An alum from a top business school put forth an $800K matching challenge to endow a scholarship in honor of a beloved faculty member. The timeline to meet the challenge was tight, and Darden’s base of loyal supporters had already been asked to participate.
Here’s how an enterprising gift officer used EverTrue to identify new prospective donors and close two five-figure gifts for the challenge within minutes of their first conversation.
Your faculty members are your on-campus celebrities. They power research that cures diseases and gives life to new inventions. They change students’ lives.
At Darden School of Business, the faculty are consistently ranked #1 nationally. Understanding the faculty’s deep influence on its alums, Darden dedicated a pillar of its capital campaign to raising scholarship money in honor of beloved faculty members. They called the project “Honoring Faculty Legends.“
This is the brilliant cross-section of “here are the funding priorities of the university” and “please tell us what or whom you’re passionate about.” It’s the sweet spot of fundraising. (We think every institution should consider launching a scholarship campaign in honor of their faculty members.)
Unsurprisingly, a number of alums stepped forward to make gifts in honor of the faculty members who shaped their lives, including a graduate who put forth an $800k matching challenge to establish a fully-endowed scholarship in honor of one of Darden’s faculty legends, Professor E. Richard Brownlee II.
The challenge of matching challenges
A matching challenge is its own mini-campaign, and it requires compelling marketing, quick follow-up, frequent data pulling, and consistent communication of progress towards a goal.
Anyone who has worked to stir up awareness and support for an alum’s matching challenge knows that it is a resource-intensive process that relies on a strong project manager.
Matching challenges are the perfect opportunity to bring new or long-lapsed donors into the fold with the chance for doubled impact on a cause they care about. But with tight timelines and lots of cooks in the kitchen, getting the word out to new prospects is challenging.
Unless, like Darden gift officer Andrew Westhouse, you’re willing to think outside the box and go rogue. In a good way.
Here’s how prospecting for donors to meet a matching challenge looks in a typical advancement shop:
But, Darden’s Andrew Westhouse did not wait on a Development Coordinator to pull a complicated query from the alumni database to find new prospective donors to meet the Brownlee Scholarship matching challenge.
Instead, using the keyword search function in EverTrue, he searched for alums that had mentioned the featured professor in past conversations.
With one click, Andrew searched for the faculty member’s last name in past interactions. There were 91 mentions from historical contact reports.
Andrew reviewed these prospects’ TrueView profiles which gave him a snapshot of career information, giving trends, wealth indicators, and other interests. He reached out to two alums.
Because he took an intrapreneurial approach to prospecting, this Andrew was able to quickly identify two new major gift prospects (and close two 5-figure gifts).
Prospect A: Out-of-market, modest giving
One of the first new prospects Andrew identified was located in rural Pennsylvania and had given modestly and sporadically to the school’s annual fund for over 40 years.
Through his EverTrue keyword search of contact reports, Andrew found this indication of support for the Brownlee Scholarship:
Andrew reached out to the alum. They had a quick conversation. The alum was thrilled to support the Brownlee Scholarship and immediately committed to a $35,000 gift to the faculty member’s scholarship fund.
If Andrew hadn’t done this keyword search, this annual fund prospect wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to step up and honor this faculty member who changed his life.
With just a little bit of tech-enabled “going rogue,” everyone wins.
NB: The gift just spoke with this alumnus last week, and the alum plans to make an additional gift of the same size to the faculty member’s scholarship next month. He is also considering adding the scholarship to his estate plans.
Prospect B: Disengaged, minimal giving
In EverTrue, Andrew also identified an alumna in South Bend, IN who had been disappointed with the business school following an unfortunate experience at her 25th reunion. She was not interested in re-engaging, but had previously indicated a strong affinity for Professor Brownlee.
Andrew reached out to this alumna to notify her about the matching challenge to raise funds in honor of this professor. She responded right away. Within seven minutes of their first conversation, she committed $50,000 to the scholarship challenge.
This is the beginning of a repaired relationship between this disillusioned alumna and Darden. Following her conversation with Andrew about Professor Brownlee, she is now open to reengaging with the university.
Through searching for keywords in contact reports, Andrew closed two five-figure gifts, helped to complete the matching challenge for the faculty member’s scholarship, and added two new major gift prospects to his portfolio.
Here’s how this process looks in a visual.
Through keyword searching contact reports, Andrew was able to identify a number of prospective donors, including alums who were outside of his typical geographic region and had given modestly in the past.
He quickly closed two 5-figure gifts and helped to close out the matching challenge. Darden school alumni and friends have now raised over $1.7M to fully-endow the scholarship in honor of this beloved faculty member.
The cherry on top of this story is that both of these donors will be invited to a Principal Donors Dinner during which they will reconnect with Professor Brownlee. Well done, Andrew!