In this conversation with Matthew Ewing, Vice President for University Advancement at Boise State University, we talk about why he brought a Donor Experience Program to Boise State and wins from the first full year of DXO outreach.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 and the advancement world shifted from in-person visits to virtual donor engagement, Boise State University was already in the process of launching a Donor Experience Program and embracing fully digital outreach.
“We talk a lot about innovation and what we call ‘Blue Turf Thinking’ at Boise State [which is famous for its unique blue football field],” Matthew said. “Blue Turf Thinking is about constantly asking the question of how we can get better and how we should do things differently.”
The team initially hired three Donor Experience Officers (DXOs) to each manage 1,000 newly assigned prospects. Eventually, Boise State would expand the program to add two more DXOs to focus on athletics prospects, putting a total of 6,000 additional donors under management.
Across the industry, only about 2 percent of constituents are assigned to a gift officer (source: EverTrue analysis). With its Donor Experience Program, Boise State 2.5x’d their pool of assigned prospects, and began working hard to deliver a personalized experience to every single one.
Donor Experience Officers use EverTrue’s technology and integrations to stay on top of their portfolios. Every day, they begin outreach to five new people, putting each into a cadence — a touchpoint plan that they then customize to the donor’s interests and needs.
Once a prospect is in a cadence, the DXO receives automatic reminders to keep contacting or engaging that person. That way, DXOs can easily complete dozens of touchpoints daily and, over a full year, cover a portfolio that is eight times larger than a typical major gift officer’s.
“When I think back to past approaches to donor engagement or leadership annual giving, I can’t help but think about all of the people who we didn’t engage with at the right time or with the right cadence,” Matthew said.
“The EverTrue touchpoint plan is our process now. I commend our team for buying into the process.”
“We know our friends want to engage with us, they just don’t always respond right away. I get it, people are busy. So I’m a big believer in this concept of polite persistence and cadence-based outreach that [EverTrue] introduced to us. I wish I had this 15 years ago when I began my career in leadership annual giving.”
Most of the prospects assigned to a DXO have either never been assigned to a gift officer before or haven’t had a visit in years. So they’re not used to receiving direct, personal outreach from a fundraiser.
At Boise State, DXOs 4x’d activity with their assigned prospects in FY22 compared to FY20, the year before it launched its Donor Experience Program. That’s thousands of emails, phone calls, meetings, and interactions with a pool of high-potential donors who were eager to engage.
Donors are hungry for this type of outreach. Consumers have a baseline expectation of personalization from the companies and organizations they choose. As Boise State 4x’d activity with this prospect pool, it also 4.5x’d meetings with these individuals.
In their first full year of outreach, Boise State DXOs averaged more than 100 meetings each. And most of their prospects were cold, meaning they weren’t used to this outreach or meeting with a fundraiser.
At the end of the day, activity is great and meetings are better, but fundraising is about raising those funds. EverTrue has seen tremendous return on investment from Donor Experience Programs across the country that increase activities leading to visits, engage donors in the way they want to be engaged, and make asks at the right time
Sometimes that leads to uncovering estate gifts or donors who are ready for a major gift. For example, one of the first prospects Scott Jurgens connected with ended up documenting a $400,000 estate gift after a year of cultivation. (Congrats to Scott, by the way — he was recently promoted from DXO to Director of Development at Boise State).
“Scott asked this donor a simple but important question that we often overlook, ‘What do you want to accomplish with your philanthropy?’ And, while this donor had been supporting the university, no one had ever asked him that before,” Matthew said. “We talk a lot about proposals and donor strategies, but often we just need to ask that simple question. In this case, that turned into a planned gift for our university.”
This isn’t just a one-off success story. Using the DXO approach, Boise State is rapidly increasing gift revenue from this entire prospect pool. Prospects assigned to DXOs 3.4x’d their giving when comparing FY22 to FY20. That’s a tremendous increase in support for the students, faculty, and programming at Boise State University.
By connecting with 2.5x’s more prospects, engaging them in ways that lead to more giving, and then stewarding those relationships, the team at Boise State is building leadership and major gift pipeline for years to come.
And this is only the beginning of how Matthew and the Boise State team are thinking about transforming their work.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface on asking ourselves every day, ‘How can we get better and how can we do it differently?’” Matthew said. “We’ve shown the proof-of-concept with a fresh approach to the leadership annual giving officer model. So next, we have to ask ‘How can we do annual giving differently? How can we do planned giving differently? How do we extend this concept to our entire organization?’”
At Boise State, this evolution has just begun.
Ready to learn more?
Download the Donor Experience Starter Kit to see the cadences and templates DXOs use or watch an Ask-Me-Anything conversation featuring three DXOs, including Carly Snider of Boise State University.