The UConn Foundation mobilizes frontline fundraisers, sets new giving and engagement records with EverTrue
The University of Connecticut Foundation, a separate nonprofit that raises and administers funds for UConn, aims to strengthen the university “one relationship at a time” by engaging more than 250,000 alumni, parents, and friends. The Foundation’s staff of 150+ works with EverTrue and Blackbaud Enterprise CRM as its underlying database.Challenge
The team was tasked to create a personal experience for every graduate, increase annual participation, move toward $100 million in annual fundraising, and supply up-to-date information to frontline fundraisers.Why EverTrue
The mobile-first platform gives users global access to constituent information, taps into new sources of digital engagement and information, and lets every team member generate lists and segments with powerful search filters.Results
• Gave development officers on-the-go access to constituent data, maximizing efficiency by allowing them to prospect and enter contact reports from their mobile devices.
• Reversed a five-year decline in annual participation (prior to FY18, the Foundation had lost 2,000 donors a year since 2013)
• Increased year-over-year attendance at its annual homecoming weekend by 79 percent by personalizing content in invitations.
• Achieved an all-time-high in total fundraising in FY18.
“As an industry, we need to look creatively at what we’re trying to accomplish and find new ways to get there. We were on a paved road, but now we’ve made a right turn and we’re on a dirt road. It’s unpaved, uncharted, but at least we have a Jeep. In many ways, the Jeep has been EverTrue.”
The Full Story
Filling the Mobile Gap
After transitioning databases to Blackbaud CRM and refining internal reporting, the Foundation wanted a solution that gave development officers mobile access to its entire database (not just their own caseloads), manage their portfolios, and put together their own searches when planning trips or mining for prospects.
They turned to EverTrue as the solution for their complex needs.
“EverTrue has put the data in our fundraisers’ hands so they can build their own call lists,” said Jennifer Sargent, senior director of research, prospect management, and data services. “They create prospect lists right in EverTrue and use the trip-planning features to organize their travel, map distances between visits, and enter contact reports.”
With support from the Foundation’s advancement services team, all users have access to see how alumni interact with UConn on Facebook and view current career information from LinkedIn. They can use that information to build searches and generate lists while also tapping into UConn’s own prospect management data, historical giving information, and prospect screening results in the office or on the road.
Lisa Carter, business systems analyst, said “After launching EverTrue, we’ve seen a two-thirds decrease in list requests from our fundraisers. They’re able to find relevant, geo-specific prospect information for trips on their own. Seeing development officers embrace technology is so exciting!”
Not only has the number of list requests shrunk, but the team also uses the collaboration tools in EverTrue to build prospect lists and plan trips as the regional engagement team works alongside major gift fundraisers. UConn has also dramatically cut its reliance on paper. Instead of printing contact reports and constituent records before every trip, fundraisers can access up-to-date information from their iPhones or Androids.
“EverTrue is on our phones. All our development officers now have direct access to our database, they can geo-locate to find prospects when they’re on trips just by drawing on their phone,” Josh said. “Requests for our research office have gone down because development officers can do the work themselves and be more proactive. We just moved to mobile contact report entry, too, so the timeliness of information getting back into the system and the data sharing has been incredible.”
More Engagement, More Event Attendees
Using EverTrue’s integration with Facebook, which allows users to see public likes and comments from alumni, the marketing and acquisition group at UConn quickly identified topics that resonated with grads. They used that information to create 10 categories of engaged alumni.
They then targeted each of those segments with personalized content promoting the Huskies Forever Weekend 2017 event (UConn’s homecoming weekend). Instead of sending a generic, one-size-fits-all invitation, the team delivered custom messaging to each of those audience segments. If they saw graduates had interacted with Facebook posts about craft brewing or the 5K race, they put content in the email that promoted those events at homecoming weekend.
Combining this segmentation with an enhanced multichannel marketing effort, UConn increased registrations by an astounding 79% over the previous year by listening to alumni interests, better understanding their connection to the University, and reaching out with programming that spoke directly to those passions.
Planning for UConn’s 2018 Homecoming is already in full swing. The team has added another segment (turning it up to 11!). In its first email campaign, UConn saw exciting results — they increased unique opens by 19% and unique clicks by an incredible 119% compared with last year’s initial push.
Plugging the Leaky Bucket
By sharing powerful impact stories, responding to engaged graduates, stewarding existing donors, and using segmentation to personalize communication with alumni, UConn reversed a five-year decline in donors.
From 2013 to 2017, the Foundation lost about 2,000 annual fund donors each year. But with a new take on audience engagement and using segmentation powered by EverTrue, UConn increased participation numbers in 2017-18 for the first time in five years.
The secret to stopping the decline? Connecting alumni to causes they cared about most via a combination of proactive and reactive outreach.
In December 2017, UConn saw 75% year-over-year donor growth for the month with its “Pick Your Passion” campaign.
Starting on Giving Tuesday, UConn shared impact stories on Facebook and measured engagement with those posts. The team then used EverTrue to build lists of engaged graduates, identified the “passion” of each by combining social activity with past giving patterns, and followed up throughout December with appeals speaking to that interest. This personal approach to annual appeals helped UConn reach record numbers for calendar year-end giving.
UConn also capitalized on its top-performing Facebook posts, turning great news about the university as a way to bring new donors into the fold.
When the U.S. News & World Report released its annual college rankings, revealing that UConn had moved up to 18th spot among public universities, the marketing and acquisition team shared the news on Facebook. In the following days, every non-donor who liked or commented on the post received an annual fund appeal. The email performed well, achieving a 21% open rate and a 2.3% click rate — generating 74 gifts over the next week. Nearly a quarter of those gifts were from brand new donors.
“EverTrue has fundamentally changed how we approach any digital marketing campaign,” says Anthony LaRosa, engagement manager of email marketing. “Now we look for good articles or posts that would be instrumental in getting a campaign off the ground. How do we leverage that social engagement to drive our email segmentation? … Social had been an afterthought, but now we’re social-first.”
On-the-Go Prospect Discovery
“Pipeline really is about building a sustainable, long-term fundraising program for your organization and not only a high-end, principal gift program that feeds the bottom line,” said Josh. “We need to ask, ‘What are we doing to build pipeline and to create donors for the future? How are we engaging alumni populations and other constituents that care about our organization?’ If we’re not building pipeline then I think we’re not serving our organizations well.”
With a lofty goal of eclipsing the $100-million-a-year fundraising mark, UConn is actively seeking new pipeline for future major gifts by attracting and retaining donors through its annual fund and identifying and qualifying prospects as fundraisers travel the country.
“EverTrue changed how I plan trips. It’s so easy to use to find qualified prospects who aren’t in my caseload,” said Natalee Martin, associate director of development. “On my last trip, I met with a new prospect and we’re already in talks for a leadership gift to support scholarships. What could be better than meeting new donors and traveling paper-free?”
During a recent trip to Vermont, a UConn development officer was faced with a last-minute cancellation. Undaunted, the fundraiser pulled up EverTrue on their phone, looked at alumni living nearby, made a call, booked another meeting, and went on to close a five-figure gift from an alum who had never been visited before.
“Before EverTrue, we had a great Blackbaud CRM solution, but our ‘mobile option’ was to print out the report and take it with you,” Lisa says. “Now fundraisers can look at the map in EverTrue, see all law school graduates, and then decide where they should go. They can figure out their itinerary, determine the best people to visit, create a trip, and share it with the team right from their phone. No paper.”
With a team of talented, dedicated professionals and the right tools in place to work efficiently, UConn is poised for even more growth in the years to come.