Winning Strategies: Turning Fans into Donors — RECAP

Wow! That was so fun.

Yesterday, our founder and CEO Brent Grinna sat down with Casey Steffan, Director of Membership and Development at the Virginia Athletics Foundation, and Nick Fulton, Director of Annual Campaigns of The Rams Club at UNC, for a conversation on how advancement teams can adopt new tactics to find new donors, personalize appeals, create better stewardship experiences, and empower frontline fundraisers.

They broke down the challenges facing athletics fundraisers — and fundraisers on any advancement team — and shared what’s moving the needle as they turn fans into lifelong donors.

First off, thank you to Casey and Nick for their time and for sharing the great work they’re doing.

If you didn’t get to see the tour de force of a webinar, here’s the entire broadcast.


We’ll also embed the slides below if you prefer to spin through the presentation that way.

Here are our top-six takeaways…

1) The old way is broken (watch the excerpt)

This is a critical time for advancement. A 25-year decline in annual participation coupled with perpetual campaigns threatens to squeeze current donors and has created constant pressure to find new prospects.

On top of that, athletics fundraisers are feeling the pain of recent changes to the tax code, which eliminated deductions for ticket-related sales. Teams must think about sustaining a culture of philanthropy versus relying on a give-and-get model.

Yet current technology holds the industry back. Constituent data, ticketing, giving history, and engagement information live in separate systems. Most fundraisers can’t access all these critical data in one place, easily, using intuitive tools. They’re hamstrung!

2) Modern tools yield results (watch the excerpt)

When you give fundraisers the right tools (like EverTrue), you grant them access to all of this information in one place. Then great things can happen.

For example, both The Rams Club and the Virginia Athletic Association have combined donor data, ticketing and parking information, giving history, and social insights in EverTrue.

That info travels with them—on desktop or smartphones—letting fundraisers connect easily with donors at home or away games, review profiles on the go, and record contact notes on-site. That’s upping the in-game stewardship experience for top donors.

Nick called it a game-changer.

“The fact that it’s available on mobile, so you can run into someone while they’re tailgating and say ‘I’ll stop by your seats later on.’ … You can also close that interaction loop right then and there. You can see somebody, meet with them or say hi during the game, and put any notes right there in the app. That way, if my colleague is going to plan a meeting with that prospect next week, they’ll have that context.”

Search seating and parking information and enter contact reports from your phone.

3) Change up travel routes to build pipeline (watch the excerpt)

On a recent trip to New York City, Casey challenged herself to see a maximum of three prospects that she already knew. She filled the rest of her trip with meetings with donors who hadn’t received a visit before. Here’s what happened:

“I ran a search for donors who live or work in Manhattan who had never been seen before. I met with several new donors, including one who had a Long Island address in our database, but I could see via the LinkedIn data in EverTrue that he worked in Manhattan.

During the course of our meeting, he showed me a picture of his basement with the five pillars our basketball coach preaches painted on the walls. I never would have found that guy had it not been for LinkedIn and I think he could become a major prospect for us. … Without EverTrue and the ability to plan a trip this way, I wouldn’t have been able to meet him.”

Casey’s experience not only underscores the value of digital insights, which led her to a great touchpoint with a new prospect, but it also hints at the next chapter of major gift fundraising.

As an industry, we need to focus on building relationships with new prospects and bringing new dollars in the door. We can’t rely on drawing from the same well over and over again. Instead, we need to tap into the potential of new donors.

Both Rams Club and VAF gift officers use EverTrue’s mobile-friendly tools to plan trips and meet new prospects.

4) Speak directly to donor interests (watch the excerpt)

What if you knew exactly what a donor cared about and when they had your institution top of mind?

You can.

It’s all about aligning communication strategy with fundraising priorities and then using tools like EverTrue to tap into social signals, whether it’s a Facebook like or comment or interest in an upcoming event or live broadcast.

At the Virginia Athletics Foundation, they’re using targeted asks and customized giving pages (created in EverTrue) to reach former student-athletes, who now represent 25% of all VAF members.

There a ton of potential to build on this strategy and extend those appeals to engaged fans of each sport, showing these potential donors how their gifts support student-athletes at UVA.

Customized appeals from the Virginia Athletics Foundation

5) Scale one-to-one outreach for maximum impact (watch the excerpt)

Last year, The Rams Club set the record for the most annual members in the foundation’s history. (See our previous post, Championship Fundraising with the UNC Rams Club.)

Nick credits his team’s one-on-one approach for hitting this mark. They invited current members to bring friends to an 11-stop Tar Heel tour following UNC’s mens basketball championship, then used mobile-friendly forms to enroll new members on the spot. They also used a similar approach to connect with current students, adding hundreds of new members while helping educate the next generation of the importance of giving back.

They’re also in the midst of beating Duke head on in an “Our Blue is Best” membership challenge. Social support from The Rams Club Facebook page, email, and gift officer outreach are driving new donor recruitment right now.

6) Your institution has thousands of prospects raising their hands. What are you going to do about it? (watch the excerpt)

Your team is doing great work generating fan engagement. You have thousands of ticket buyers and hundreds of thousands of fans interacting with your teams and institution online.

We tracked hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans for these institutions.

The question is: What are you going to do about it?

Are you going to use these insights to drive non-donors to give to support the teams and causes they care about?

Will you see who you can convert from engaged ticket buyer to annual donor?

Do you want to know who bleeds your team’s colors AND has the capacity to transform today’s student-athlete experience?

You can do all that and more.

The choice is yours.

If you’re ready to shift into Advancement 2.0, we can help. Request an EverTrue demo today.

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As promised, here are the slides.

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