|Bob's Latest Annual Giving Departures|
Spring is finally in the air in Chicago, and we hope the approaching fiscal year-end finds you in the throes of annual giving fundraising success.
Be sure to check out this week's news (below) from the Council for Aid to Education, which is reporting that schools enjoyed increased giving from individuals in 2004, even as alumni participation apparently dropped.
Bob's recent CASE Europe Annual Funds Masterclass was a sold-out hit, and it's being repeated in London on June 24, 2005. (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.
We're pleased to welcome several new clients, including Pepperdine University, Seattle Pacific Univeristy, the University of California at Riverside, and Wright State University.
We battled the flu and jet lag to participate in some of the best annual giving conferences in the U.S. and Europe over the past few weeks. Here are some of our notes about great ideas and emerging trends:
On-Line Content: If you have online content and nobody knows that it's there, you haven't accomplished a thing. Many schools are aggressively using postcards to encourage alumni to take an online survey, make a gift or use new online services. Keeping contact info accurate is a concern as well, with several schools planning different incentives (update your profile for a free bumper sticker, or have your online gift matched!) to motivate alumni to visit them online.
Cellphones and Area Codes: Cell phone users can now keep their phone number if they move to another time zone. This is wreaking some havoc, especially at west coast phonathons where they're waking up alumni living on the east coast - because the alumni have kept their old west coast area code. Some records offices are now refusing to put cell phone numbers on the database, but they may be the only phones that young alumni have.
International Appeals: Schools that are conducting them report success using a special U.S. postal international business reply envelope. Also, knowing whether alumni are Americans living abroad, or natives of other countries that studied in the U.S. can make a big difference in how they are solicited. Americans, in general, have a greater awareness of annual giving and supporting the alma mater.
Parent/Student Giving: Several schools send notes to students when their parents make an annual fund gift. A number of schools now refer to their senior gift program as "reunion zero" and seek to replicate the class committee structure and timeline that they'll be asked to follow in future reunion years. One school is purposely mixing students and alumni volunteers together for a "thank-a-thon" calling program, and is starting to code students who participate in the calling so they can be identified when they're alumni.
Minority Groups: Several schools commented that differences in minority giving were more a factor of age than ethnicity. Minority alumni who were "trailblazers" when they attended are more likely to have negative memories than minority alumni from more recent classes. The giving challenges with the younger classes are the same for all young alumni - they don't have much money.
Young Alumni Giving: One school has tracked alumni giving and concluded that it's very difficult to increase a class's participation percentage after the 15th anniversary. One resulting strategy: Create more volunteer opportunities for young alumni to become involved, so that more are engaged before they hit the 15th year.
Contributions to colleges and universities in the United States increased by 3.4 percent in 2004, buoyed by a spike in gifts made by individuals, according to an annual survey released March 5 by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) at the RAND Corporation.
Nearly half of the $24.4 billion raised in 2004 came directly from individuals, a 9.7 percent increase over the year before, according to the survey. Though alumni giving is the traditional base of higher education giving, representing between a quarter to almost a third of all voluntary support, alumni giving only grew by 2 percent in 2004. Individuals other than alumni drove personal giving up. Gifts from nonalumni donors increased by 21.5 percent.
"The results indicate that giving to higher education is recovering from the weak performance of the past two years," said Ann E. Kaplan, director of the survey. "This year's survey results also underscore the significance of personal giving in higher education fundraising."
While the total amount of alumni giving increased, the percentage of alumni making gifts declined to 12.8 percent, according to the survey results. The rate has declined each year since 2001, when the percentage stood at 13.8 percent. Total giving by alumni increased in 2004 because of a rise in the value of the average gift, not because more alumni gave to their alma maters.
Kaplan said there are several plausible explanations for the decline in participation. These include better software and methods to clean and maintain address records in university data bases. Since the number of alumni of record is defined as the number of living alumni for which the institution has a good address, such improvements would render the number of alumni of record higher, without necessarily increasing the number of donors.
To get students more involved in the ASU alumni community after graduation, the Alumni Association will be launching an online networking forum in March.
Students will be able to search an online database to explore majors and careers by talking to an ASU alumnus working in the student's field of interest.
