|Bob Burdenski's Latest Annual Giving Departures|
Alumni participation trended down again in the United States in 2006, according to the Council for Aid to Education. But why? I love annual giving directors, and this is a little tough love to challenge them. Before we conclude that our alumni could be doing a better job, I think it?s fair to ask if we could be doing a better job.
Here are 5 reasons the participation decline is not our fault:
And here are 7 reasons it IS our fault:
Our monthly Web-based annual giving roundtable series is drawing a virtual crowd. If you can't get out of the office to attend a conference in person, we'll bring the conference to you! More information about all of the upcoming topics and dates is featured below.
Look for us on the program session agenda this Winter and Spring at the Stanford/Ivy/MIT Annual Giving Conference in Philadelphia, the ICAA Ohio conference in Dayton, and the annual Meeting of the Minds conference in sunny Southern California in April. In addition, I'm thrilled to be joining the faculty of the prestigious CASE Europe Spring Institute in Educational Fundraising at Durham University in England. I'll be co-hosting the annual giving track along with Chris Cox from the University of Manchester.
Included this month is a mix of new media and old, and some wisdom from FundList.
Charitable contributions to colleges and universities in the United States grew by 9.4 percent in 2006, reaching $28 billion, according to annual survey results released today by the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). The increase was fueled by contributions from alumni and other individuals. Support from foundations, corporations, and other organizations increased also, but that increase was smaller.
In keeping with a long-running pattern, the total dollar amount of alumni giving increased as the percentage of alumni making gifts declined. The alumni participation rate fell from 12.4 percent in 2005 to 11.8 percent in 2006, according to the survey results. Even when two-year institutions, which have much lower participation rates than do four-year institutions, are eliminated from the calculations, there is still a decline in participation.
Total alumni giving increased in recent years in large part because of an increase in the value of the average gift. In other words, those alumni making contributions are making larger contributions. However, it is also true that the number of alumni making gifts has been increasing in most, though not all, years even when participation declines. Even when the number of donors increases, that does not automatically translate into higher participation rates because the number of alumni of record (who exist and for whom the institution has a good address) may increased faster than the number who contribute. In addition, if alumni give through a family foundation, company, or donor-advised fund, the entity, not the individual, receives credit.
Counting only undergraduate-degreed alumni, alumni participation still declined from 2005 to 2006. However, it was a small decline?from 14.8 to 14.6 percent. Both the number of donors (the numerator of the alumni participation equation) and the number of countable alumni (the denominator of the equation) increased, but the former increased less than the latter.
Whatever nuances of alumni participation, the simple fact is that alumni giving is the primary source of charitable support of higher education institutions. In addition, declines in alumni participation can be the result of institutional practices as much as the personal inclination of alumni themselves. Therefore, it would be a mistake to understate the role of alumni in today?s giving picture and their important role in future scenarios.
It's drag-your-boss-to-the-annual-giving-office day, as Bob presents a program for annual giving directors and the chief development officers that love them - What ten questions should they be asking to understand the true health of your annual giving program?
What metrics, goals, reports, measures and outcomes should you be pursuing in your day-to-day annual giving activities? Bob identifies his "top ten list" of questions that uncover the most important measures of annual giving success.
Create your own custom ongoing annual giving training by participating in any or all of Bob's monthly annual giving roundtable programs. There's no limit to how many people can attend at your institution. (One Web link and dial-up connection only.)
Other upcoming programs include: Will You Go To The Ball? - Year-End Annual Giving Strategies , April 9th, and Trends In Annual Giving - 2007, May 7th. Also, by request Bob will be repeating his roundtable programs on the Annual Giving Pyramid (March 12th) and Best Direct Mail Samples of 2006 (April 9th).
It's fair to say that for a time it was conventional wisdom that the element of surprise was not a bad thing when calling phonathon prospects. In recent years, though, I've been increasingly of the opinion that the more we can "wave the white flag" and come clean with our phonathon prospects, the better.
