Customer Stories:

How the University of Nebraska Foundation achieved 100% coverage, 500 meetings, and $3.1 M in one year


The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. It is ranked among the top 25 public university fundraising organizations in the country, according to data from the Voluntary Support for Education. The foundation raises funds efficiently, currently providing more than $7 in gifts to the university for every $1 spent. More than 99% of all gifts are restricted to a specific use.

The Challenge:

The University of Nebraska Foundation faced a common concern of many institutional foundations: the top 5% of their 50,000+ donors were assigned to a major gift officer and received1:1 communication, but the other 95% of their donor base was subject to mass communications, mass stewardship, and mass solicitations.

Why evertrue:

With no formal Annual Leadership Giving team, they decided to partner with EverTrue to create a 3-person team of Donor Experience Officers (DXOs) to engage over 3,000 prospects from 2,300 households that have given a gift of $500 or more in the last 3 years. By carrying portfolios of over 700 prospects each, DXOs are able to create personalized donor communication at scale.

The results:

Achieved 100% coverage of 2,300 DXO-assigned households

Conducted over 500 meetings with these households

Generated over $3.1 million in new gifts and pipeline funds within the first year of operation.

Identified 10 planned gifts

Saw a 12-point increase in retention

Nick Linde, Vice President of Development at the University of Nebraska Foundation, frequently talks about the opportunity within the UNF donor base. 

Prior to launching the Donor Experience program with EverTrue, the University of Nebraska Foundation knew there was an opportunity to engage high-potential, unassigned donors in a better, more meaningful way. Leadership annual giving needed a seat at the table – there was an entire subset of donors that were not quite major gift prospects, but showed signs of significant inclination and capacity .

Enter: EverTrue. 

Using data to determine giving patterns, wealth indicators, and social media engagement, they identified 2,300 households as Nebraska’s next-best prospects – and created plans to engage them directly and consistently through cadenced outreach.

Nick realized that the  team was  forced to choose one of three options to engage this number of households fully:

1. Assign these folks to a student caller list

2. Hire, onboard, and coach 28 new full-time gift officers to manage portfolios of ~80 prospects each.

3. Try a new, forward-thinking approach by onboarding three tech-enabled Donor Experience Officers to remotely manage portfolios of 1,000 prospects each, and create at scale.

The phonathon is a great way to make sure folks get touchpoints, but isn’t a vehicle for long-term, two-way, donor relationships. Between paying competitive salaries and keeping up with associated travel costs,hiring 28 new gift officers is not doable for most teams (or sustainable for any). But implementing new technology and adding three Donor Experience Officers to create personalization at scale is win, all around!

So UNF partnered with EverTrue to build a Donor Experience Program.

After hiring three Donor Experience Officers that aligned with Nebraska’s core values, it was time to implement a process. First up: Cadences – not only for the DXOs’ outreach strategies, but for data reviews with internal teams. Foundation employees knew to expect check-ins on a monthly and quarterly basis covering things like: How many many meetings have been booked? What are the outcomes of those meetings? Any success stories?

And the initial results they saw were phenomenal!

  • Within the first month, the DXOs uncovered seven undocumented estate gifts One DXO spoke with a never-contacted alum in Kentucky who said, “It’s crazy that you called me today. I’m retiring from my firm and they just gave me a lump sum and I want to give it to charity. I’ve never really had the University in mind as a potential charity, but now…”
  • The DXOs held 69 virtual meetings in their first month (For context, the average gift officer makes 81 visits a year, or 6.75 per month) (Source: Blackbaud)

As Nick says, “In just one month, we had 69 new looks into inclination, impact, and into donors telling us what they want their donor experiences to look like. Fast forward to the first full year with the DX program, and we now have solid data on how our constituents want to engage. We have a concrete idea of what our donors want – and now it’s up to us to facilitate it.”

Part of that facilitation is done with the help of their Donor Experience Program Manager (DXPM), Teddy. DXPMs are EverTrue employees who partner with institutions that have onboarded a DX program. And, as both Nick and Leah Sveen, Director of the DXO program at UNF, noted – the partnership they have with Teddy has been the “secret sauce” to their success.

DXPMs are a resource that can make recommendations on everything from outreach strategy to language used in solicitations.

Leah shared: “Teddy can connect us with other Donor Experience programs…and provides valuable insights on a daily basis from what he’s seeing across other EverTrue customers. He can dig into our data and see what we’re able to accomplish”

Leah Sveen on partnering with DXPM Teddy

The advancement industry isn’t in the business of gatekeeping information. We aren’t competing for customers. So, why not take advantage of the opportunity to tap into a wealth of knowledge from across institutions to see what’s working?

Which brings us back to Nick’s original theme: Opportunity.

“A DX program is about identifying an opportunity in your donor base and making sure that you’re regimented and disciplined about reaching out to those prospects. It’s about being persistent, but also personalized and polite. And it’s about reaching out to folks in ways that show you care about them.”

And, after seeing the University of Nebraska Foundation’s results so far, the opportunities are truly endless.

The ROI of a Donor Experience Program