"I can see this being a really valuable tool even for people who don't know what they want to do," said Cathie Rubins, director of marketing for the Alumni Association. About half of ASU alumni live outside Arizona, and the new system is intended to help current students tap into that network, Rubins said.
Rubins recently spoke to a few fine arts alumni who moved to New York after graduation and found their first year very difficult. But they are eager to help other alumni make that transition, she added. "What they're really interested in is giving back to people." The new database will run as a partnership between Career Services and the Alumni Association. The association will manage the database, while Career Services will promote the program to students.
Students said the program would be useful and would likely be a success. "I definitely think it's a good idea," said Martin Li, a biochemistry sophomore. "Like me, I'm just searching, and hopefully when I get to the end of my major I'll know what I want to do."
Is it a measure of marketing success for your senior gift program if it becomes the battleground in an otherwise unrelated campus protest?
Harvard students, angered by the university's investment in PetroChina stock, have launched a boycott of the senior gift program in protest. The PetroChina investment angers students because of the company's business ties with the Sudanese government, which as been accused of the genocide of thousands of non-Arab Africans.
The students recognize the prominence of the senior gift program and its influence on alumni. As the Harvard Crimson notes: "If alums find out that students are angry because Harvard is complicit in genocide, they might decide to send their money somewhere else. Though Harvard would never admit a connection, alumni boycotts on donations preceded Harvard's selective divestment from South African assets during the reign of the apartheid government. The Senior Gift may not be a lot of money, but students have a lot of power if they are willing to put their money where their mouths are."
The students have established a "holding account" for seniors who wish to participate in the senior gift, but want their gifts "held" until the univesity divests itself of its PetroChina holdings. If the university fails to act in the next six months, the funds will be donated to Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights.
Illinois' unprecedented seven-week run as the nation's No. 1 basketball team has provided a welcome boost to the school's athletic department: Donations are soaring.
"We've never had this volume or this consistency since I've been here,'' Shawn Wax, director of development for the I Fund, said Tuesday. "The thing that's shocking is it's so across the board. It's the $100 donors, the $500 donors, the $1,000 donors, the $10,000 donors. It's everybody.''
Like most athletic departments, Illinois doesn't emphasize or cultivate an atmosphere in which donations stem from successful teams. But it doesn't turn away from that situation, either.
"We like to think we're inflation-proof, or victory-proof,'' Wax said, noting that 40 percent of I Fund donors are not alumni. While declining to give an overall figure because Illinois is only midway through its fiscal year, Wax said: "We're definitely seeing a double-digit increase from where we were a year ago. Our online giving has done more in the last three or four weeks than we did all last year. We're on pace in the athletic department to do more than the entire campus did last year. It's very strong.''
A hot topic on FundList lately has been the definition of annual giving itself. Here are some of the definitions contributed by FundList readers...
We define annual gifts as any gift $25,000 or less that is not going to an endowed fund and is not a memorial/honorary donation. However, if the development officer knows that the donor intends a gift that is larger than $25,000 as an annual gift (or intends an endowment or memorial/honorary gift as an annual gift), than we simply let our records management team know to code it that way. --Meghan McGeary, University of Pittsburgh
Currently we include gifts that directly relieve the general budget or our tuition discounting. Those include general unrestricted gifts, school-directed unrestricted gifts, and scholarship fund gifts, to name a few. --Steven Mayo, Catholic University of America
At WSU, our department is responsible for a number of campaigns - Phonathon, direct mail appeals, our annual faculty/staff campaign and an annual corporate appeal. Therefore, all dollars raised from any of these campaigns - restricted or otherwise, and regardless of dollar amount - are included in Annual Giving. --Nan-C Moss, Wright State University
"Annual Fund," while a term of art within the fund-raising community, does not (in my experience!) have the same sort of official, specific, consistent definition like accounting terms like "Unrestricted" or as tax-related terms like "deductible as a charitable contribution". As a result, its usage has varied somewhat at each of the institutions where I've worked! For example, in some places, certain restricted gifts have counted toward the Annual Fund (typically those that underwrite budgeted expenses). In some places, certain unrestricted gifts have not counted toward the Annual Fund (typically unrestricted realized bequests). --Alan Hejnal, Gettysburg College
Our Annual Giving department consists of face-to-face solicitation ($1,000-$25,000 level), telefund, direct mail, donor recognition, alumni chapters, employee giving, student giving, parent giving, and so forth. Our Annual Fund has three different areas: President's Priorities (unrestricted funds for the University), General Scholarships, and College Annual Funds (unrestricted funds for each college/unit). --David Smith, Brigham Young University
The school or college you belong to holds a special place in your heart. And if the institution is a renowned one, you remember it with a sense of pride. Sub-consciously, your identity is wrapped in it, no matter if you have passed out from there donkey's years ago.
