Master The Skills Of Education Fundraising And Be Successful

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How do you successfully master the skills of higher education fundraising? The best way to do this is by getting a handle on these top 5 issues impacting your fundraising ROI: volunteer recruitment and training, donor retention, new donor outreach, omnichannel outreach, and technology needs.

Fundraising among higher education institutions is dominated by 20 schools that raised over 28 percent of the total donations in 2017. According to the latest version of the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey from the Council for Aid to Education, the fundraising total of colleges and universities jumped up 6.3% from 2016 to 2017 to $43.6 billion.

Since it’s obvious the potential to raise more money exists, the question needs to be asked — where are the other schools that aren’t obtaining as many donations missing the mark?

5 Issues Impacting Education Fundraising ROI

The success, and return on investment (ROI), of your fundraising efforts, is dependent on multiple factors. Here are five of the issues impacting education fundraising ROI and some advice on how to improve:

Volunteer recruitment and training

Volunteers are critical to the success of fundraising efforts. Identifying individuals with the skills you need, and then training them, is necessary to get the most out of their invested time and efforts.

Your training should include an overview of the fundraising software you use (if any) and a review of your phone and voicemail scripts. Consider pairing up new volunteers with experienced ones to role play calls.

Volunteers are critical to the success of #fundraising efforts. Check out these tips for volunteer recruitment and training. #HigherEd Click To Tweet

Below you’ll find some recruiting advice.

  • Make it known that you need volunteers by sharing this fact in the school’s newsletter, blog posts, social media posts, and email signatures. Posting flyers around the campus is another good way to get the word out.
  • Similar to seeking donations or closing a sale, your messaging should focus on the volunteers’ needs and not the institution’s.
  • Encourage volunteers to recruit a friend to make it more enjoyable for them and increase your support.
  • Provide incentives that will motivate people to volunteer.
  • Inspire volunteers to support you in the future by acknowledging their involvement and thanking them for their support.

Donor retention

Improve donor loyalty by gearing your messaging toward your supporters. Let them know how their gifts make a difference, what the funds are for, and why their continued support is so significant.

Another way to increase donor retention is by setting up recurring donations. Automating their gifts eliminates the need to have a volunteer call them again in your next round of campaigning.

Follow-up is another key to retaining donors. As noted in this blog post on donor retention, a thank-you call would influence many donors to give again. Many say that a call would probably increase their gift next time, too. Use a mix of outreach methods to follow up with donors including social media, text, email, phone call, and direct mail.

New donor outreach

In the process of finding new supporters, you’ll likely have better luck getting alumni to donate over non-alumni individuals. According to Inside Higher Ed, alumni giving was $11.37 billion in 2017, while non-alumni giving was about $3.5 billion less. Get an up-to-date list of alumni and identify potential new donors to target in a calling campaign.

Does your fundraising effort include raising donations via phone? If not, you should consider adding a phonathon to your campaign. Using the telephone to reach out to prospective donors yields a 34% higher response rate. Couple your phone outreach with a donation page on your website. While a prospective donor may not immediately commit to a donation over the phone, he or she may come back to your website later to give. Also, ensure your fundraising page is mobile-optimized to meet the browsing preferences of your audience.

Using the 📞 to reach out to prospective donors yields a 34% higher response rate. 📈 #HigherEd #Fundraising Click To Tweet

Omnichannel outreach

Develop an omnichannel strategy that incorporates all options for outreach and communication instead of taking a siloed approach to campaigning. You should be tying offline and online efforts together to form cohesive messaging.
Send out direct mail or emails before a phonathon, so callers can reference that content in their conversations. Include information about the impact their donations will make as well as a link to a page on your site that shows the funding progress in real-time.

There are a plethora of ways to connect with donors . . .

  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Phone calls and voicemail
  • SMS text
  • Social media promotion
  • Social media one-to-one outreach (similar to social selling)

Just be sure to have a strategy that pulls everything together.

Technology needs

The software you select for your volunteers should be simple to learn and enable them to complete their work efficiently and productively. Ease of use is the key here. With volunteer staff, you can expect high turnover; therefore, it’s critical to select a fundraising platform that is simple to learn and facilitates productivity and efficiency in the fundraising process.

Your fundraising software should include:

  • Call routing of the next best donor to dial.
  • Scripting that lets the caller know what to say.
  • Credit card processing to immediately accept payments.
  • Emails to donors acknowledging their gifts.
  • The ability to monitor calls and jump in if the volunteer needs assistance.

Ready to Fundraise?

As you consider your approach to the five issues outlined above, remember to also prepare for changing donor behaviors. The recent tax reform may cause taxpayers to skip itemizing their returns and opt for the increased standard deduction. This may eliminate the incentive to donate for a charitable tax deduction. So, always be ready for challenges that may arise.

Increasing ROI in the five areas mentioned above should be a top priority for fundraising committees. Are any of these issues hindering the success of your institution’s fundraisers? If so, then it’s time to Transform Your Fundraising Campaign ROI and start pulling a bigger punch!

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Darryl Praill

Darryl Praill, Chief Marketing Officer of VanillaSoft, is a high-tech marketing executive with over 25 years’ experience spanning startups, re-starts, consolidations, acquisitions, divestments and IPO’s. He has been widely quoted in the media including television, press, and trade publications. He is a guest lecturer, public speaker, and radio personality and has been featured in numerous podcasts, case studies, and best-selling books.

Praill is a former recipient of the coveted Forty Under 40 Award, and has held senior executive roles in leading companies including Sybase, Cognos (now IBM), webPLAN (now Kinaxis), and CML Emergency Services (now AIRBUS). He has raised over $50 million in venture funding across multiple organizations and consulted with world-class corporations including Salesforce, SAP, and Nielsen. He is a Computer Science graduate from Sheridan College.

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