|Bob's Latest Annual Giving Departures|
As we like to say in annual giving, "may each year be better than the last." And so it's our wish to you for 2005, too. Here's to another year of fundraising success...
Robert Burdenski Annual Giving is pleased to welcome several new clients, including Gustavus Adolphus College, the University of San Diego, Susquehanna University and St. John's University (MN).
In the coming months we'll be presenting at CASE 1, CASE 2, the Annual Giving Director's Consortium, AFP Milwaukee, the Utah Society of Fund Raising Professionals, the MAC Development Conference, and the Meeting of the Minds West Coast Annual Giving Conference. (All speaking engagement details are available via the link at the bottom of this page.)
Also on the travel calendar is the 2005 CASE Assembly in Miami Beach, FL, where Bob's second CASE book, More Innovations in Annual Giving, will officially be unveiled. Hope to see you somewhere!
I visit lots of annual giving programs around mid- year, and when I ask if the program is on track to reach its year-end goals, I'm often told that the staff is going to work hard to try and reach them.
That's commendable enough, but working hard doesn't always equate with working smart. The truth is, many annual giving programs have little idea about whether or not they're going to hit their goal. Sometimes they lack the reports, sometimes they lack the strategies. The program adjustments that might help the bottom line need to be made now -- not in May or June!
Robert Burdenski Annual Giving offers a special mid- year program "check-up" specifically for reviewing and considering year-end fundraising strategies. A special phonathon mid-year review and re-training is also available. Let us know if we can help plan YOUR successful "stretch run."
The man behind the oft-discussed U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Ben Wildavsky, recently spoke on campus at Vanderbilt University, discussing his publication's approach to covering education and teaching, as well as the magazine's system for ranking colleges.
"There have been few more momentous events in our lifetime than the introduction of college rankings by U.S. News & World Report," said Michael Schoenfeld, Vanderbilt's Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs.
Responding to criticism that the rating system puts too much importance on inputs rather than outputs, Wildavsky said that they do use many outputs, such as reputation surveys, graduation rate and retention rate. Retention, worth 20 to 25 percent, is composed of two parts, the six-year graduation rate and freshman retention rate.
Faculty resources, worth 20 percent of the ranking score, measures teaching conditions for faculty and faculty members' qualifications. Teaching conditions become apparent as the proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students, the proportion with 50 or more students and faculty salary, including benefits. Three components measuring faculty qualifications are the percentage of professors with the highest degree in their field, the student-faculty ratio and the proportion of faculty who are full-time.
Financial resources of the college, weighted at 10 percent, is reflected as spending per student. The graduation rate of performance, worth 5 percent, is calculated as the difference between a school's 6 year-graduation rate that entered 6 years ago and the currently predicted rate. The rate of alumni giving, calculated by the average percentage of alumni who gave to their school during the past two years, rounds out the rankings with a weight of 5 percent.
Ray Schmitz not only learned to play Northwestern's Alma Mater on his saxophone at band camp, but he also met his close group of college friends -- and his future wife. As a member of Northwestern University Marching Band, Schmitz, Weinberg '89, found a social network that he says endured beyond graduation. At every home football game, Schmitz, his wife and their children sit with other NUMB alumni who have season tickets.
"Being involved in the band made us feel like we were part of the school in a real way," said Patty Dowd Schmitz, Medill '89, Ray's wife. Students often make strong connections, whether in NUMB or other campus organizations, that go beyond graduation. Recently many student groups have taken the initiative to build connections with the alumni community.
"Smaller groups absolutely contribute to the sense of belonging," said sociology Prof. Gary Fine. "This enables students to feel bigger ties so Northwestern isn't so isolating."
When Jarrod Zimmerman starts to reflect on his NU experience, he thinks about the past three years' worth of late-night rehearsals putting together the Waa-Mu Show, a student theater revue. "I'm not going to say I will remember Waa-Mu and not Northwestern," said Zimmerman, a Communication senior. "But NU to me is Waa-Mu." Though students usually are in college for only four years, sometimes their connection to a particular student group lasts a lifetime.
How do you decide if it's been a good year, or a bad year in alumni relations? For many schools, it's tricky to measure. Do we count the number of people who come to events, and what if they're often the same people at every event?
Presented at the CASE Assembly in 2004, the University of Portland's alumni involvement rating scale is a good attempt at answering an old question: How do we measure alumni affinity? The scale awards varying numbers of points for a variety of ways alumni can "engage," from updating their email to attending their reunion.
The scale is a good attempt at quantifying a difficult- to-measure goal, and will provide the advancement staff with a quick read on who's really showing their affinity for the university.
I have yet to see any firm data that examines the specific fundraising value of emailed "flash" video appeals, but institutions are having an awful lot of fun (and demonstrating a whole lot of creativity) designing them in the meantime.
