The Annual Giving Exchange

A Blog about Annual Giving Today

Alumni Participation Helps Improve College Rankings

September 18th, 2010

You’ve heard it before and many of us have found ourselves saying it, “alumni participation rates help improve college rankings.”  While true, the effectiveness of this fact as a case for alumni support has long been debated.  Katie Masterson from The Chronicle of Higher Education just published an article that addresses this very point.  Click here to read it.  Then you can be the judge.

Career Opportunity at Rush University Medical Center

September 8th, 2010

Rush University Medical Center is seeking an experienced annual giving professional to lead their annual giving program.

The Director of Development, Annual Giving is responsible for providing leadership, strategic direction and management of the execution of a comprehensive annual giving program. The goals of the annual giving program are to pride a strong financial base for the Medical Center and Rush University through acquisition of new donors and retention and upgrading of existing donors.

Specific responsibilities include: establishing an annual plan, guiding and managing the execution of the annual giving program, collaborating effectively with alumni, major gifts and principle gifts teams to secure leadership level annual gifts, formulating strategies and tactics in conjunction with frontline fundraisers, and supervising the annual giving staff.  Candidates must have a Baccalaureate degree, 5-7 years proven experience in Philanthropy and at least 3 years as either a director or assistant director of an annual giving program.

Please feel free to contact me for more information at

Sept 9th Webinar: Practical Tips for Persuading Young Alumi to Give

August 30th, 2010

On September 9, 12-1 p.m. CST, Grenzebach Glier and Associates (GG+A) will be pleased to present an interactive discussion on a critical component of future development success: Practical Tips for Persuading Young Alums to Give.

Click here for more information or to register.

In this session, Jeff Bradley, Vice President, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, and Beth Braxton, Director of Annual Giving at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will offer a lively presentation on the question facing every college and university development office: How to convince young alumni to give?  They will also:

  • Propose that the best way to get young alums to give is to obtain their philanthropic buy-in before they get their diploma
  • Present tested means to educate and motivate undergraduates about the importance of philanthropy to their college or university
  • Share low-cost techniques of engaging undergraduates and how to phase in such a program
  • Suggest communication themes to use with young alums—and ones to avoid
  • Discuss postcards and effective designs of letters and brochures for young alums

Gift Pyramids

August 20th, 2010

No annual fund year should start without developing a gift pyramid that shows how you will accomplish your annual giving goals.  Every program is unique.  What does your pyramid look like?

The Modern Phonathon

August 13th, 2010

In the past, phonathons served one primary function:  to solicit gifts.  Today, phonathons offer annual giving programs much more:

  • A way to collect and update prospect data
  • A market research tool (e.g., donor surveys)
  • A personal way to steward donors (e.g., thank you calls)
  • A forum for gathering and engaging volunteers

The modern phonathon is sophisticated and complex.  Managed well, it can provide your annual giving program with a stable foundation and a fertile donor pipeline for many years to come.

Sharing Good News

August 6th, 2010

Recently, the President of a small liberal arts college addressed a conference of fundraising consultants.  This President was unique in that he had previously served as Vice President for Advancement at two national universities.

In his talk, he outlined a series of recommendations geared to help advancement leaders deal with their bosses, in this case university presidents.  One of his recommendations was to “share good news.”

“Presidents want to hear good news,” he said, “not because it inflates their ego, but because it provides them with positive information to share with alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and the rest of the university community.”

In a way, annual giving managers are a lot like presidents.  They need good news to share.

E-mail Salutations

July 27th, 2010

There is a certain level of formality that is necessary in direct mail.  If I don’t know you, you should address me as “Mr. Allenby.”  If you don’t know me, but know that I know your organization, you should address me as “Daniel.”  If we know each other, it’s okay to call me “Dan.”  Regardless of the scenario, you’ve done 50% of your job if your prospect has opened the letter and is even reading the salutation.

A salutation in e-mail, however, is more important.

If I receive an e-mail that begins “Dear Daniel,” it’s likely that it will be deleted before I even have a chance to see who sent it to me.  “Dear Daniel” lets me know that you don’t know me.  It’s a signal to me that you’re a spammer.

Building a good e-mail list of constituents and prospective donors is one of the most important things that a nonprofit organization can do.  While you’re building your list, don’t underestimate the importance of collecting good “preferred names” on your constituents.

That’s no easy task.  It might even require that you get out and talk them once in a while.

It’s Good To Specialize

July 21st, 2010

When my neighbor told me that he and his wife were expecting their fourth daughter, I jokingly asked him if he’d been hoping for a boy.  He just smiled and said, “No, it’s good to specialize.”

Annual Giving was once considered a good way to get your start in development.  But, if you were good, you moved on to major gifts within a few years.  If you were still good, you were on your way to being a VP.  That, however, is no longer the case.

Annual Giving isn’t a stepping stone.  It’s a destination.  Six figure salaries and a seat at the management table await outstanding annual giving professionals.

Annual Giving is a complex business and a valuable specialty.

After all, it’s good to specialize.

E-mail Newsletter Open Rates

July 11th, 2010

A recent survey of top tier university advancement programs revealed an average e-mail newsletter open rate of nearly 25%.  Imagine if all of your constituents:

  • Opened your direct mail 1 out of 4 times you sent it.
  • Answered the phone 1 out of 4 times you called.
  • Read your magazine 1 out of 4 times they received it.

Many organizations underestimate the value of a strong e-mail relationship with constituents.  Moreover, many organizations who do recognize the value of e-mail, don’t always know if their program is working.  While there are many ways to measure the strengths of your e-mail program (i.e., bouncebacks, click throughs, opt-outs), one metric that should certainly be considered is “open rate.”

If you’re looking for substantive goals for the next fiscal year, make one of them a 25% open rate for your e-mail newsletters.

Leadership Opportunities at Vanderbilt University

July 6th, 2010

Exciting things are happening at Vanderbilt University, including two outstanding career opportunities within the University’s Central and Medical Center advancement programs.  Both positions will require a proven leader in the field of development and will provide unique opportunities to build best-in-class annual giving programs that include leadership annual gifts, progressive media marketing, and volunteer management.

  • Click here to read the Executive Director of Annual Giving position description.
  • Click here to read the Senior Director for Medical Center Annual Giving position description.

Feel free to contact me directly with any questions: