K-State, COVID19, and Gift Officers Going Remote

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Here’s EverTrue’s take on the novel coronavirus pandemic and its impact on advancement: We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to learn from each other and share best practices for remote fundraising, working from home, and handling uncertainty. Bookmark this page and subscribe for ongoing updates.

As the Kansas State University Foundation moves to a fully remote work environment in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the staff is using tactics from their Digital Development Officers to keep their gift officers in contact with prospects and trying new things.

We had a conversation with Eric Holderness, AVP of Development, at the Kansas State University Foundation about their shift to a fully remote work environment starting today (they pulled their fundraisers from the road last week). Watch the video or read the highlights below.

"This challenge comes in the year 2020 when we have the tools that allow us to conduct a face-to-face personal visit in the digital format."

Try new things, see what works, and share results

Each team will host a team meeting at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day as a way to stay in touch, share what’s working, answer questions, and keep each other motivated. They’ll use group video chats on Zoom, which can host live conversations for up to 100 people.

Eric says these check-ins are a way for fundraisers to “steal meetings” from each other. No, they’re not actually snatching prospects from each other’s portfolios — they’re sharing insights and ideas that work for each other, which is critical as we head into uncharted territory.


Virtual meetings count

Like most development teams, K-State tracks activity and uses face-to-face meetings as a key performance metric.

That doesn’t work when your gift officers aren’t traveling (Kansas State shut down air travel last week). And, as Eric said, donors aren’t exactly itching to welcome strangers into their home right now.

So the Foundation has adapted. They’re taking what they’ve learned from their Digital Development Officer program, which empowers fundraisers to use social media, video calls, and highly personalized email outreach to connect with new prospects, and applying those lessons to major gift fundraising.

Video chats or phone calls will now count toward meeting goals, as long as it’s a “substantive conversation” that moves the relationship forward. And gift officers will be checking in more often via email with their prospects.

Thinking about getting a Digital Gift Program up and running? We’ve got a playbook for that.


Now’s the time to get creative

Studies have shown that people are more likely to respond to a survey if they also receive a small amount of cash.  

Could that tactic translate into taking a meeting with a gift officer?

Kansas State is going to find out. Since they’re not traveling during the COVID19 outbreak, they can’t buy a coffee for an alumna in person. So they’re mailing $5 Starbucks gift cards as a way to buy their prospects a coffee while also grabbing their attention in a new way. 

Uncertain times can give fundraisers opportunities to try something new. As travel costs decline, Kansas State is reinvesting some of those resources to keep its team on track.


Demonstrate care for your team and your donors

These are crazy times. The best thing we can do is to continue to put donors first and to meet the needs of staff. Essentially, let’s be good to each other.

Eric and the K-State fundraisers are going to be reaching out to all of their managed prospects to check-in and be a resource. They’ll use map-based searches in EverTrue to connect with alumni in COVID-19 hotspots. And they’re giving their staff the flexibility to stay safe, be there for their families, and the support they need as we all head into the unknown.

Learn more about remote work or advancement during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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