So what to do about Caller ID? Here's what some of the Fundlist frontline phonathon managers had to say on the subject:
Here at our call center the university name comes up on the caller id. At first I was skeptical, but it does have some pros. If people are screening their calls because they don't want to talk to us then it is better our callers don't waste time with them. The major con would be in contacts. Every time we make an attempt to reach them they know about it and the "you guys call too much!" objections gains some validity. -- Marty Wold, Baylor University
Ours is programmed to show the university name. With so many people having caller ID, we feel the pros offset the cons: if someone ignores the call, it's their choice and likely would have resulted in a "maybe" at best. We don't leave messages on answering machines/voice mail. -- Rick Reso, Nicholls State University
We had previously arranged for the school name to come up on the caller ID which was good because for legitimacy and those who screen their calls or do or don't want to receive the call can see we're calling and make that decision to answer or not. However, we also ran into prospects complaining about having 'received' so many calls from the school, because they would see us on their caller ID and not answer the phone... -- Jennifer Dunn, University of California at Irvine
It increases the likelihood that the person picking up actually is willing to speak with a student from their alma mater. If they're not, they can always let it go to voicemail. Now - if we were the widget company selling widgets, I'd hate caller ID with the company's name popping up - but we're not. -- Bill Shorts, Saint John's University
Ours shows up with "The University of Tulsa", and the number to my office, vs. the callers extension. We still have a lot of "not interested" so I think people still tend to answer their phone when contacted by their alma mater. We occasionally have LYBUNTS who missed the call call us to make a pledge!! We also get several "handle by mail" requests from people who missed the call. -- Chrissi Nimo, University of Tulsa
All of our outgoing calls have the name "Southern Alberta Institute of Technology" in the caller name, and they all show as our annual giving number so people cannot call in directly to the phone station that called them, but they can ring our central number. -- Kathy Bana, SAIT
Join FundList & FundSvcs listserv moderators Bob Burdenski & John Taylor, and a top-notch faculty and agenda for the third-annual Burdenski & Taylor Advancement Academy at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., July 24-26, 2007. The conference will once again have track sessions for advancement services, management, phonathons and annual giving. The monumental annual giving agenda will include the following:
...Bob and John's special joint program on alumni participation -- Are you getting full credit for the alumni already supporting your institution? What counts, what doesn't count, and how do you count what counts? If you're trying to grow your alumni participation rate, where are the smartest places to aim your resources?
...A special brand-new review of the best direct mail samples from the 2007 direct mail exchange. More than 150 schools participated last year -- see the very best of the new batch from the 2007 direct mail exchange.
...A session on student philanthropy programs, featuring the Penn State student giving program and hosted by Penn State director of annual giving Howard Heevner. How do we plant the seeds from which might donors will grow?
...An overview of the latest new initiatives in online fundraising, including wiki, text messages, Facebook, email, flash, Web content and cross-media marketing. How are these new technologies continuing to integrate themselves into advancement?
...A session on the important relationship between alumni relations and annual giving, hosted by Scott Mory of George Washington University. Can friend-raisers and fund-raisers get along and go beyond?
...A special session on reunion giving programs and volunteer engagement, hosted by Carleton College director of annual giving Chris Clark. Are people less interested in volunteering, or are we simply less-equipped to engage them successfully? Learn from one of the best reunion giving programs in the United States.
...Bob and John?s wildly popular annual "Pardon The Interruption"-style wrap-up discussion about the most important current issues in annual giving and advancement services.
The university fundraiser and college dean in Hollywood's 1996 blockbuster The Nutty Professor could hardly be a more dislikeable character. Strands of hair plastered across his forehead twinkle at the prospect of rich donors. And this is how many people still see those whose job it is to ask alumni to donate, says Mary Blair, director of development and alumni relations at the London School of Economics .
The Americans are coming Universities are finding that to get US levels of alumni giving, it's better to get US fundraisers to do the asking Jessica Shepherd Tuesday February 20, 2007 The Guardian The university fundraiser and college dean in Hollywood's 1996 blockbuster The Nutty Professor could hardly be a more dislikeable character. Strands of hair plastered across his forehead twinkle at the prospect of rich donors. And this is how many people still see those whose job it is to ask alumni to donate, says Mary Blair, director of development and alumni relations at the London School of Economics . "There's a distrust of people in fundraising," she says. "It is as if they think we possess magic powers to make their wallets fly out of their pockets. I could maybe talk you out of £20, but not out of £100,000. You have to want to give a sum like that." If some of the public are not on the side of fundraisers, the government is. Last week it announced that for every £2 an English university raises from alumni, philanthropists and businesses, it would give £1, up to a maximum of £2m a year for each institution. The scheme will start next year.
