How Advancement Services can lead during COVID-19

Remote work. An up and down stock market. 15 million unemployed and counting. And COVID-19 keeps spreading.

It’s a crazy, upside down, uncertain world that we’re living in. We will beat this and get back to advancement as usual, but until then, it’s comforting to rely on quantifiable numbers, analytics, and metrics. Let data guide advancement teams through the current crisis.

Here’s a guide for how Advancement Services teams can help lead development and alumni relations shops with actionable insights during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Dig into “yardwork”

During a recent live Q&A, Chris Campbell, Senior AVP of Information Strategy at the Oklahoma State University Foundation, talked about using this crisis as an opportunity.

Families across the country are getting outside on the weekends, planting gardens, weeding, and getting ready for summer. That hard work will pay off with gorgeous lawns in the coming months.

The same principles apply to advancement services and data management. The work you do now will pay off in the weeks and months to come as the world emerges from this pandemic. 

Think about the projects your team can dig into and get your hands dirty. What are the new data sources you need? Now is the time to invest in improving data quality. 

If you’ve been through a wealth screening, have your team get that info loaded into your CRM. Or look into adding monthly updated net worth information for your entire database via Windfall.

Push gift officers to review their recent meetings and submit interactions and update contact information. (If you’re an EverTrue customer, our Suggest an Update feature is perfect for this.) Fundraisers are sitting on information from their prospects and donors that should be in the system.

If you have new career data that’s not yet in your CRM, now is the time to update that information and keep track as alumni change jobs. Help your team take action on the data by feeding your alumni relations and career services departments’ lists of alumni working in hard-hit industries like travel, retail, and restaurants — giving them the ability to reach out, promote networking opportunities, and help alumni connect with other alumni-run companies still hiring. 

Expand access to information

Data quality is awesome. Getting critical information to your team is even better.

As you update records and bring in new data sources, how are you distributing that to your development and alumni relations teams? What new reports can you build to help guide their activity?

Once we beat this coronavirus and put it behind us, it’s likely that mid-tier giving will be more critical than ever if top donors scale back the way they did in 2008. You’ll need to help your team identify the highly engaged, long-term, leadership-level donors that could become major gift prospects and feed discovery and digital gift officer programs.

This is also a time to leverage wealth insights to identify low-level donors from affluent households. Who are the $500 donors who give way below their capacity? They probably won’t get the one-on-one stewardship experience they deserve unless you connect them with a donor experience officer.

The New School is enhancing stewardship and discovery with wealth data. Within days of their first outreach to one of these wealthy, low-level donors, they closed a new six-figure endowed scholarship.

Patty walks EverTrue customers through adding new custom data fields and shows off features that can help teams handle fundraising and engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Re-do rating, asks, and projections for top donors and Trustees

“With economic and market turmoil, you’ll need to use all available resources to guide senior management with data analysis and predictions for your top prospects and trustees,” says Regan Holt, Senior Director of Product here at EverTrue and former advancement services team leader. 

“That means reviewing current career data, incorporating available layoff data from  companies associated with the prospect’s household, looking at real estate value changes, updating wealth and net worth scores, and then checking to see if your recommended ask amounts still make sense.”

Once you’ve analyzed the data and mapped out projects for these top donors, your team will have a better sense of where it needs to focus its attention. Replacing seven and eight-figure gifts is not easy, but a better idea of where the very top of your pyramid stands will help your team set goals, shape projections, and build a better giving funnel.

Track virtual visits

On a recent webinar, we found than more than 50 percent of teams have started counting video calls toward gift officer activity goals in the last month. That’s a necessary step as the entire world now lives on Zoom and Google Hangouts.

One-third of all advancement teams already counted video chats as visits, but now it’s an overwhelming majority. And we don’t think this trend will disappear. This shift to digital engagement holds a huge potential for fundraising. A gift officer can make dozens of video calls in a day versus a handful of in-person visits — and they can do so at a fraction of the cost. Development officers will still need face-to-face visits with prospects, but smart teams will put more resources into building out digital advancement programs in order to deliver personal, concierge-like experiences to hundreds more donors at scale.

Oh, and if you’re using EverTrue, we’ve just added new features allowing teams to record, track, and manage virtual meetings right from our platform. It’s part of how we’re working hard to help advancement teams adapt to this “new normal.”

This changes everything

“We’re experiencing huge changes to profile data with everyone working remotely, increasing time spent online — particularly on Facebook — and using digital media for networking more than ever,” Regan said. “After COVID-19, we will all be different people with new perspectives and interests. A significant portion of the workforce (aka our constituent base) will have experienced major changes to their wealth, their careers, and in some cases, their families.”

“We always say current data can help clients understand who alumni are today versus who they were when they graduated. But now the question will be: ‘Who are they today versus who they were before the COVID-19 pandemic?’”

It will be more critical than ever to have continually updated data in our systems as we engage and serve constituents, build stronger relationships, and ask for their support.

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.

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