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Articles: Fundraising

It was Capital University against Wittenberg University, neighboring Ohio schools. Purple against red. Crusaders against Tigers.

In spring 2014, officials at each of the institutions engaged with young alumni through the Gold Cup Challenge. And when the competition ended in June, Capital won bragging rights, with 2,037 points—one for each new young alumni donor compared to the previous fiscal year.

Here's how colleges and universities are using social media to connect with alumni.

If you build it, they will come. Your alumni are already Facebooking, tweeting and linking in, in ever-increasing numbers. Colleges and universities are taking advantage of this activity to launch and grow robust social networks of graduates that strengthen alumni engagement, boost volunteerism and stimulate giving.

Michael Silton is the executive director of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund.

Over the last 30 years, the number of college courses teaching entrepreneurship has increased by 95 percent, reflecting an intense demand by U.S. college students.

However, in a survey by Entrepreneur magazine, half of students polled reported that lack of resources was their main reason for not creating startups. And the Young Entrepreneur Council found that nearly three-fourths of college students claim they have no access to on-campus entrepreneurial resources.

A single transformational gift can spark unprecedented momentum and result in record-shattering donations to a college or university—as officials at Baylor University in Texas know well.

In early 2012, alumnus Drayton McLane Jr. and his family kicked off donor support for an ambitious $260 million on-campus football stadium. At the time it was the largest capital gift in university history (amount undisclosed).

The University of Puget Sound has received a series of bitcoin donations.

The University of Puget Sound in February became the first higher ed institution to accept a gift of digital currency, when alumnus Nicolas Cary gave the Washington school 14.5 bitcoins—equal to $10,000.

Bringing a shopping cart experience to online donors so they can give to multiple areas but only check out once is a big step for institutional advancement offices to make. Yet, as involved a project as that is, there are always enhancements that can be made to the shopping cart itself and to other areas of the giving website. Here are 15 ideas and actions worth modeling:

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.

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