Newer universities and colleges without fundraising offices will each be given £100,000 to establish them. The government hopes the three-year scheme, worth £200m, will stimulate an extra £400m in private donations to universities. Tony Blair is said to see encouraging endowments as "completing the jigsaw" of higher education, following the introduction of £3,000 tuition fees in the autumn. The aim is to rival the endowments of Canadian and North American universities, particularly those in the ivy league.
"It's breathtaking how far we have to go to be anywhere near US fundraising levels," says Professor Eric Thomas, the vice-chancellor of Bristol University, who led a taskforce on donations to higher education in 2004. The Sutton Trust, an educational charity, reports that the gap between the 10 largest university endowments in the UK and the US has widened by £12.5bn in the last three years, and that the UK seriously lags behind the US and Canada in terms of funds raised and rates of alumni who give. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (Case), which represents those who work in alumni relations worldwide, says UK universities are 50 years behind their US peers and 20 years behind Canadian counterparts.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, this IIT found it was going to seed. The campus was crumbling, the area it was located was increasingly crime-ridden, and the school itself was close to insolvency. The school sent out a discreet SOS to its alumni. In less than five years, it had contributions amounting to $270 million, including two donations of $60 million each. We are talking here of Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago's lesser known IIT, not the much-ballyhooed Indian Institute of Technology. In one shot, the American school raised more money from its alumni than seven IITs in India have done since their inception more than half century ago.
But such comparisons are hardly fair. Unlike in the US, where tapping the alumni has a 200-year legacy and has enabled schools such as Harvard and Princeton to build multi-billion dollar endowments, Indian institutions are new to the idea. None of them, not even the IITs, have a US-style Alumni Relations Department. It is left mostly to passionate students and poorly equipped academics to do the job part-time and piecemeal. "Many IIT-ians have spent countless hours building the global databases and the networks that ultimately have led to tangible results in giving back," says Ram Kelkar, a US-based alumnus of IIT-Bombay who has done the grunt work in the school's Heritage Fund raising more than $17 billion over the past decade.
Umang Gupta, CEO of the Bay Area-based Keynote Systems and Chairman of the IIT-Kanpur Foundation estimates that the five main IITs have raised close to $ 100 million over the past seven years that "giving back" has caught on with IIT-ians. "The numbers are clearly an infinitesimal percentage of what a Stanford or a Harvard raise in one year. But considering the government-sponsored nature of the IITs and less of a culture of organised giving among most Indians, I'd say its a pretty good start!" he says. Indeed, the contributions and goals of the IIT alumni compare favourably with many other schools outside US and Europe. IIT Mumbai, for instance, plans to raise about $70 million for its golden jubilee celebrations. In comparison, the National University of Singapore has a $100 million goal for its centennial and the University of New South Wales aims for a $150 million. Peking University, which has a 100-year old foundation, raised $1.7 million in 2005.
Lecturers at the University of Melbourne take note: start making friends at the big end of town and watch the millions roll in. That was the message presented to Melbourne's school heads and deans by a former governor of the University of Toronto, Wendy Cecil, who travelled to the Victorian campus to talk about tried and tested fundraising strategies to help support the new US-style graduate school model. And the new curriculum was just the ticket for Melbourne to access the hearts, minds and wallets of corporate Australia and alumni, Dr Cecil told the HES.
"It's not just a matter of going out to the corporations, it's getting whoever is going to be making the company decisions to come on campus and feel the excitement," she said. "If you can get alumni back on campus and remind them of who they were when they were 19 or 20, it opens their hearts and that opens their wallets." Dr Cecil was central to Toronto Unniversity's successful One Billion Dollar campaign. That amount was raised over seven years from 1997 when academics were encouraged to help sell the university brand.
Melbourne University's pro vice-chancellor (university relations) Warren Bebbington said scholarships were at the forefront of the campaign: "We want the new model to be accessible to really any person, regardless of their means. And one of the messages Dr Cecil brought to us was that people will give to people and support talented young students," he said.
I have the belief that annual fund gifts are made as much for emotional reasons as they are rational reasons. As proof, I offer you the college's annual fund brochure, which answers the question "Why?"
When I first saw this brochure from the College of St. Catherine, I assumed it was celebrating the conclusion of a successful capital campaign, or a milestone campus birthday. Instead, I was pleased to see that the college was simply celebrating the existence of a great institution like St. Kate!
I worry that we spend too much time trying to analyze the giving interests of our prospects. Excite them about the idea of just supporting the existence of your great institution!