How Advancement Services can support alumni and advancement teams during COVID-19

Chris Campbell Advancement Services COVID-19

Yesterday our CEO Brent Grinna chatted with Chris Campbell, Senior AVP of Information Strategy at the Oklahoma State University Foundation. Chris answered questions about how advancement services can support both the team and alumni in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Chris Campbell, Oklahoma State University



















Some of what we’re doing today will stick long-term

The shift to digital collaboration is real. In the past couple years, Chris and the OSU Foundation had equiped almost the entire staff with laptops and rolled out Microsoft Teams for open communication. But this crisis is expanding their use of Teams and they recently held their first-ever digital all-staff meeting with 140 Foundation employees on the call.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t keep doing this,” Chris said. “We have staff across the country — remote staff in Texas and New York — and people are craving this interaction anyways. I think there will be some exciting outcomes from this when we get through [this crisis]. This is a way we can interact with not just our internal team, but our constituents and our prospects as well.”

OSU also uses EverTrue to give its entire team access to critical donor data, which means they’re not relying on a limited number of VPNs to access their database with everyone working remotely.

“If we didn’t have EverTrue at the OSU Foundation, I would have gotten a dozen of requests to get access to our system already. But that’s not happening because we’ve deployed EverTrue to all of our fundraising and development officers,” Chris said.

This crisis has emphasized the need for every team to have access to information, pull reports, and work from anywhere. The right technology makes that possible. 

Put alumni first

As the coronavirus spread and began shutting down different sectors of society, one of the first things the Foundation did was partner with the OSU Alumni Association (a separate 501c3) to create an amazing resource page for graduates: It’s a hub of information about how OSU supports students, what concerned families can do, opportunities for alumni engagement, and ways to give back. 

This is also a critical time to ensure donors have great stewardship experiences. Advancement services take the lead by curating lists of recent gifts from assigned prospects, helping fundraisers reach out to their donors. This is also an opportunity to build leadership giving programs and future major gift pipeline with one-on-one outreach to unassigned wealthy, engaged, donors. 

Chris highlighted the importance of stewardship by sharing an interaction with T. Boone Pickens, one of Oklahoma State’s most generous donors. During an oil crisis, Pickens lost much of his wealth. Still, Jim Halligan, former president of the OSU Foundation, paid him a visit.

“Boone’s first comment was, ‘You know Jim, I don’t have anything to give you. I don’t know why you’re pestering me,’” Chris said. “And Dr. Halligan, a very smart person, said, ‘Boone, I’m not here because of what you’re going to do. I’m here because of what you’ve already done.’”

Now is the time to say thank you to donors, share stories of impact and appreciation, and showcase the importance of giving. 

Get your yardwork done

Chris used a yardwork as a metaphor to talk about using the current crisis as an opportunity. With everyone sheltering at home and the weather getting better in Oklahoma, families are investing more time in their yards and gardens. Everyone will have beautiful flowers and green grass this summer, thanks to the work they’ve put in now.

The same applies to advancement services and information strategy. This is an opportunity to tap into new data sources, remind gift officers to log contact reports and share updated contact information. Green light virtual visits for your team and count then as meetings in your team metrics. It’s a time to try something new and to work on a big project that will pay off in the future.

“There are so many different pools and silos of data across campus,” Chris said. “What does that look like for your institution? How are you bringing that in? We’ve been partnering with our athletic department to help load with some of the data from their ticketing solution.”

“This is also an opportunity to make time in your day just to push back from the desk, put your feet up for five, 10, 15 minutes and pontificate. What could we do differently or better? What technology should we invest in now and in the future? Give yourself some space to sit down and think about some things deeply without having to rush from thing to thing.”

Watch the entire Q&A here.

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, managing fundraisers remotely, and handling uncertainty.
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