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Articles: Fundraising

The idea was simple: Let online donors make multiple gifts with a single checkout. Not long after Randy Brown joined the Michigan State University advancement team as webmaster in 1999, he got assigned this task, which was anything but simple to execute.

“That was sort of his night job,” says Bob Thomas, assistant vice president for advancement marketing and communications. “It was kind of a running joke. We’d talk about it at annual planning meetings.” One year, someone even presented a mini shopping cart at the meeting to Brown as a tangible reminder.

If you still watch TV with commercials, you may have seen an ad recently talking about using data to improve your business—the bakery that mined its sales data to discover that people buy more cake on rainy days, for example. Everybody’s talking about “big data” and “data science,” basically applying sophisticated analytic techniques to large datasets. And one of the things they’re doing is predictive modeling—using historical data to make predictions about the future.

It’s no trade secret that there is a growing trend of colleges using developers to construct student housing. A number of universities, particularly public institutions, are finding it advantageous to work with large real estate developers.

However, based on my years of experience, the advantages of working with private developers go well beyond public universities and construction of student housing.

Americans are increasingly choosing donor-advised funds (DAFs) as their preferred charitable giving vehicle. They have become the fastest growing vehicle in philanthropy, outnumbering private foundations by more than two-to-one. In 2010 (the most recent available data), grantmaking from DAFs totaled more than $6.1 billion.

Whether it’s facing a modest or mega fundraising campaign, or an institution is between campaigns, having the most effective person leading the advancement effort is important for success. But, until now, there’s been little research on the characteristics of an effective chief advancement officer.


As any administrator with presidential aspirations knows, fundraising goes along with the institution-leading territory.


It’s a fact that Webster University (Mo.) President Beth J. Stroble knows well. “When I arrived in the summer of 2009, one of my goals was to successfully close the campaign,” she says of “Webster Works,” which concluded about $1.5 million beyond its $55 million goal.


Loyola Marymount University’s dreams and ambitions included the $64 million William H. Hannon Library, which opened in 2009, thanks to campaign donors, and houses more than 500,000 volumes.

A couple of years into the initial, silent phase of Loyola Marymount University’s fundraising campaign, Dennis Slon stepped into his role as senior vice president for university relations and the chair of the board of trustees confided something about the campaign’s $300 million goal. The previous campaign had finished in 1997 and raised $144 million. So when the board first discussed more than doubling that goal this time, “there was a lot of intake of breath,” Slon explains.

An Atlas of Giving report reveals that the education sector was the strongest for charitable giving in 2011. The sector received $54.30 billion in 2011, an increase of 9.8 percent over 2010 when donors gave $49.44 billion. Education still falls in second place to religious charities, with education accounting for 16 percent of total giving in 2011 and religion at 36 percent.

SPSU

Advancement officials at Southern Polytechnic State University (Ga.) had both practical and aspirational reasons to reconsider how it ran its faculty/staff annual giving campaign. From a practical standpoint, designing and printing packets filled with a promotional postcard, sheets listing accounts and giving incentives, a pledge card, a return envelope, and labels for each of the university’s nearly 850 faculty and staff was costly. Not to mention, printing, stuffing, and distributing these packets took valuable human resources department time.

California Lutheran University and the City of Thousand Oaks grew up together. California Lutheran College was officially incorporated on Aug. 4, 1959, five years before the city incorporated. CLU is just finishing a wonderful celebration of its first 50 years. And the same birthday is coming up for Thousand Oaks.

Who are you and how did you find us? That's what admissions officers at colleges and universities all over the country are asking this year as "stealth applications" proliferate.

In our current economic environment, critical funding for an array of essential entities and institutions has dried up, leaving a momentous gap between budget needs and realities. Universities are certainly no exception to this phenomenon. Even Harvard is feeling the pinch. The university had reported a 30 percent decline in its endowment for the fiscal year ending June 2009.

So the question presents itself: What can universities do to throw out a larger net and create a new class and type of donor? The short answer: sacred spaces.

The economic crisis has dominated the headlines since September 2008 and taken its toll on individuals and institutions alike. Few have been immune to the effects of a volatile stock market, low interest rates, rising unemployment, tight credit markets, and plunging real estate values.

WHEN IT BECOMES HARDER TO raise funds and the notion of success is coming up with just 90 percent of last year's revenues, fundraisers must get smarter--by better understanding their donors and the different tools and approaches to connecting with them. Colleges and universities of all sizes now have the opportunity to influence and motivate a new generation of donors and get them in the "habit of giving," but it's an uphill climb. The competition for every second of attention and each dollar is frenetic.

It's too early to prescribe a tried-and-true methodology for meeting Donor 3.0 actively. There's still much change and experimentation happening, and each college or university will have to tailor its strategy to the peculiarities of that community. But laying a strategic groundwork will help cut through the hype, navigate among options, and recognize (even create) new, less obvious opportunities.

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