Advancement Blog

3 secrets for reaching your ideal donor audience

by Dana Gresko

As 2016 comes to a close, your alumni will be bombarded with a flurry of solicitations from the many charities competing for their philanthropic dollars. No matter how charitable, donors often tire of appeals at year’s end.

This alumni ennui can be tough to combat, and getting effective solicitations in front of likely donors during the critical calendar year-end timeframe can make the difference between meeting annual goals and falling short. In a perfect world, you would be able to send every appeal to every alumnus and donor, but, of course, most schools can’t afford the opportunity costs or scale of investment.

Efficiency is imperative, so annual giving officers have to plan a year-end campaign that is creative, strategic and takes full advantage of data, research and technology to model the best possible audience for alumni solicitations.

My team and I have been hard at work generating that innovative, research-driven approach for our Royall & Company partner schools. We have found that parsing and analyzing data allows us to know who likely donors are, how they like to be reached, and where else their dollars are going. This actionable data and analytics enable our partners to maximize limited resources and still drive participation and giving growth.

According to our research, here are the three strategies that high performing annual giving teams employ to achieve success.

  1. Match alumni giving to other philanthropic causes
  2. Advancement officers sometimes use wealth or capacity scores to determine which never-givers are most likely to contribute and how much. But we have found that these scores have only modest bearing on annual giving. Instead, data on constituents’ charitable giving behavior outside of the university is a more useful measure of a prospect’s likelihood to give.

    Royall uses innovative new data sources to discover where else alums are donating. We discern whether they are giving to charitable and political organizations, which ones, and how much. This information then helps our partners prioritize who to ask for support and what amount to target.

  3. Flag engaged alumni and parents
  4. Engagement is a sign of willingness to contribute. It is essential for advancement teams to follow up quickly and effectively with any alum or parent who attends an event, participates with a local alumni club, and, more commonly, clicks through an email.

    The ability to identify who is clicking through solicitations is extremely valuable. Armed with this type of engagement data, we are able to help partners decipher which “recent-clickers” are also lapsed donors or never-givers, but have not made a contribution. We regularly feed this “recent clicker” data back to our partner schools that they then prioritize in more personal follow-ups that yield significantly higher conversion rates.

  5. Deploy 360 modeling and leverage channel preferences
  6. Each college and university has a unique identity—and their alumni donors do, too. Recognizing the special characteristics of alums that correlate with charitable giving is vital for return on investment, particularly with never-givers. We’ve found that proprietary predictive modeling that includes key engagement-related data points helps isolate the high-performing prospective donor profiles, and allows our partners to focus acquisition resources on the alumni who are most likely to contribute.

    Once we craft these target groups based on predictive indicators, Royall uses longitudinal and transactional gift data to establish donors’ preferred giving channels and meet them where they are with customized appeals. This comprehensive, data-driven approach enables our partners to reach the right alums with the right messaging through their preferred media.

Each of these cutting-edge data tactics can improve your ability to find—and grow—donors. None is a silver bullet, in and of itself. But executed together, they form a comprehensive strategy for identifying the most likely donors and engaging them in informed and persistent ways.

If you have easy access to this data internally, congratulations! You are certainly ahead of the curve. If this data is hard to come by at your institution, working with a partner like Royall & Company can unlock actionable insights to target the alumni and parents who are most likely to respond to your annual giving appeals throughout the fundraising cycle, and particularly at year’s end.

Super-charge your annual giving program

Learn how to target and retain likely donors and drive gift activity year after year. Subscribe to EAB's Advancement Blog, Alumni, Donors, & Sense, for bi-weekly updates from our experts.


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