Customer Stories:

The FSU Foundation Uses EverTrue to Increase Donor Acquisition With Interest-Based Appeals


The Florida State University Foundation’s Sarishni Patel shares how her team is using EverTrue to hyper segment their annual giving appeals and create personalized experiences for donors. Sarishi is the Director of Annual Giving at the FSU Foundation.

The Challenge:

The team wanted to focus on donor interests and passions, even for annual giving appeals where donors are providing unrestricted dollars to address immediate needs at FSU. By getting to know their donors and building more relationships, the team wants to create passion-driven lists for meaningful solicitation and stewardship.

Why evertrue:

By utilizing EverTrue’s profiles, the FSU team is able to mine for interest data, social engagement data, and so much more, giving them ample opportunities to connect with donors about what they’re passionate about.

The results:

41% of the gifts brought in for the Veteran’s Program were from new donors

17% of gifts coming to the Black Male Initiative were from new donors

509 new prospects to their list, and 66% of gifts came from that new list of prospects

Sarishni Patel, The Florida State University Foundation’s Director of Annual Giving shared three key examples of how the FSU Foundation is using EverTrue to find increase donor acquisition and create personalized experiences. Their focus is asking alumni the passion question, “What would you like to accomplish with your money that would be meaningful to you?”  Here, the team is focused on identifying donor interests, and then using those passions to create meaningful opportunities for donors to give back to FSU.

The FSU Foundation wanted to get to know their donors and create more meaningful, personalized connections. Sarishni notes that in annual giving, there is not much time for one on one conversations, “It’s more about mass solicitations… at the end of the day, for the most part, we’re making a push for the general fund.” 

The Annual Fund is important for all programs; it provides unrestricted dollars to address immediate needs. Still, they wanted to get to the root of why an individual is giving, and they knew they needed segmentation to get there. The question was, how do you take a donor base with hundreds of thousands of records and segment that data into passion-driven lists for meaningful solicitation and stewardship?

Using the donor life cycle and four step guide, they looked at data through their CRM and EverTrue, Listened to their donors, Engaged meaningfully, and Thanked with impact stories. All the while, they kept their key question in mind: how do you apply the passion question to annual giving?

The Four Part Donor Life Cycle

In order to successfully engage with their donors, the FSU Foundation knew that they had to know their donors and their interests. That’s where EverTrue comes in. The platform connects a person’s Facebook activity (likes, comments, and the types of posts they interact with), giving record, career information, and interests pulled from their digital footprint, to give a complete picture of each donor and what might motivate them to give.

Using EverTrue to mine for social engagement data, they looked at their donors more closely, asking big questions like “what posts are they following?” “Are they tagging friends in their comments?” “Are they liking something? Loving something?” This information helps the FSU Foundation to build lists for appeals based on donors’ current interests now— not just which college they graduated from or what activities they participated in as a student.

By doing this, the FSU annual giving team created opportunities for donors to support the institution through initiatives that are tied to the content they are interested in and engaging with online. In addition, when thanking donors, they took a more personal approach by sharing stories on how that person’s donation greatly impacted the initiative and students involved.

Sarishni tells us first about their experience with fundraising for their Veteran Program. For this initiative, the FSU Foundation used EverTrue to find potential donors who had interacted with veterans- or ROTC-related content on FSU’s Facebook pages and used this information to supplement their CRM data to target donors with affinities associated with the Veteran Program.

As a result, 41% of the gifts brought in were from new donors, demonstrating that affinity searching & keywords help to effectively increase donor acquisition, and how their gift has made an impact on the university.

When asking for support for their Black Male Initiative, the FSU team used keyword searching in EverTrue to look for people who interacted with Facebook posts about  programs and activities tied to the Black Male Initiative, first-generation students, and student retention. They also used the more than 1,500 donor interests tracked by EverTrue to build out a solicitation list.

Using EverTrue Filters

The result led to a 17% increase in donor acquisition, from individuals who gave to this initiative because it resonated with them. 

When fundraising in support of a scholarship created to honor the late Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Karen Laughlin, the FSU Foundation used keyword searches to identify alumni who had engaged with programs she had set up, along with recent Facebook posts that were tied to the memory of Dr. Karen Laughlin. 

Keyword searching in EverTrue was particularly impactful on this initiative because it added 509 new prospects to their list, and 66% of gifts came from that new list of prospects. Wow!

Facebook Post with Dr. Laughlin

Through all of this, the FSU Foundation has kept the donor cycle as their compass by looking at the target audiences differently, listening to what they are saying through social media, engaging with them with meaningful asks, and thanking donors in an impactful way. 

Sarishni notes that thanking donors through impact stories that can be shared socially is very important. In these instances, a solicitation can start with stewardship, “When you see the impact that someone else’s gift has on another student, and you realize that it’s an annual-level gift that made this happen, you think to yourself, ‘How can I do that, too?’”

In light of these small but impactful changes, The FSU Foundation has found a way to connect with their alumni on a personal level while also using meaningful solicitations to increase donor acquisition. 

The FSU Foundation will continue using highly segmented, interest-driven appeals,  finding new ways for EverTrue to reveal donor interests. They’ll connect those interests with opportunities for their alumni to give back through gifts that are meaningful to them. Then, they’ll deliver impactful stewardship by sharing stories on how that gift has impacted current students, thus showing donors how their gift made an impact.