On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent chats with Louis Diez, Executive Director of Annual Giving at Muhlenberg College and Founder of the Donor Participation Project.
When national donor counts and alumni participation dropped after COVID hit, Louis wanted to bring advancement folks together to discuss trends and share ideas about how to turn things around – so he started the Donor Participation Project. A completely grassroots effort has since grown into a space where hundreds of folks bat around topics like recurring gifts, the subscription economy, the costs of acquisition versus retention, and donors as customers, partners, or even investors.
What is the Donor Participation Project? In Louis’ words, “We are a community of fundraisers who gather monthly and discuss how to increase donor participation at their organizations.”
Louis is awesome. Catch some highlights and listen to the full podcast episode below.
Here are some highlights from the episode…
“It suddenly felt like our work really mattered and was making a difference.” Louis’ work at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra encouraged him to find ways to raise money outside of transactional fundraising.
“This is an organization where the community is so important.” Muhlenberg College finds new ways to engage their audience, focusing on authentic community building over transactional relationships.
“We’re seeing the same challenges and opportunities that the whole sector sees.” The evolution of communication technology has contributed to the change in the quality of the relationship between alumni and alma mater. Louis hosts the Donor Participation Project to test new ways to reach out to donors and increase participation.
“People come for the benefit but they stay for the community.” Louis explains how authenticity and using the right communication mediums can expand reach.
“Functional communities are participatory, purposeful, recurring, and have established leaders.” Different fundraising methods and event models can facilitate the growth of a successful community. Muhlenberg College modified their system to prioritize authenticity, medium, and frequency of communication.
More about Louis…
Louis Diez is an expert in annual fund development, digital fundraising, and engagement strategies.
He currently serves as the Executive Director of Annual Giving at Muhlenberg College.
Previously, he was Director of the Annual Fund and Development Business Operations at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Associate Director of Development at Johns Hopkins SAIS. In this last role, he led annual giving efforts and worked closely with the Latin-American Studies Program to fund major priorities. Prior to Hopkins, he was the annual fund director at a liberal arts college in TN.
Of varied interests, Louis holds an MBA from CUNEF, a PhD in Business Administration from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (both in Spain), and an MM in Music Performance from the University of TN. His thesis applied neural networks to predict economic performance indicators. He has also published articles on the investment value of musical instruments, edited peer-reviewed papers exploring applications for economic theories of legitimacy, and been featured in the music business section of the College Music Society’s journal. He writes about philanthropy in his blog and hosts the Donor Participation Project.
We hosted Louis on the EverTrue blog last spring for an awesome convo about Donor Retention (and what it’s like being a classical violist). Check it out.
His work at Muhlenberg and through the Donor Participation Project is changing advancement. Follow him on LinkedIn!