Bob Singapore
Bob Burdenski's Latest Annual Giving Departures )
May, 2007
The Latest Departures
  • U.S. News Rankings Under Seige... Again
  • Proceed According To Plan at Bob's June Roundtable Program
  • 120 Institutions Are Participating in the 8th Annual FundList Direct Mail Exchange, and There's Still Room For You
  • Burdenski and Taylor Take On Alumni Participation at Their 3rd-Annual Advancement Academy in D.C.
  • United Negro College Fund Works To Improve Alumni Giving
  • A Brandeis Student's Responds To The Senior Gift Argument
  • NYU Annual Fund a Big Part of University's Campaign Success
  • What great fun to have been a member of the faculty for the CASE Europe Spring Institute on Educational Fundraising this past month. The conference, held on the campus of the University of Durham in northern England, is an intensive week-long orientation to development. It educated a group of 150 and had a waiting list of 100 more that had hoped to attend.

    Each faculty member is assigned a tutorial group of attendees for the week. My group included participants from Oxford University, Kings College London, the University of Sheffield, Cambridge University and the University of Bath. Proudly calling themselves "Bob's Builders" the group has endured as a result of that most modern of social hangouts -- the Facebook group. (If you have a Facebook account, you can see the group here.)

    The CASE Europe Spring Institute is a moving experience for attendees and faculty alike. Along with its counterpart, the CASE Summer Institute held at Dartmouth each year, it's one of the pinnacles of CASE programming. The CASE Europe staff does a remarkable job of putting the whole thing on.

    Look for us on the program session agenda this Spring and Summer at the Jesuit Advancement Administrators Conference in Omaha, the STAFF annual giving conference at Bowdoin College, and the 3rd-annual Burdenski and Taylor Advancement Academy in Washington, D.C.

    Included this month is a mix of new media and old, and a free direct mail sharing opportunity from FundList.

    U.S. News Rankings Under Seige... Again

    A dozen college presidents are setting the stage for what they hope will become a wide-scale rebellion against the annual college rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. In a letter dated May 5, the presidents are urging their colleagues at an estimated 1,000 liberal-arts schools to refuse to participate in a portion of the survey in which they're asked to rate other schools. The letter calls the survey "misleading" and says it does little to serve prospective students.

    The pushback by the college presidents-aimed at a survey that's closely monitored by the academic community, as well as prospective students and their parents-is one example of a growing sense of unease with the role rankings play in higher education. Several other magazines which rank business schools, including BusinessWeek, have also been criticized for exerting undue influence on educational priorities (see, 8/5/05, "A Rank Offense to B-Schools?").

    The section of the U.S. News survey the presidents are objecting to is known as the "peer-assessment" portion. This section-which comprises 25% of the score used to devise the rankings-asks college presidents, provosts, and deans to evaluate other peer schools' performance and strengths. It's a task that makes some academic leaders uncomfortable.

    The letter is the brainchild of Lloyd Thacker, founder of the Education Conservancy, a nonprofit education-advocacy organization in Portland, Ore. Thacker, a former high school guidance counselor and college admissions office veteran, wrote a book three years ago titled College Unranked, and has been on a mission ever since to debunk popular rankings complied by publications such as U.S. News, he says (see, 4/18/07, "Debate Room: Throw the Book at College Rankings").

    Brian Kelley, the editor of the ranking at U.S. News & World Report, says that while they have been paying close attention to Thacker's campaign, he doesn't think it will have any serious impact on the value of the rankings. Only 12 of the 1,500 schools they evaluate have signed onto this campaign so far, he says. "This is really nothing new. There are folks who have had objections to the rankings for a number of years," Kelley says. "We understand their concerns, but we think that there's a lot more people who appreciate the value of the rankings, so we don't think this will affect the surveys."

    Proceed According To Plan at Bob's June Roundtable Program

    The annual giving year ends, and another one begins. You don't have time to put together a program plan, but you need one anyway. Bob Burdenski presents a collection of his favorite annual giving plans, and an overview of the basic approaches to program planning, calendars, goals and objectives at his monthly online Annual Giving Roundtable on Monday, June 4th.

    In annual giving, the urgent often overwhelms the important. Take 90 minutes from your busy schedule and learn how to give your program the organization necessary to ensuring success in the coming fiscal year.

    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.)

    120 Institutions Are Participating in the 8th Annual FundList Direct Mail Exchange, and There's Still Room For You

    Each summer since 1999, FundList has managed a direct mail samples exchange for those schools and organizations interested in seeing samples from their peers.

    If you're not familiar with the Direct Mail Exchange, it's like one big direct mail sample gift box for you and your annual giving program. You send samples of your direct mail from this past year, wait by your mailbox, and you'll receive a box with samples from every other institution that participates in the exchange in return. There's no cost, except for your shipping costs.

