How does a two century old educational institution that has undergone tremendous change keep its alumni connected and engaged? University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA (USciences) is doing just that. Founded in 1821, the University was the first college of pharmacy in North America. Today, it has grown to serve more than 2,800 students across five colleges, offering undergraduate and graduate programs across a range of sciences and health sciences. From treating, researching, and studying diseases and cures on a molecular level to the medicines that improve the lives of people worldwide, USciences is about moving life forward.
As Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Carrie Collins is faced with the challenge of building effective fundraising and marketing programs across all aspects of the University, including Development, Alumni, Marketing and Communications, and Government and Community Affairs. With a staff of 25, of which only five focus on fundraising – including one focusing on major gifts, two professionals focused on annual giving, and one focused on corporate and foundation gifts, Collins is an avid believer in taking a data-driven approach to engaging donors and maximizing the ROI of fundraising.
USciences has three major fundraising programs: Major and Planned Gifts, Annual Giving and Corporate and Foundation Relations. Further emphasis is also being place on alumni engagement. “With all of the changes our institution has undergone since we achieved university status in 1997 – new buildings, new programs, a new brand and image – making our alumni feel connected to who we are today is important,” explains Collins.
To maximize the effectiveness of these programs, Collins has utilized wealth screenings and appends to identify and segment donors, and to prioritize her team’s prospecting and cultivation efforts. She employs a number of analytic approaches to maximize and quantify her success, including:
- Leveraging data to segment donors, create prospect portfolios and prioritize cultivation efforts
- Developing a scoring system to categorize alumni volunteerism in each stage of the donor lifecycle
- Tracking of ROI of individual fundraising activities, including solicitations and closures
- Determining optimal resource allocations and workload assignments
- Measuring the ROI of frontline fundraisers
Upon arrival to USciences in 2012, Collins immediately began to utilize the WealthEngine data to create meaningful portfolios of prospects that would provide the fundraisers on her team with multiple opportunities for success. For example, utilizing the expectation/rating metric, Collins would assign prospects to the appropriate fundraiser: prospects rated at $500,000 and above were assigned to her; prospects rated between $50,000 and $500,000 were assigned to the major gifts officer; and those rated lower were divided among the two annual giving fundraisers, with an eye to moving annual donors from one level of the leadership society up to the next and to engage and secure gifts from “future donors,” i.e., alumni who had never donated to the institution. As fiscal year 2013 comes to a close, Collins and her team are further refining the prospect assignments, using additional data points, including the number of years an individual has been a consistent donor, to make adjustments to the portfolios.
These data and analytic-driven strategies have enabled Collins to better allocate her team’s time and make more informed decisions around the cultivation strategies that are used. “We’ve done screenings and have used analytics to assess wealth, assets, giving capacity and propensity, but now more than ever before we are using this data to drive our moves management strategy.”
For example, one of their key initiatives this year is alumni engagement, which is centered on showing alumni how important their service to the University is, and celebrating their collective efforts as volunteers and donors. To do this, they have developed a series of key strategic indicators to measure success.
The close of fiscal year 2013 marks the second year that Collins and her Alumni Relations team have been tracking alumni volunteerism, and the first report of such activity–a comparison of FY12 and FY13–is slated for distribution in September 2013. By creating a series of categories of alumni volunteerism, including service on the alumni board, the board of trustees or one of the colleges’ boards of visitors, event hosting and serving as volunteer solicitors, Collins plans to show that USciences’ alumni population is engaged. Highlighting the number of volunteers, the level of their engagement, the number of hours contributed, and linking that information to the number of donors and aggregate dollars donated, Collins hopes to use data to quantify the elusive “alumni engagement” metric.
Looking at the aggregate data over a period of quarters provides a strong indication of an individual’s performance. While data from a single quarter can also let you know whether someone is on the right track toward success, overall performance cannot be isolated by reviewing a single quarter—after all, since when do gifts close on a consistent basis across quarters?
A frontline fundraiser was added at USciences in September 2012, with the following fourth quarter performance. Compared to her performance expectations, she is conducting an outstanding number of visits, which indicates that she is doing her utmost to meet as many prospects as possible. While the number of proposals she has submitted is low, her yield percentage is perfect. Thus, she does not appear to be engaging in ambush asks and has taken her time to settle into her role and ask at a time and for an amount that’s appropriate. Furthermore, she closed an amount that’s just below her expectation; again, as a newer fundraiser, this is evidence of outstanding fundraising performance.
Frontline Fundraiser: Major Gift Officer Quarterly Measures
|Metrics||MGO: Quarterly Measures||MGO1: Actual|
|Cost of Employment (assuming 100% of time spent engaged in frontline fundraising)||$42,082||$42,082|
|Net Dollars Raised||$82,918||$57,918|
|Return on Investment Percentage||297%||238%|
Collins herself is subject to performance expectations, and her fourth quarter performance is set forth below. Given that she spends approximately 25% of her time on fundraising, and a lesser dollar amount on travel and hospitality, her cost of employment figure is much lower. However, she is expected to raise a substantially higher amount of money, which represents an ROI of over 3,000%. Collins had an outstanding quarter, closing a $2,000,000 commitment, as well as a few others, resulting in an ROI of over 12,000%!
VP Advancement: Quarterly Measures
|Metrics||VP: Quarterly Measures||VP: Actual|
|Cost of Employment (assuming 25% of time spent engaged in frontline fundraising)||$15,625||$15,625|
|Net Dollars Raised||$484,375||$2,009,375|
|Return on Investment Percentage||3200%||12960%|
Alumni Engagement Results
Initial results of the data comparing alumni engagement in FY12 to FY13 are encouraging. The total number of alumni who volunteered rose 9%, assisted in part by the fact that four additional categories of volunteerism were offered– an increase of 21%. These alumni participated in 306 separate instances of volunteerism, which was a 5% increase over FY12.
Collins will continue to provide new and interesting opportunities for alumni to become engaged in a meaningful way with the University. By tracking this information and presenting it to alumni in a fun and interesting fashion, Collins believes that even more alumni will be inspired to reconnect with their alma mater.
Great fundraisers understand the art of the ask—how to cultivate, when to solicit, and for what purpose. We are all driven to use data in our profession, whether it’s to determine who our best prospects are or whether a particular messaging point was effective in a direct mail solicitation. An ROI report is a helpful tool to measure whether our fundraisers are taking best advantage of the data—the science—that is available to them to perfect their art.