The saying ‘Everything is bigger in Texas’ was on full display at CASE DIV this year as over 500 fundraising professionals traveled to Grapevine, Texas for this year’s annual conference at the Gaylord Texan. This year’s theme of the CASE DIV Annual Conference was Vision (Insert 20 | 20 eye test joke here) and it was highlighted by an empowering presentation by Jesse Wilson at The For The Win Project. There was not a dry eye in the audience after he shared his vision to make children with special circumstances superheroes for the day! Vision was a very timely theme for iWave with our plans to reveal our new platform this month; but more importantly, organizations were very happy to share their organizational visions with iWave.
As the ideal donor transitions from the Baby Boomer to Gen X and, soon to be, Millennials, stewarding your donors in the best way was a hot topic. One roundtable discussion focused on how to address your donor, i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, John and Mary Smith, Mary Smith ‘75. Do you include the spouse/partner for an ask if they are not an alum? When calling, do you address them by their first name or as Mr./Mrs. Smith? One organization shared a horror story of one of their donors being stewarded as Mrs. John Smith when Mary was the alum and donor; needless to say, Mary was not overly impressed and it significantly damaged their relationship with the donor. How do you steward an alum for a donation? Or, how do you communicate with an alum post-donation?
On another note, one school was focusing their marketing efforts to engage their current students so that when they become alum, the transition to becoming donors is simple. They have been using TikTok to create recruitment videos and capture activities around the campus. One video went viral in their state and they increased their followers by 1,400 overnight. Those 1,400 may not be an alum or current students, but they are now following, engaged and can be a steward for future giving. How do you use the power of social media to engage your current students and young alum?
Lastly, organizations continued to express to us that they are doing a great job stewarding their current alumni, but their database is growing and it is hard to prioritize their top alum. We were happy to share with them how we can not only screen their alumni/donor base, but we can also customize the affinity ratings to focus on alum/donors who heavily support education-based causes. It was an easy transition to then introduce them to our friends at Gravyty so their frontline fundraisers can efficiently action the iWave data.
“Our board members are amazing, but it is very difficult for us to engage them to introduce us to their network”. Is that something that sounds familiar? If so, you are not alone. One great tip to help further engage your board members is to have a major gift officer assigned to one or more board members. This shouldn’t be done just willy nilly, but take into consideration each individual’s personalities, interests, and potential to give. The goal for the major gift officer is to work with the research team to prepare a list of people the board member may be able to introduce you to; perhaps you use iWave to help curate this list. When the board member finds someone on your list, the major gift officer should do the leg work and be part of the stewarding process. Organize a lunch or meeting to help break the ice; from there, it could lead to an invitation to a meeting with the President/Dean, maybe tickets to the next sporting event or a seat at the next gala. Your board members are very busy and active individuals so the more work you can do for them, the easier it will be for them to engage and help your cause.
Lamar University shared how their relationship with the Athletics team has flourished over the years and has led to a number of successful asks and “perks”. For many institutions, athletics is the “front door” to the university. The hiring or firing of a football coach, a winning basketball team, or a disappointing season are often the first things mentioned in the school news or local press. Now, it’s also important to remember that not all of your donors are going to want to attend a sporting event or have a peek at the training facility, but for the donors who are interested in a particular sport or sports, it’s a great way to welcome them into your family.
When collaborating with your athletics department, Lamar believes it is important that each party has a seat at the table. Lamar has become very creative at putting together joint proposals that help the donor support different facets of the institution. Maybe this is a 5-year pledge to help re-turf the football field and support the school endowment or a scholarship? The options are wide-open when you begin working together as one fundraising team. It is also crucial when preparing your communication with your donors and prospects; the last thing you want is to step on each other’s toes and appear to not be on the same page. Maybe your response to this is ‘Well, our athletics team has their donors and we have ours’ and to that, I say be cautious. Remember, these are STUDENT-Athletes and by supporting their educational experience or their athletics, it is still supporting the same institution. We are all on the same team! In some cases, the affinity of the donor lies specifically with arts, business, football or basketball, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t create a joint proposal and be creative for how your donor can support the institution as a whole, opposed to one particular area.
Do you have a positive relationship with your athletics team?
The last and final reflection from the CASE DIV conference is to celebrate what you do as a fundraiser! Collecting a major gift can be a long and grueling process. The countless meetings and outreach can take a toll on your mental capacity so when you schedule that meeting or collect on the ask, CELEBRATE what you have accomplished. Don’t just celebrate the dollars, but reflect on the process. What did you do to get the meeting? How did the meeting go? Are there tips you can share about how you communicated with the donor? The work you put in should not be forgotten.
SO, after a wonderful conference with many conversations what is our takeaway or, better yet, what is our Vision for 20 | 20? In short, to support you. iWave is dedicated to providing fundraising professionals with the best wealth, philanthropic and behavioral data available. We are dedicated to supporting nonprofit organizations carry out their missions and fundraise with confidence.
About the Author: Cody Dawson is a Senior Account Executive at iWave. He enjoys connecting with fundraising professionals to better understand how they engage with their donors to reach their project goals. Outside of working with iWave to assist nonprofit organizations, he serves as a member of the Special Olympics Motionball Committee.