RuffaloCODY Your goals. Our passion. Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:10:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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6 Ways to Advance Your Career as a Fundraiser Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:58:46 +0000 Where are you headed?

It’s an important question to be asking. To be better fundraisers, we need to make a commitment to our own personal advancement. As you think about what you’ll do next as a fundraiser, here are some important things to consider:

Channel Surf

If you’re managing a phonathon, try to talk with or help the direct mail expert at your institution. Start a young alumni or student philanthropy program. Writing email solicitations, managing volunteers, or working with the database all require different skills. When you move up in management, you’ll need to know about all of them so you can coach and evaluate your team.

Change the Paradigm

If you’re in the annual fund, you might want to consider a leadership, major gift, or prospect research position. Those of us who have done both can tell you that there are some common skills, but the daily work is very different. Most people see the route up in fundraising through bigger gifts, but we are experiencing a real shortage of experienced annual giving and advancement services professionals and there are some incredible advancement opportunities to be found by staying in or going back to annual giving work.

Network and Attend Conferences

Most growth opportunities come from personal connections. If you’re buried in your work and haven’t had a chance to take advantage of what organizations like AFP or CASE have to offer, it’s time to get involved. There are probably local lunchtime opportunities if budget is an issue. Don’t forget to join us at our annual RuffaloCODY Conference.  Stay tuned for details to come!

Get (Another) Degree

There are now over 25 master’s degree programs in philanthropy and some world-class certificate and doctoral programs. Many offer an online or hybrid option. Learning from experts and fellow fundraisers in an intense degree program will expand your knowledge quickly.

Get Certified

If you have five years of direct fundraising experience, you can consider going through the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) process. You can begin your application and track your progress at no cost immediately. If you’re already a CFRE, consider the ACFRE program through AFP.


If there is a small nonprofit in your community meeting a need that matches your passion, then they would probably love to have a volunteer or board member with professional fundraising experience. This will give you a fundraising perspective outside your current job and hone the skill of working with limited resources.

Fundraising is a fun and exciting field with a variety of challenging opportunities.  The key to your career as a fundraiser is developing yourself as a lifelong learner.  If you have any questions about any of the opportunities here, feel free to contact us.  We would love to hear from you!

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How Online Giving is a Lot Like Online Dating Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:55:22 +0000 heart_ethernet_cableA recent survey revealed that over 41 million adult Americans had tried or are currently using an online dating service. I’ve been happily married for over 15 years, but I can’t even count how many of my friends have met someone they are still with through online dating. Meeting and building relationships online is very common these days.

Online giving is also growing rapidly. I thought it might be interesting to see how the advice out there about online dating might apply to our efforts to build a relationship with donors and encourage online gifts. Here are 7 common tips I found about online dating and how they apply to online giving.

1) Figure out what service is best for you.

As you consider an online giving portal or updating your existing one, you want to make it as easy as possible for donors to complete a gift with the fewest number of “clicks.” Don’t require “registration.” You want the look and feel of the online form to be professional and as frictionless as possible. Integrating with your larger organization’s existing providers might also save you some fees and startup costs.

If you are taking the plunge into charitable crowdfunding, which definitely requires robust online giving, you want a service that integrates with your own online payment portal so the charges are coming from your institution. We love Scalefunder, but do your own research and ask questions about how the gifts are finalized and appear on credit card statements.

The appearance of your institution’s name on a donor’s credit or debit card transaction statement is a key step in establishing a lifetime giving relationship with them.

2) Keep yourself safe.

The comparable rule for online giving is simple: you need to make sure that every section of your online giving program, including gifts entered from solicitations like your phonathon, is secure and PCI compliant. These regulations change pretty regularly, and you need to make sure that someone at your institution and all your vendors are on top of them. While you can construct a great campaign, donor cultivation disappears if you have a security issue.

There is nothing worse that can happen for your donor relations than a data breach.

3) Make your “profile” attention-grabbing and accessible.

give_button_keyboardThere should definitely be a “give” button on your home page. Over 65% of givers have reported to responding to a direct mail appeal by giving online. You really won’t know in the coming years what drove donors to your online portal, so you need to be ready to embrace them with the same quality you put into all your appeals.

Also, it is a very good idea to accept every possible payment option. This is a donor-centric decision, and while some of the credit card options may cost you more in fees, you certainly don’t want a donor to turn away because you don’t accept the card they have just pulled out of their wallet.

I’m not suggesting you have to take the BitCoin plunge, but you should accept American Express.

4) Post great and current photos.

justin_beiberThis is one tip that hits home all too often. Most organizations are great about updating their home pages. Giving pages often get missed because “changing the pictures is too hard.” If you have pictures on your giving pages, make sure they get the regular changes that the rest of your website sees. Keep in mind that through a web search or a link you send them, givers are likely to land right on your giving portal—in fact, it may be the “front door” and deserves as much attention as your home page.

If there is a young person with a Justin Bieber haircut in a picture on your online giving page, it’s probably out of date.

5) Tell the Truth.

This is a good reminder that both ethically and as a key donor-centric giving practice, we need to be totally clear about how funds will be used. A certainly level of distrust for bureaucracy and overhead is one reason why we’re seeing more donors designate their gifts. If you support scholarships, say it. If you help students take trips, say it. If you help cover staff costs, go ahead and say it. Annual funds have had incredible impacts for charitable organizations for many years. They also “help keep the lights on.” Donors understand this and should be leveled with.

Make sure your institution speaks and acts with one voice about the use of contributions, or the donor backlash will be big.

6) Have a memorable first date.

If your online donors don’t receive an immediate email confirmation following a gift, they are going to be checking their card transactions to make sure the gift went through. Immediate acknowledgment and follow up via email is just plain expected these days. You should also offer an option for donors to share their gift via social media.

I recently made my first gift online to First Book after meeting a member of their team at AFP. Within seconds, I had a PDF donation receipt and a thank you email, which was followed shortly by an opportunity to dedicate my gift in honor of a student or teacher and one of their impact stories. It was impressive, and I will give again.

Think about making your online giving experience truly top-notch and more than just a transaction.

7) Remember, the goal is a relationship.

It’s important to have a strategy at your organization to identify repeat microgivers, and provide them an opportunity to become more involved. Giving is more than just a transaction, and your stewardship, recognition, and involvement opportunities will confirm that.

We’re acquiring more and more first time donors online, and it’s a good idea for us to be thinking as giving professionals about how we can engage donors who enter through this channel.

These are just a few ways you can say to online donors: “Hey, I’m interesting, and I’m available.”

Who knows, it could be a match made in heaven.

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