Customer Stories:

Bentley University achieved an 85% open rate celebrating first-time donors


For years, the Bentley University team sent a personalized postcard to first-time donors to welcome them to the donor community. Given the success of that long-standing mail tradition, the Bentley team sought to expand this tradition through a different medium: video.

The Challenge:

To keep costs low, the Bentley team relied on existing video footage from the University that was enjoyable, quick, and demonstrated what Bentley University is all about for their alumni. They took lessons from what worked best in the original direct mail campaign – the effect of positive emotions of nostalgic “firsts” – and translated that into a welcome video for first-time donors titled “First job. First day. First gift to Bentley.”

The team needed a quick, fun, personalized way to share this video message with first-time donors.

Why evertrue:

ThankView by EverTrue allowed the Bentley team to share this creative video with a list of first-time donors in a branded, personalized email. In ThankView by EverTrue, the Bentley team housed the video on a branded landing page.

The results:

With just three hours of staff time, the Bentley University team creatively utilized existing campus video footage to create personalized welcome videos for first-time donors, achieving an impressive 85% open rate via ThankView.

Thanks for “The Firsts” was the recipient of a CASE Circle of Excellence Awards for outstanding work in advancement.

Year: 2023
Award Level: Grand Gold
Award Winner(s): Bentley University

In the realm of donor relations, expressing gratitude is an art form. It’s about more than just saying thank you; it’s about making donors feel valued and connected to the impact of their contributions. Bentley University’s “The Firsts” campaign has been making waves.

The “Firsts” campaign is a testament to Bentley’s commitment to stewarding their donors effectively. From its beginnings as a simple postcard to its evolution into a dynamic video, the campaign has revolutionized how first-time donors at Bentley are appreciated and engaged.

How it started

“The Firsts” campaign was born out of a necessity to engage first-time donors more effectively. Initially, the team at Bentley used traditional methods like postcards, but they found that these were not achieving the impact and engagement they desired. Lytta Tetta, Senior Assistant Director of Donor Relations at Bentley, noted that there was a need for a more creative and engaging approach to thank donors promptly.

Why it works

The campaign started as a basic concept of acknowledging “firsts” but transformed into a video that not only captured the importance of the donor’s gift, but tugged on their nostalgic heart strings, too. Reminders of their first day of school, first friend, first mentor, first exam, and more, reiterated just how important these “first moments” were in their life at Bentley. And now, they have a new first to celebrate!

One of the campaign’s key strengths lies in its scalability and efficiency. The team leveraged existing photos and videos from across campus databases, to create a visually compelling video (that took only 3 hours of staff time to stand up!) And since this footage is not tied to a specific initiative or time frame, the video will stay relevant for years to come. Plus, given the audience of first time donors, there will never be anyone who receives the video twice. Therefore, the team can let it run as-is with minimal changes for years to come. (That’s a win for everyone!)

The Impact

The results speak volumes. After its initial launch, this video achieved an 85% open rate! And since its sent on an ongoing basis, it’s continued to achieve open rates of over 70%.  Donors responded positively to the engaging nature of the videos, making them feel valued and connected to the causes they supported. Moreover, the campaign has streamlined the process of thanking first time donors, saving time and resources while maximizing impact.


Bentley University’s “Firsts” campaign exemplifies the power of innovative donor relations strategies. By embracing video content and personalized messaging, the university has successfully cultivated a culture of gratitude and appreciation among its donor community. We can’t wait to see what amazing campaigns they think of next!