Our best-kept secret: contact report keyword search

An alum from a top business school put forth an $800K matching challenge to endow a scholarship in honor of a beloved faculty member. The timeline to meet the challenge was tight, and the usual “suspects” had been tapped. 

Here’s how an enterprising gift officer used EverTrue to mine new prospects and close two five-figure gifts for the challenge within minutes of their first conversation.

The background

Your faculty members are your on-campus celebrities. They power research that cures diseases and makes new inventions. They change students’ lives.

At this top business school, the faculty were consistently ranked #1 nationally. Understanding the faculty’s deep influence on its alums, the business school dedicated a pillar of its capital campaign to raising scholarship money in honor of beloved faculty members.

This is the brilliant cross-section of “here are the funding priorities of the university” and “please tell us what or whom you’re passionate about.” It’s the sweet spot of fundraising. (We think every institution should consider launching a scholarship campaign in honor of their faculty members.) 

Unsurprisingly, a number of alums stepped forward to make gifts in honor of the faculty members who shaped their lives, including a graduate who put forth an $800k matching challenge to establish a fully-endowed scholarship in the name of one of the school’s faculty legends.

The challenge of matching challenges

A matching challenge is its own mini-campaign, and it requires compelling marketing, quick follow-up, frequent data pulling, and consistent communication of progress towards a goal. 

Anyone who has worked to stir up awareness and support for an alum’s matching challenge knows that it is a resource-intensive process that relies on a strong project manager.

Matching challenges are the perfect opportunity to bring new or long-lapsed donors into the fold with the allure of doubled impact on a cause they care about. But with tight timelines and lots of cooks in the kitchen, getting the word out beyond the usual suspects is challenging. 

Unless, like the enterprising gift officer we’ll feature here (who shall remain anonymous), you’re willing to think outside the box and go rogue. In a good way.


Here’s how prospecting for donors to meet a matching challenge looks in a typical advancement shop:

But, this gift officer did not wait on a Development Coordinator to pull a complicated query from the alumni database to mine for new matching challenge prospects.

Instead, using the keyword search function in EverTrue, he searched for alums that had mentioned the featured professor in past contact reports. 

With one click, the gift officer searched for the faculty member’s last name in past interactions. There were 91 mentions from historical contact reports.

The gift officer viewed these prospects’ TrueView profiles which gave him a snapshot of career information, giving trends, wealth indicators, and other interests. He reached out to two alums.

Because he took an intrapreneurial approach to prospecting, this gift officer was able to quickly identify two new major gift prospects (and close two 5-figure gifts).

Prospect A: Out-of-market, modest giving

One of the first new prospects this gift officer dug up was located in rural Pennsylvania and had given modestly and sporadically to the school’s annual fund for over 40 years. 

Through his EverTrue keyword search of contact reports, the gift officer found this excerpt from a December, 2000 contact report:

Additionally, he suggested that if there were ever a chair or scholarship for his favorite professor, Professor ExWyZee, he would surely contribute.”
Anonymous alumnus
Contact report, December 2000

The gift officer reached out to the alum. They had a quick conversation. The alum committed to a $35,000 gift to the faculty member’s scholarship, and the check arrived within a week.

If the gift officer hadn’t done this keyword search, this annual fund prospect wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to step up and honor this faculty member who changed his life.

With just a little bit of tech-enabled “going rogue,” everyone wins. 

NB: The gift just spoke with this prospect last week, and the alum plans to make an additional gift of the same size (if not more) to the faculty member’s scholarship next month. He is also considering adding the scholarship to his estate plans.

Prospect B: Disengaged, minimal giving

In EverTrue, the gift officer also identified an alumna in South Bend, IN from the class of 1991 who had been disappointed with the business school following an unfortunate experience at her 25th reunion. She was not interested in re-engaging, but her historic interactions indicated a strong affinity for the faculty member featured in this scholarship matching challenge.

The gift officer reached out to this alumna to notify her about the matching challenge to raise funds in honor of this professor. She responded right away. Within seven minutes of their first conversation, she committed $50,000 to the scholarship challenge. 

This is the beginning of a repaired relationship between this disillusioned alumna and the business school. Following a “warm conversation” with the gift officer about the faculty member, she is now open to reengaging with the university.

"She had very fond feelings for Professor ExWhyZee. She has been disappointed with [business school] since her 25th reunion... And she has not been interested in re-engaging save for the fact that she has such an affinity for this professor."
Anonymous alumna
Contact report, February 2021

Untapped potential

Through searching for keywords in contact reports, this gift officer closed two five-figure gifts, helped to complete the matching challenge for the faculty member’s scholarship, and added two new major gift prospects to his pipeline.

Here’s how this process looks in a visual. 


Through keyword searching contact reports, this gift officer was able to identify a number of leads, including unassigned prospects that were outside of his assigned region and had modest lifetime giving. 

He quickly closed two 5-figure gifts and helped to close out the donor’s matching challenge. Business school alumni and friends have now raised over $1.7M to fully-endow the scholarship in honor of this beloved faculty member.

The cherry on top of this story is that both of these donors will be invited to a Principal Donors Dinner during which they will reconnect with this faculty member. 


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