So, what happens if the name of the very institution is changed? Depressing? A bolt from the blue? Unacceptable? All three, when it comes to the prestigious and internationally acclaimed College of Engineering, Pune (COEP). While the changeover took place two academic years ago, it is only in December 2004, during the launch of the sesquicentenary celebrations, that the alumni joined hands to protest against the new and unfamiliar name - Pune Institute of Engineering Technology (PIET).
The reason for the new nomenclature is very 'babu-ish' - some technicalities are involved in case the college changes its banner from under a university to becoming autonomous or deemed. Pramod Mandke who's been the head of COEP's mechanical engineering department for many years and is now the honorary secretary of the alumni association says that, ''since the college is no more under a university and in fact will soon attain the status of a deemed university, the word 'Technology' has to be used somewhere. Hence, the name change.'' Then what's the solution? The alumni has requested this: maintain the original name - College of Engineering, Pune - with this suffix: autonomous institute of engineering and technology.
Mandke says that since the director of technical education, Prof N B Pasalkar is himself a former student of COEP, he is favourable to the request. The matter presently rests with the education secretary. Since the state government has asked the alumni to give a few more weeks to reconsider, everyone's waiting patiently. Although the President of India visited the college on Tuesday for the conclusion of the celebrations, the alumni says it would have been ''impolite'' to broach the topic then. ''We are certainly not giving up,'' says Poonawala. And one shouldn't.
Nearly two years ago, graduates of Oxford University's 488-year-old Corpus Christi College had their first taste of a distinctly American collegiate tradition: the fund-raising phone-a-thon. Students paid to dial up the college's alumni during spring break raised $280,000 to support graduate student grants. This spring, thanks to a donor who has offered matching funds, the college is poised to double that amount. "These things are starting to happen," says Peter Lampl, chairman of the educational Sutton Trust charity, who is donating the $188,000 to help Corpus Christi, his alma mater.
Indeed, British graduates can expect more of such calls, as universities facing a cash crunch make fund-raising a priority. Like other European countries where education has traditionally been publicly funded, Britain lags far behind the U.S. when it comes to private fund-raising. But changing long-standing perceptions, and the very nature of philanthropy in Britain, won't be easy.
Still, government officials and university administrators are trying. The government recently announced that it is making available the equivalent of $14 million in matching funds for a pilot program, starting in April, to help a select group of universities launch professional development offices. "I think, obviously, they've looked across the water [to the U.S.] and seen how successful this can be in some universities," said Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol and chairman of a government task force that reported last year on voluntary giving.
"Philanthropy buys excellence," said Mary Blair, an American who came from Johns Hopkins University to direct the development office at the London School of Economics. She says the reason why most Britons don't give is simply that most universities don't ask. "The more you start to, the more you change a public perception." One phone-a-thon at a time.
Many schools have flirted with the idea of communicating with, and soliciting, couples who met on campus and are now married. It's a little late to be remembering those special someones for this year, but it's never too late to file away a good idea for next year.
Here's a 2005 direct mail sample, compliments of Muskingum College. Note how the mailing cleverly ties the rising "cost of campus romance" with the rising costs of a college education.
It's important to let any constituent audience know that you're really talking to them specifically, and the marriage of two graduates likely holds as much potential for ongoing alumni affinity as any other audience (as long as they're in the throes of marital bliss, anyway...)
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 have launched 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.
One of their first collaborations will be a summer advancement academy, to be held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on July 19, 20 and 21st. Their new web site contains info about the academy and much more - www.burdenskitaylor.com