aligning Experts Summit July 21-23 in Chicago. Stay tuned for more information about our 2015 conference! ]]> /feed/ 0 How an Ice Bucket Is Changing My Vocabulary Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:08:51 +0000 ice_bucket_challenge_ssI just sat down with my daughter and explained to her that if she is going to put a video of her friends dumping ice water on themselves in the backyard, after she dries off, she can tell me where to send a donation. I told her that we would talk a little more about how serious a disease ALS is over dinner tonight and how this all started. Then I found her a bucket and asked her to keep her phone dry.

When I present on donor behavior I remind people that while we have an incredible array of ways to stay in touch with supporters, Americans are giving less to fewer charities. According to the 2013 VSE Report, higher education alumni donors have declined significantly over the last ten years. I like to remind myself:

A “like” is not a check.

A “click” is not a gift.

A “friend” is not a funder.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is revolutionary because it mixes social media, celebrity, a little peer pressure, an important cause and finally, action – in this case, the action of dumping really cold water on your head and making a video. The hope would be that supporters would take action to give as well.

They sure have given. Over $15 million by some estimates, with $10 million directly to

The Challenge has generated plenty of commentary and cautionary warnings. The way I look at it, people doing goofy (but safe) things in the name of a good cause is great, provided the donations are coming in. All of this leads to a greater philanthropic public consciousness, which can only help our mission as fundraisers.

Higher Education has had its versions of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” over the past few years: Giving Days, Alumni Challenges, Crowdfunding, all geared toward getting a group of people to donate in a small time frame. The best of these have a strong social networking presence.

Unfortunately, when I’m talking with an institution about a potential challenge, some things I commonly hear are:

“If we do that, my concern is that we won’t be able to renew those donors next year.”

“Well, if they give to that, our other appeals will suffer.”

Hold up. Full stop. That’s not very donor-centric thinking. If we have a tool in our box that will encourage people to take action and make a gift, we should use it. It’s on us to show the impact of the giving, show gratitude, and follow up to convince donors to contribute again.

“Renewable and “Unrestricted.” Those are two powerful words in the world of Annual Giving. They form the bedrock upon which an annual fund stands, and have been the operating paradigm for many years. Reliable support from a donor base that you can work into the budget is the reason annual funds exist.

As we embrace new tactics that show incredible promise in getting our donors to take action, these two terms might need to be redefined.

“Renewable” might involve doing similar great things to attract at least that many donors next year, many of which should return to give again.

“Unrestricted” might start to mean continuing to fund the sort of things you’ve always funded but offering them to donors in new ways.

Consider this crowdfunding example at University of California, San Francisco.

This is incredible creative and action-driven packaging for something the annual fund at this great institution has supported forever. Research is what they do—they’re just offering  the opportunity and leveraging social networks in a new way – a way that will resonate particularly with the youngest generations.

It’s time for us to more quickly embrace tactics that encourage donors to act. Giving is what we ask of donors, however the gift comes in. Working out how we count the gifts and plan for the future is our responsibility.

I’m headed to go get my bucket. And my credit card.

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Thoughts and Highlights from the 2014 Giving USA Report Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:03:55 +0000 Giving-USA-Report-2014The Giving USA: 2014 Annual Report on Philanthropy, the publication that reports the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States, was released just over a month ago.  Within the report was some very good news.  Some of the highlights include…

  • Overall US charitable giving rose by 4.4% in 2014 to $335 billion.
  • There was a 4.2% increase by individuals, which makes those of us organizing annual funds very happy.
  • There was an 8.7% increase in bequests, which helps fuel our optimism about “The Great Wealth Transfer” as we move out of the recession.
  • There was a -1.9% decrease in giving from corporations, which didn’t surprise too many people.
  • An excellent +8.9% increase in giving to education makes those of us helping colleges and universities feel great.
  • The Report indicates that in education, alumni led the charge for the increase.

It’s been a good year for benchmarks, with a little caution advised.  Last October, The Chronicle of Philanthropy “Philanthropy 400” recorded a 4% increase at the nation’s largest charities in 2012. These mega-charities report that they expect no increase when the final tallies are made for 2013.

While most of the colleges and universities reporting to the VSE survey in 2013 said that dollars were up, a large majority – 951 schools – reported in both 2012 and 2013 said that alumni donors were down.

It’s great to see the dollars rebound as we move further out of the recession. A big question remains:  how we will bring our donor rolls back up to historic levels and rebuild the pipeline of annual giving to major gifts, particularly with young donors?

We’ve been talking a lot as a nation about widening income gaps. That conversation parallels a national conversation on burgeoning student debt, access and student success. We need to take care as we move further out of the recession to pay attention to the “dollars up, donors down” phenomenon and make sure we’re taking full advantage of new opportunities to include everyone in giving. A healthy base that contains loyal, new and mega-donors has always been the key to fundraising success.

We used to call it a donor pyramid. It’s time to start thinking of our donors as a family, where everyone is encouraged and inspired to participate.

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Lessons from the DMA Nonprofit Breakthrough Fundraising Conference Thu, 14 Aug 2014 18:24:57 +0000 DMA_breakthrough_fundraisingLast week, I had the pleasure of attending the DMA Nonprofit Breakthrough Fundraising Conference.  I wanted to better understand the key issues that nonprofits outside of higher education are facing and what they are doing to tackle those issues.  I thought everyone might like to hear about a few of the consistent themes from the conference.

Testing, Testing, Testing

For those in higher ed fundraising, if you think you want to “test something” this year, know that your nonprofit colleagues are testing all the time.  Whether you consider testing gift arrays (look out for our white paper in the next couple weeks), letter package design or changes to your online giving page, there is great value in testing to learn more about your constituents and what inspires them to give with the goal of optimizing your results.

Get Ready for the Holidays

While every year it seems our favorite stores start stocking holiday items earlier and earlier, fundraisers should take heed.  August is the time to start reviewing your direct mail results from last year, formulating your timelines, developing your copy and design, and setting your plans in motion.  It’s also time to think about how your phonathon can help “break through the noise” during the holidays when direct mail and email volumes are peaking.

MC Integration

My beliefs and observations from the higher ed market were confirmed in session after session.  There is no perfect integrated plan, everyone wants to move toward integration to improve results and better communicate with their audience, but everyone struggles with how to do it.  Understanding channel influence and the need to look at your results holistically were key points with multiple illustrations on how a solicitation via one channel can drive revenue toward another.  Drawing conclusions by analyzing the response rate or ROI for individual appeals can be misleading at best.

Regular Giving

The idea of regular or recurring gifts was one that gained a lot of attention, with several nonprofits sharing how they are using all their channels to convert donors to give on a recurring basis.  We all understand some of the challenges with recurring giving, but the bottom line is that there is a lot of opportunity and much that can be learned from nonprofits that have been promoting this for years.

I would encourage all of you to start thinking about the topics above and ask your staff the following questions:

1) What meaningful tests are we conducting this year, and how we will measure the results?

2) Do we fully understand how our holiday appeals performed last year and how all our channels are working together to maximize year end giving?

3) Have we analyzed how our channels are influencing each other?

4) How could regular giving positively impact our fundraising efforts?

P.S. Be on the lookout for additional blog posts and white papers on these topics over the next couple months.

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