“A fundraiser’s job is NOT to raise the most money they can…”: Takeaways from CASE V 2019 in Chicago

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ALUMinate team at CASE V

In December, we served as a sponsor at the CASE District V Annual Conference 2019 in Chicago. While there, we attended sessions and asked professionals in advancement what’s on their minds as we enter 2020. Here are our main takeaways from CASE V 2019: 

Takeaway 1: What REALLY motivates major donors? It might be time to rethink our entire approach. 

We all know the traditional approach to prospect research: 

Wealth Screening + Engagement Indicators = Likelihood of Giving 

In the pursuit of better identifying engagement indicators, we conducted a survey last fall that asked, “What are the best indicators that an alum is willing to make a gift of $25,000 or more?”

We wanted to know which categories advancement professionals think best predict that an alum is on a path to making a significant gift. Each respondent ranked traditional indicators (see the list of indicators below) on a scale of 1-6, with 1 being the lowest indicator of engagement and 6 being the highest indicator of engagement. Forty advancement professionals responded. 

Here were the aggregated results of our Finding Donors on the Path to Give Survey:

Respondents ranked each indicator on a scale of 1-6, with 6 being those most likely to indicate than an alum is wiling to make a considerable gift.

These results confirmed our predictions: most fundraisers and development professionals view the main indicators that an alum is ready to make a major gift as 1) frequency and recency of giving, 2) volunteer leadership or board membership, and 3) consistent and considerable giving to their institution.

But what other factors about a prospect donor should we consider? Our survey respondents are aware of the factors above, but we know that many institutions still miss major prospects every year. What, in our rush to embrace and refine this traditional approach, might we be missing? 

While at CASE V, we hosted a working group with practitioners from a number of prominent institutions. In this session, we discussed how the next generation of data analytics is developing a deeper understanding of the motivations of major donors. 

In 2020, we’re going to be releasing pioneering research in this area. To be the first to access that research, join our Research Consortium today. It’s free and access is instant!

Takeaway 2: The problem is not a lack of solutions.

ALUMinate Team at CASE V

One thing that’s evident from the CASE V Engagement Hall: dozens of technology companies and consulting firms offer compelling solutions to advancement services and fundraising. 

These days, most schools are in some stage of transition with their CRM or they’re testing new tools or partnerships. But, as I heard from several CASE V participants, having more (or new) tools doesn’t automatically mean institutions are fundraising more effectively or better meeting the needs of donors. 

Here are some common challenges schools are experiencing as they try out new tools or partnerships:

The solution doesn’t fit with or enhance the culture and mission of the institution. 
There is buy-in at the top level only.
The solution doesn’t directly address the issues frontline fundraisers are facing. 
Staff don’t feel adequately trained or invited to provide input during the transition to a new solution.
The solution doesn’t demonstrate clear ROI or increased efficiency.

So, what makes ALUMinate different? We aren’t a platform or CRM company. Instead, we provide our clients with easy-to-understand and easy-to-use solutions that provide the most accurate, matched, and enriched prospect and donor profiles possible by using over 75 individual data indicators of capacity and inclination. Our partitioned CSV files for individual data indicators easily sync with any CRM, eliminating much of the manual labor traditionally required to load updates and appends, saving your team valuable time.  

Even though we offer data solutions for advancement services, our services are grounded in research and paired with a human touch. Our clients receive in-person or live video consultations, a comprehensive data dictionary of over 100 unique insights, and actionable data visualizations.

Takeaway 3: Social listening is important for alumni and donor engagement.

Current students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors—these are your institution’s audiences. And they’re talking about your school whether you’re a part of the conversation or not! 

Hootsuite defines social listening as a two-step process:

First, you monitor social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, product, and any keywords relevant to your business.
Next, you analyze that information and look for ways to put what you learn into action. Taking action might mean something as simple as responding to a happy customer or something as huge as shifting your overall brand positioning.

Social listening isn’t just for businesses. We believe it’s a best practice in alumni and donor engagement as well. Through social listening, you can learn what your alumni and donors care about, what their frustrations are, and what changes they want to see happen. It’s also a tool to help you meet their needs and address their frustrations. 

Read my four insights on how to better communicate with major donors and prospects.

Through social listening you can: 

Track the success of specific initiatives, like a capital campaign or scholarship fund. 
Promote an event in real-time. 
Find and recruit leaders and ambassadors (regional or digital). 
Monitor changes in how your audiences feel about specific aspects or initiatives of the institution. 
Clue into events that impact your audiences and your institution’s reputation as they unfold. 
Build authentic relationships with alumni and donors through responsiveness.
Enhance, clarify, or grow your institution’s story and identity. 

Want to design a social listening and data analytics plan for 2020? Unsure of how to take action with data you’ve already gathered? ALUMinate can help. Contact Lola today to learn about our training, consulting, and regional solutions.

Takeaway 4: “A fundraiser’s job is NOT to raise the most money they can for their organization or institution.” 

Instead, a fundraiser’s job is to protect the reputation of the organization or institution that they represent. 

That piece of wisdom came from Mary Fanning, Data, Operations, and Systems Manager at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, during her CASE V session: “Red Flags: Ethical and Legal Considerations in Donor Prospecting.” 

Mary’s session, which focused on donor prospecting and gift acceptance policies, was grounded in the earlier stages of donor engagement. But it got me thinking about how fundraisers can apply this thinking to donor stewardship.

How do advancement professionals continue to protect the reputation of the institution after the gift has been made? 

I once heard from a development officer at a large public institution on the East Coast that the endowed principal from several major gifts hadn’t been spent in nearly a decade. Not only that—their advancement department wasn’t sending regular stewardship reports on all endowed funds! 

Imagine how the donors who made these gifts would feel upon learning their funds were just sitting there, unused. How an institution actively uses a donor’s gift and how they report that impact (even if the gift was made over a decade ago) shapes the institution’s reputation. 

High-impact advancement officers ensure that major gifts are being used in thoughtful, timely ways, and they report back to the donor before being prompted to do so. Want more tips for donor stewardship best practices? Check our popular stewardship webinar on how to address donors’ toughest questions. Free for Consortium members!

The ALUMinate team wishes you an amazing 2020!

We hope you found these takeaways helpful. We’re excited to bring you all new research and tools in 2020, including cutting edge research about what motivates a major donor will give. Happy New Year from the ALUMinate team!

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