Decreases in state funding puts pressure on the university to find more donors.
As part of a three-part vision to increase philanthropic giving, as well as alumni donations and engagement, the Office of Institutional Advancement has begun implementing a new software this month. The software, called the Reeher Platform, allows higher education establishments to more effectively identify undetected opportunities for fundraising.
Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement David Unruh said that his goals for his department are threefold. First, he hopes to grow alumni giving participation to 15 percent annually. Currently, participation is between 8 percent and 10 percent annually.
“We effectively want to double over the next several years the annual fund participation,” Unruh said. “That’s a really important benchmark for a lot of reasons. It’s important because undergraduate alumni giving is one of the benchmarks for the quality of the institution.”
“If more alumni give back to Temple, it’s a sign of confidence in the institution and it actually helps our ranking as well as drives our revenue back up,” Unruh added.
The second goal Unruh has is to increase overall philanthropic support to $100 million a year, essentially doubling the current average. His third goal is centered on other forms of alumni participation, rather than simply economic contributions.
“I want to dramatically grow our overall alumni engagement, the number of alumni that are engaged in some way, giving, coming to an alumni reunion, volunteering, supporting students, whatever it might be to be actively engaged with the university,” Unruh said. “I think that will make us an incredibly vibrant, dynamic place.”
Unruh said the Reeher software will help his office meet these goals by allowing it to be more strategic about its appeals to alumni and other potential donors.
“[Reeher] allows us to really understand characteristics of our donors better and make smarter decisions about to whom we mail,” Unruh said. “When we understand what the motivators are, the behaviors of consistent donors are, we can begin to understand how and when to approach them for a gift. We’re trying to be smarter and more cost-effective to reach our potential donor population.”
The Reeher website claims that the software can help a university find up to 40 percent of donors they were unaware of, as well as eliminate 30 percent of time wasted appealing to unresponsive alumni.
“Remember that we have nearly 300,000 alumni out there and not all of them are interested in giving, not all of them have the ability to give,” Unruh said. “We can spend a lot of money sending lots of mail and emails to people who are never going to respond and that’s okay, but I’d rather spend money sending it to people that already have responded and who we think will respond again.”
Reeher Marketing Manager Nick Wassenberg said the software works by segmenting schools’ existing donor bases and analyzing trends within them. For example, the software can group together all donors who gave three years in a row or five or 10 years in a row. It can also identify which class years are most responsive to appeals for giving or which appeals were most effective.
“We incorporate three pieces [in our software]: predictive models that show the advancement team who the most likely candidates for making a donation are, a web-based set of tools that are used at all levels of advancement and contact to what’s essentially a peer network to people doing the same kind of work at universities across the country,” Wassenberg said. “The point of having that peer network is that it kind of fosters collaboration across schools and connects leaders at Temple to similar higher education advancement teams.”
In light of recent cuts in state funding, Unruh said, more pressure is placed on his office to boost revenue. The Reeher platform will allow them to better meet the increased demands, he added.
“The Reeher platform allows us to be much smarter about how we [meet our goals] because we don’t have the resources to reach everybody so [we have to] use the resources we do have to be the most effective, most efficient and the most thoughtful and the most intentional way to reach out and invite people to give,” Unruh said. “It doesn’t remove the fact that we still have to have a compelling case for support, we still have to reach out and personally approach alumni, we still have to do all the things we would do but it just allows us to be much more focused and smart about it.”
Kate Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.