Advice for uncovering new major and planned gifts

DXbyET, Zach Withers, DXO at Nebraska

Since launching a Donor Experience program with EverTrue, the University of Nebraska team has seen a 190% increase in yearly donor meetings, 40+ new major gift referrals, and a $12MM increase in revenue. On the latest episode of the DXbyET video series, host Tony Munoz chats with Zach Withers, Donor Experience Officer at the University of Nebraska Foundation, for a conversation focused on key questions that uncover new major and planned gifts.

Zach Withers is a key player in the University of Nebraska’s Donor Experience program – a powerhouse donor reengagement program that is building millions of dollars in new major gift pipeline. Through the Donor Experience (“DX”) program at Nebraska, Zach and other DXOs use a top-tier tech suite to reconnect with thousands of Nebraska alumni and friends.

Over the past three years, Zach has used EverTrue’s tech suite to scale his personalized outreach to thousands of long-overlooked donors. He has held hundreds of discovery calls that have led to dozens of new major and planned gifts. In FY22, Zach personally uncovered 5 new planned gifts through his donor reengagement outreach. In FY23, Zach uncovered 7 new major and planned gifts. This year, he continues to build.

Since Zach has seen such huge success in the activity ➡️ meetings ➡️ revenue equation, we just had to ask him: What’s your secret?

On the latest episode of DXbyET, EverTrue’s Tony Munoz chats with Zach in a conversation focused on portfolio prioritization, data indicators of major gift intent, and key questions to uncover new major and planned gifts.

We all love a good highlight reel. Below are a few of the top takeaways from the conversation, including Zach’s advice on portfolio prioritization, questions to qualify major gift intent, and advice for new gift officers on uncovering new planned gifts.

"Where do I start?" Prioritizing portfolio outreach

With one thousand donors in his portfolio, Zach knows that prioritization for prospect outreach is super important. He shares how he uses EverTrue to “slice and dice” such a large subset of donors, filtering by key indicators of affinity like “Last Gift Date,” targeting folks by their annual gift date, and looking to data points like the EverTrue Donor Potential Score to help him hone in. 

Questions that uncover major gifts

Zach shares some thoughtful questions that he asks donors that unearth affinity, inclination, and the potential for major contributions down the road. A few of his go-to questions include, “What is your connection to the university?” “Do you want to be a donor?” “What are your philanthropic priorities?” “How do you go about making philanthropic decisions?” “Are you open to learning more about making an impact?”

When it comes to planned gifts, just ask.

Asking donors to make a significant contribution to their alma maters can be scary – and asking if folks have included their alma maters in thei wills or estate plans is an extra-sensitive topic. But, as Zach has learned through connecting with thousands of long-overlooked donors, like anything else, it gets easier with practice. And, 80% of donors who meet with a DXO have been giving to their alma maters but have never had the chance to connect with personally connect with a gift officer. So, chances are high that donors will be appreciative of the chance to talk honestly and openly about their past, current, and future impact.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is paving the way for a new era of philanthropy. With innovative strategy and cutting-edge technology, they’re turning donors into champions and revolutionizing the way we engage with our supporters. Pipeline generators like Zach and his DXO colleagues are proof of the impact of scaled, personalized outreach that strengthens relationships and drives meaningful impact. Go Big Red!

On our DXbyET video series, we take a behind-the-scenes look at the high-velocity, tech-enabled Donor Experience programs that are transforming fundraising shops around the country. Tune in!


Want to see what a Donor Experience program would look like at your institution?

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