Here's one that sure seems like a good idea. Davidson College designed a flash appeal targeted specifically at young alumni (the most likely crowd to receive it, and open it). The appeal emphasizes the importance of gifts of any size - an appropriate young alumni marketing message. Finally, its interactive and humerous design is guaranteed to grab and hold the shortest of attention spans.
Give it a look. We'll have flash data one of these days. Until then, enjoy a smile instead.
A hot topic on FundList lately has been successful strategies for encouraging credit card gift payments, particularly through the campus phonathon. Here are some of the best and brightest pieces of advice from FundList readers...
We have increased our credit card rate over the last 5 years from 11% to 25% so far this year by changing the way we ask for credit cards and the emphasis we place in training on credit cards. We train our callers to make a double ask. Plus, we place a huge emphasis on getting credit cards through the games that we play, and it is part of the callers' semester raise. --Deborah L. Schroeder, Assistant Director of Telefund, The University of Dayton
If alumni are concerned about identity threat you can: Provide a 1-800 number for them to call and pay by credit card. Direct them to your online giving site to pay their pledge by credit card. Send a follow-up email to them directing them to your online giving site. --Jennifer Smedes, Pace University
First we have the callers assume that the alum will be giving by credit card, which has seemed to help our number of credit cards. Next, we have the callers tell the alums that their supervisor will confirm the credit card number. It seems to give the alum an added sense of security. Our credit card rate for our Phonathon is currently 11% for the fiscal year, and has increased 2% every year. Interestingly, we have had callers sing our college songs over the phone to alums to assure that we were calling from their alma mater! --Victoria Campbell, Hood College
By simply changing the way you ask for the credit card can have a huge impact on the CC rate. We now ask "Will that be going on your Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express?" By making it sound like we assume it will be going on a credit card and that it is the norm we have seen a lot of alums feel more comfortable about it. If they still say they prefer to mail it in we explain that we ask because it cuts down on over head and the money can go to the students immediately and "with that in mind would you like to put it on a card?" This has caused a significant increase over the last few years and we are somewhere around 13% on CCs. --Gretchen Gilliland, Temple University
At Transy we keep it simple. Once the alum has made their pledge the script goes something like this: "That's great! Thank you so much for your pledge. If you'd like we can go ahead and put your pledge on visa or MasterCard. This way you won't have to think another thing about it and we will send you a receipt in the mail right away." If every caller doesn't ask every time then you are losing potential credit card gifts and if the caller seems cautious about it the prospect might feel the same way. We do not even mention that it is safe and secure unless they ask, which rarely happens. --Michelle Kavanaugh, Transylvania University
Almost half of all college alumni across the nation see affordability as the most important issue for their former schools to address. A national survey of 355 college graduates conducted in December 2004 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation found that 48 percent believe "making college affordable" should be the top- priority for their alma maters. The second-most mentioned issue by alumni was improvement of academic programs (22 percent).
Today's college graduates are faced with average starting salaries that have not kept pace with the debt loads they face. This can not only hinder their giving but also impact whether they believe they are getting a good return on their investment. Older alumni may wonder if their school is doing enough to make college affordable and whether a gift can have any real impact today. Richard Greif, Project Director at Opinion Dynamics, said, "All college alumni have an interest in their alma mater's reputation, and attracting talented students depends on keeping college affordable." He added, "Colleges must communicate to their alumni what they are doing to increase affordability. Colleges cannot lose sight, however, of the need to communicate to their alumni how alumni can and should assist their schools in maintaining the ability to attract the best students."
Nearly a third (31 percent) of the college graduates surveyed said they had made a contribution to their alma mater this past year. Of contributors, an overwhelming majority (85 percent) said they plan on contributing about the same amount next year.
Yearning for a winter getaway in London? Bob will be the featured presenter at a special CASE Europe day-long seminar - the CASE Europe Masterclass on Annual Giving, to be held in London, England on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005. The program will be a follow-up to Bob's standing-room- only appearance at the CASE Europe conference this past September.
The program will include a CASE first, when Bob interviews Gordon Dowell of Kansas State University live via webcam. It's the first known live appearance by a U.S. presenter broadcast to a CASE Europe conference audience.
The program will also feature selected European schools and annual giving programs from Bob's upcoming second CASE book: More Innovations in Annual Giving, and a few U.S. examples and participants from his first book as well. Check the CASE Europe Web site for more information about this upcoming event and registration information.
John Taylor and Bob Burdenski each have their own best-selling CASE books, have their own popular listservs, have "stellar" speaker ratings and have served clients from coast-to-coast.
And now, they have each other.
Burdenski and Taylor are forming a consulting group built on the strength of their combined 40 years of thought leadership in advancement. John is devoting himself full-time to consulting and training after serving several years as Vice President for Research and Data Services for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. They will continue to work from their respective offices in Chicago and Durham, NC.