About Colorado State University

Colorado State University (CSU) is the land grant university of Colorado, founded in 1870 as Agricultural College of Colorado.

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Colorado State University (CSU) is the land grant university of Colorado, founded in 1870 as Agricultural College of Colorado. It has since evolved to a thriving campus of almost 28,000 on campus students and 177,000 living alumni. With one of the top veterinary medicine programs in the world, and outstanding programs in equine, economics, infectious disease, clean energy technologies, environmental science and atmospheric science, CSU attracts an international student body and enjoys a reputation as one of the nation’s top research universities.

CSU boasts Bill Gray, “the hurricane guy” as a long time faculty member and active emeritus faculty researcher, along with clean energy and environmental sustainability researchers, Bryan Willson and Diana Wall, among its current faculty. CSU is proud of its 50 year relationship with recently deceased emeritus faculty member Maurice “Maury” Albertson, one of the founders of the Peace Corps, and continues to be one of the leading participants in the Peace Corps, and prides itself on helping to solve world problems and contributing to an environmentally sound and sustainable world community.

The Challenge

CSU launched the planning and silent phase of their seven-year Campaign for Colorado State University in July, 2005 – the start of their 2006 fiscal year (FY06). Because they are a state university, serving the general public and because they historically serve an agricultural and largely rural population, it was a particular challenge to find qualified major gift prospects from the large pool of 177,000 living alumni and 350,000 parents, faculty, friends, veterinary and agriculture clients and businesses in their SunGard Advance database.

In addition to the need to identify prospects for the campaign, CSU also needed to ramp up its staffing in both major gifts and prospect research and identification. They started the campaign in 2005 with one or two development officers in each of its eleven units (a unit is a college or other fundraising unit such as libraries and athletics). They grew to at least two MGO’s per unit and some now have as many as four. They also went from one prospect research manger and one research coordinator, to one manager, an assistant manager-coordinator, and three coordinator-analysts. In 2009, CSU went from a completely centralized prospect research shop to a “designated liaison” organization. “Each unit is now served by a designated prospect research liaison,” explains Jim Beikler, Assistant Manager of Prospect Research “which provides much more personal service. Our liaisons spend more time talking about strategies and prospect potential, and help development officers with their planning. It is more of a consultative relationship.” In 2009, CSU also increased its central field staff, adding three centralized regional major gift officers and splitting corporate and foundation relations into separate areas each with two gift officers.

The Solution

As part of their campaign counsel’s recommendations, CSU did a full database screening in 2006. “The WealthEngine screening gave us the baseline from which to build our campaign pipeline. Based on the WealthEngine ratings, we were able to identify new, untapped potential and previously unidentified prospects to fill out our pipeline,” Beikler explains. It was the first comprehensive screening CSU had undertaken in over ten years.

Since the full database screening in 2006, CSU has maintained a regular schedule of screening to keep their database fresh and updated. Every other year they refresh the top assigned prospects to capture any financial shifts or new insights, and they also run a baseline screening on all new constituents in their database twice a year who don’t have a WealthEngine rating. This systematic approach means they have current and accurate ratings and data on all of their constituents. They upload this information to Advance so everyone has access to the data and ratings.

The Result

Since the initial screening in 2006, they have manually verified 7,300 records. “Our experience manually verifying records over the years we’ve used WealthEngine has proven that the information WealthEngine provides is getting better and better. This manual verification process has also helped raise the confidence level of our development officers,” shares Beikler. “We now need to do less verification, because we are confident of the data, and our gift officers share that confidence. “ Beikler estimates there have been 15-20 completely unknown $1MM+ prospects identified through the WealthEngine screenings. “Of course that’s wonderful. But more important than that, the WealthEngine ratings are one more thing our development officers can trust. They trust the data. It reinforces their gut instincts, and it opens their eyes to make them more comfortable to do that cold call. I attribute a lot of the success of our campaign to our use of WealthEngine’s baseline scores to identify, qualify and “sell” our prospects to our development officers.”

CSU’s $500MM campaign has been hugely successful. They surpassed the $500MM mark in December 2011, a full six months ahead of schedule. As of April 2012, with just two months to go, CSU has raised $524.7MM. They are on target to have their best fundraising year ever, expecting to exceed $100MM this year for the first time. Beikler is rightfully proud of the pipeline they have been able to build, maintain and grow. “We have been proactive and kept ahead of the curve. We’re now cultivating the next generation of CSU supporters.”

Next Steps

Through the progression of the campaign, CSU’s research team has become more and more thoughtful and sophisticated in their use of data and analytics. They have complemented the base screening data with additional household and psycho demographic data to bring in additional variables, and have been experimenting with major gift modeling as well as developing new scores in-house. They have recently begun testing a PAR score (Potential Ask Range) they developed to provide a better sense of each prospects cash on hand and net worth, as well as an estimate of a reasonable ask amount based on those factors and the base estimated giving capacity provided by WealthEngine.

“When we heard about WealthEngine’s new ratings, it was exactly where we had been trying to go,” says Beikler. “We are chomping at the bit to get our hands on them.” In fact, less than two days after hearing a brief presentation on WealthEngine’s new ratings and scores, CSU had contracted for a small screening of roughly 12,500 households to try them out. WealthEngine’s new ratings and scores include cash on hand, net worth and an estimated annual donations rating that mirrors the PAR rating under development at CSU.

After the closing the campaign in June 2012, CSU used “After Action Review” to evaluate their results of the campaign and processes developed. “We will not slow down. Our annual goal will not decrease. We’ll keep moving forward to the next campaign and will have a greater understanding of our donors’ and prospects’ potential,” says Beikler. He shares two keys to future campaign success:

  • Nearly 70% of the money raised in this campaign was raised from non-alumni. The university is looking to hire additional development staff to help increase alumni participation and engagement, which will expand an important constituency.
  • A continuing commitment to research and analytics to identify new prospects, qualify existing prospects, identify prospect/donor trends to further exploit and enhance CSU development officers understanding of and confidence in the data, methods and value of research.

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