On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent catches up with Amanda Trabue, Vice President of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at Western Kentucky University. Check out this recap featuring our favorite takeaways from the episode, and how to tune in yourself!
This episode is for you if you…
Just changed jobs (or plan to) and want to borrow Amanda’s idea for building a roadmap for your first 100 days on the job.
Are curious about how to get your institution’s President to buy in on a brand-new fundraising approach, even when budgets are tight.
Want to hear about how getting comfortable with discomfort (e.g. hearing “no” again and again from potential donors) can become your superpower.
Need someone (outside of EverTrue) to convince you that low ROI advancement travel is gone forever.
Admit to yourself that higher ed institutions are competing with the likes of TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter for the mindshares of their alums, and you’re building your content with this in mind.
Want to learn how WKU went from being one of EverTrue’s least-active customers to one of our most successful partnerships. (Thanks to Amanda’s leadership.)
Are eager to hear how WKU bucked its donor and dollars downward trend for the first time in years by establishing a team of digital-everything Donor Experience Officers.
Amanda Trabue was born and raised in Glasgow, Kentucky. When she landed her first job as a Regional Director at Wash U covering the West Coast hubs, there were a lot of folks who doubted whether a small-town Kentucky girl could take on the hustle of major gift fundraising with the likes of LA big-tech entrepreneurs. Amanda admits that her first few years in that Regional Director job were some of the most challenging but rewarding of her career, and her grit and persistence carried her through.
Amanda learned how to get comfortable with discomfort in her first advancement position as a student phonathon caller as an undergraduate student at WKU. She heard many “no’s.” Lots of alums hung up on her. But, in her words, she “kept on getting after it,” and it paid off. She eventually felt the buzz of closing gifts, she got promoted to Phonathon Manager, and she started to rock the beginning of a super-successful fundraising career.
And she’s been rocking ever since.
She’s self-motivated. She builds a 100-day roadmap complete with goals and meetings with key campus partners and a syllabus of reading materials every time she starts a new job. (Roadmap is courtesy of one of her first mentors, Dr. Donald Smith.)
She’s curious. When her team comes to her with proposals for an email, social, or print appeal, she always asks “Why?”
And, she’s brave. She pushed for and launched a new Donor Experience Officer program at WKU that promoted three employees who now manage portfolios of 1,000 prospects each and conduct digital discovery and cultivation conversations. Because of this program, alumni engagement is up. Downward trends in donor counts and cash flow have stabilized for the first time in years. The newly minted Donor Experience Officers are the busiest they’ve ever been; but they’re also more productive, happier, and are closing more gifts than ever before.
So, her bravery is paying off.
On this episode, Amanda reminds us to use crises to refine who and what we are; to push our personal and professional boundaries; and to let our employees know that we have their backs.