Introducing the EverTrue Evangelist: Our Mission to Reinvent Fundraising

This is the first post in Jim Zimmerman’s new blog series, The EverTrue Evangelist. 

My long career in development began as an accident. Well, perhaps not an accident so much as a convenient excuse for this poli sci major to avoid law school.

And so I stayed on at my alma mater (Bucknell) for a couple of years, learning the fundamentals of annual giving. I began to realize that there was something appealing about connecting constituents to a cause that they loved and that I believed in. I also discovered that I had a talent for strategizing about major gifts and for understanding how data could be helpful to the process. For the next three decades, I made advancement my profession as a frontline fundraiser and a chief advancement officer at independent schools on both coasts.

As an early adopter of technology—and at least toward the front edge of the curve of emerging social media—I thrust my school onto Facebook and LinkedIn before many others saw the institutional value. I also became frustrated that I did not have the ability to connect my alumni electronically, which is when I first became acquainted with EverTrue. Instantly upon meeting founder Brent Grinna, I knew that the company’s nascent alumni networking app, Community, would meet the needs of my alumni in some exciting ways. I signed up as the first paying customer.

With EverTrue CEO and Co-founder Brent Grinna

After several years of serving as an unofficial advisor and frequent reference for EverTrue, I made the leap from client to employee. (For the first two years, I was involved primarily in sales as we grew to 300+ customers and introduced GivingTree.) Now, I spend my days evangelizing about EverTrue.

What Is a Chief Evangelist?

An Evangelist is a relatively common role at technology companies, even if it is not yet commonplace in other industries. Evangelists work with marketing teams to align marketing campaigns and strategies, helping to ensure that they fully understand what the product and what the customers’ opinions of it are; facilitate the sales process (but don’t actually do the selling); provide help and support to (and even evangelize) customers; and often spend time with the engineering and developer teams to gain better technical insight. They also “spread the good word” about the value and benefits of the technology through media, individual meetings with potential customers, and speaking opportunities.


My long history in advancement, my experience as an EverTrue customer, my role in the evolution of our GivingTree platform, and my understanding of our customers and their internal processes together give me a unique opportunity to serve EverTrue in this role.

What Is EverTrue All About?

From our earliest days, our passion at EverTrue has been to help advancement professionals understand their data and their constituents and, in turn, become better and more successful at raising funds for their institutions.

We know from experience, both as professional and volunteer fundraisers, that two of the biggest pain points in advancement are: (1) The difficulties in gaining access to the data locked in static CRMs and (2) Acquiring and understanding current insights on existing donors and constituents. In our work with more than 300 customers, we’ve grown to understand those pain points even more fully, and I believe we’ve developed a platform that can literally transform the way in which you and your team approach your work. EverTrue is reinventing the fundraising profession.

In this upcoming blog series, I plan to explore some of the challenges we all face as advancement professionals, and how EverTrue’s software provides some remarkable solutions. We’ll dive into a number of fundamental questions.

Why is it so time-consuming or complicated to run a simple query?

We know from speaking with hundreds of current and potential customers that it can take several weeks for a report as simple as “$10,000 donors in San Francisco.” Why does this have to be status quo? As a fundraiser, I should be able to quickly access that information myself, without burdening my already overworked database or research team.

Who should I see on my next trip?

Any of us who travel are well aware of how challenging it is to set up a good prospecting trip around an anchor visit. I know from experience that if I had a dollar for every donor who cancelled an appointment, I could have made a major gift myself. How can I maximize my trip efficiency?

Who should my development officers call on this week?

Although we wish that our prospects thought about our institution all of the time, the reality is that we are not always top of mind. Who among our prospects is thinking about us now and therefore might be more inclined to be thinking about making a gift?

Who can I invite to an upcoming industry event?

Our databases are full of out-of-date career information—it’s no surprise we don’t know who to invite to the oil and gas networking event in Tulsa.

Who might be a prospect for the new concert hall?

Sure, we probably know who the music majors were. But who among our constituents is interested in performing arts at the university today?

I look forward to exploring these questions and more. EverTrue!

Jim Zimmerman is the Chief Evangelist at EverTrue and previously spent three decades in advancement. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter.

Want to learn more about GivingTree?


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