Thursday, January 26, 2012

Let data drive your strategic stewardship bus!

Recently at the CASE I and II combined conference, I had lunch with some amazing colleagues from a small private college who were trying to manage their excitement over new ideas with the overwhelming expectations of success in a development environment. One can give many answers when someone asks, "Where do I start?”. For me, the beginning always lies in the data; something that I think for many people is an afterthought, a measure of ROI instead of the driving factor for their strategy. Data should be at the beginning and at the core of everything we do. I often ask people about their data, tell me how many reports you send, how many letters you write, how many scholarship funds do you steward, usually these answers for most professionals are burned into their memories. But if I dig even below the surface, the ground becomes much muddier. How many consecutive donors of ten or more years do you have? How many donors are in your giving societies? What is your current retention rate from year 1 to 2, year 2 to 3? I am often met with blank stares and replies of, should I know that?? If you don't know some basic numbers and analyze what they mean for you and your program, how can you build an effective strategy??

So here are a short list of reports you can have pulled so you can analyze the data and determine how it affects your strategy, or have you even considered some of these items??? I recommend all of these reports be pulled looking at the last 5 years...
1. Pull a giving pyramid report, how many donors at each level do you have? Does yours look like a pyramid, a sombrero, an hourglass, or a space needle?? There are strategies for each shape, just like clothing... Ha ha!
2. How many donors do you have giving consecutively for 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years?? These are great people who are under stewarded and make wonderful planned giving prospects. A note here for your data team, pull by calendar year, not fiscal, most of these donors don't know or care about our calendars.
3. How many first time donors did you have last year? What did you do for them?
4. What is your retention rate from year 1 to 2? 2 to 3?? Where is your drop off?? How do you help?
5. Break out your donors by the method in which they give? How many give online, direct mail, phonathon? Then target your stewardship in their preferred medium of communication...
6. For those of you in higher education there are three essential reports: A. pull a list of your married alumni... Sounds simple, but have you done it? B. pull a list of folks that have earned more than one degree from your institution and finally, C. Pull a list of those who have undergraduate degrees vs graduate degrees with their giving histories... This one will astonish you!
7. Find out how many people with email addresses you have, a raw percentage, if it is under 50% you have work to do, over 75%, you're my hero!!!
8. Event attendance: people who attend events are engaged and more likely to give! Who are these folks? Are our events strategic? Or are we just getting the same folks over and over? There are some people that will attend the opening if a door if there's free food… Lol

So about now your brains are churning and you're forwarding this to your data team in a curtly worded email along the lines of..."how come we don't do this?" or "I need all of these by end of business today!"


Our data folks are our friends, and just like the facilities staff, are our secret weapons for success! Meet with them, bake them brownies (techies love sugar), take them to lunch, and THEN show them this post... Most will get really excited, some will give an audible sigh, and some will even knock your socks off by saying, "I have all of those, I was waiting for someone to ask me for them!" You will be a genius!! So firm a partnership and work through these reports with them, forming bonds over gaps in the data, they will tell you how you can help them, you'll learn a great deal, and it will be a win win proposition... And if you hear the fateful words, "it's not possible!" call or email me and we can work on making forward progress for you together, better yet, have your data folks call me! Once you have all of this data gold mining done, it is up to YOU to analyze it, build strategies and partnerships and learn how to change those numbers more positive in the future. Need help? I'm a phone call, email, or comment away... I look forward to hearing from you!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Digital Donor Recognition!

Recently, I installed my very first digital donor recognition piece here at YU. It was a fascinating process and a whirlwind of donor relations fun... Here are a few photos and things I learned along the way!
It all began with the fundraiser and the director of alumni relations coming to me and saying they needed a plaque... Well since I have a firm aversion to plaques... See previous post here... I called a meeting to investigate.
As we sat across a conference room table, I asked a couple of key questions: 1. Who's paying? Turns out a donor set aside $25k of their gift for this purpose. 2. Where us it going to go? The gym. 3. Has anyone told athletics? blank stares 4. How is a listing on a plaque going to tell a story? Blank states again 5. What if a captain we didn't know about surfaces? ... Well you get my drift...
So, brilliant (and I mean that in a sarcastic manner) mind that I am, I said, What about a digital recognition display??? ... Blank stares... Then... What would that do?? Aha!! Lightbulb moment! It can play videos, tell stories, have text, audio, listing of captains, message from the President, photos, history of the program, and even donor recognition for those who contribute to the scholarship fund in honor of the coach!! As I see the eyes light up across the room and the wheels begin to spin, I realize I might have gotten in over my head... How much will this cost?? I had no clue.
So a plan was set forth, fundraiser would obtain donors, I would get three quotes from vendors, and alumni would start gathering ideas. One minor thing; we had never done anything remotely digital, and boy do we love our Brass plaques... It would be a dynamic change and perhaps would take some convincing. After receiving three bids from vendors I met through ADRP, we had another meeting, this time with athletics at the table. The range of bids was astounding and we began to narrow the field based on functionality, deadline, customer service, and price.

In addition to our digital piece we worked with our communications department to design a colorful Background with images that corresponded. Then we sought approval from the funding donor who loved the idea! After an approval if our VP, the process began in earnest. It is important to note here that each person on the team had an assigned role, from content, to event for the revealing, etc. I served as overall project manager and found it to be a thought provoking and challenging exercise coordinating everyone from facilities, IT, vendors, communications, athletics, and others as needed. The great thing about digital recognition is that it can be changed at any time, if there is a mistake, an omission, more robust content and greater lists of donors, it can all be changed easily!! Once the background arrived it was mounted and the next day the piece was mounted and tested... After many nervous moments it came to life! I am really happy with the results, and the donors are as well. I hope you like the photos and if you have any questions, want to stop by and see it or just chat about your experience, let me know… And look forward to me presenting on this topic soon at a conference near you!