    Last year, a record 150 schools participated, and more than 120 are already signed up for this year. For many, it's a crucial component of their program planning for the coming year, as they review the messages and materials created by their peers over the previous year.

    You can watch an online powerpoint slideshow of five sample favorites from 2006 here. Hope you'll make plans to join in the fun this year. The registration deadline is Tuesday, May 29th.

    Burdenski and Taylor Take On Alumni Participation at Their 3rd-Annual Advancement Academy in D.C.

    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.

    United Negro College Fund Works To Improve Alumni Giving

    As president of Huston-Tillotson University, Dr. Larry L. Earvin knows that a successful capital campaign will do wonders for his small, historically Black private school in Austin, Texas. Along with other campus administrators, Earvin is positioning the 132-year-old school to undertake its first ever multi-year, capital campaign sometime within the next two years. Aimed at raising tens of millions of dollars, Earvin says the campaign will be needed to fund a planned campus expansion and at least double the university's $7 million endowment.

    This past fall, the United Negro College Fund awarded the school $200,000, the first of three annual awards to improve Huston-Tillotson's institutional advancement operation. Earvin says the combined $600,000 in grants will help prepare the university to launch and sustain the planned campaign.

    Huston-Tillotson has already upgraded its alumni tracking and fund-raising software in preparation of the campaign. Earvin estimates that the contact information of 65 percent of its living alumni is documented in school records and computer databases. "Our goal is to have contact information for 100 percent of our alumni," he says.

    The UNCF award marks Huston-Tillotson's inclusion in the first round of competitive grant funding made available to several UNCF member schools under the organization's new Institute for Capacity Building. As one of the first major new programs to emerge during the presidency of Dr. Michael Lomax, ICB deepens the level of support the nation's best-known minority higher education assistance organization provides its 39 member schools.

    A Brandeis Student's Responds To The Senior Gift Argument

    You'd think that four years of steady, on-time tuition payments would be enough. You'd think paying in to an absurdly overpriced meal plan would suffice. You'd think that several mandatory senior fees would finally quench the school's thirst for cash. Not so fast, fellow students. Brandeis wants just a little more sugar before you're out for good.

    Through every communications channel available, the Development office has begged and pleaded me to participate in a fundraiser they call the 'Class Gift.' I've been emailed, called (by Jehuda!), and mailed literature since the beginning of this year with requests to donate to the University. I've even been offered cocktail parties and lunches with famous people just to get me to give. One of the last pitches will come next week at the 'Senior Sign Out', where if everything goes according to plan, I'll finally be accosted in person.

    Certainly the school must see my gift as crucial to the University's survival. But before I give, I'm asking why.

    The Development website claims that my gift funds such diverse, worthwhile expenses such as my professors' paychecks and university maintenance. Here's a thought: If the school is relying on broke seniors to pay its professors and keep the electricity and water flowing, maybe the administration should reorder its priorities. (We can probably stop building the ugliest buildings in New England, for example).

    If the school is that desperate for another $10,000, why not just eliminate a position in the Development office? Since that department seems to have a plethora of spare manhours available to pester me about a class gift, I'm sure some reorganization could take place there. Or maybe Jehuda can get a 3.2% paycut.

    NYU Annual Fund a Big Part of University's Campaign Success

    With 17 months left in the Campaign for NYU, the university's eight-year drive to raise $2.5 billion, the university has $439 million to go. The annual funds, which are each year's fundraising efforts, have contributed to the campaign every year since 2001, when the Campaign for NYU began. This year's annual fund contributed $250 million to the campaign.

    "I like to think that by the end of 2008 we may even blow ourselves out of the water and come out raising $450 million to $500 million a year," said Debra LaMorte, the senior vice president for university development and alumni relations.

    Almost 40,000 donors contribute to annual funds. A vast majority of donors to the Washington Square campus were alumni, parents, foundations, and corporations, and a number of donors to the NYU School of Medicine were patients. Of those donors, 60 to 70 percent were repeat donors, according to Stan Sheppard, director of the annual fund at NYU.

    "Each annual donation typically ranges from five to $5,000. We would like to suggest at least $25 but there is no minimum. There's a lady who sends one dollar annually," Sheppard said.

    Adrienne Rulnick, executive director of development and alumni relations, said the university has been pushing to encourage even incoming freshmen to start thinking about their lives as NYU alumni. Rulnick said freshman send-offs, events for incoming students and their parents in 14 cities nationwide, are one way of giving students a sense of belonging to a community.

    "Whenever I go to a freshman send-off, I say to them, 'You've just been accepted to NYU and you're worried about move-in day,' " Rulnick said. " 'But I'm here to tell you you'll be an alum someday and we want you to start thinking about that.' "

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