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NetwitsThinkTank.com – A great online resource for fundraising

Netwits is a good resource for the application of technology and development.

Over the past few years it seems like there are so many questions for an athletics development operation to face when it comes to technology and its ability to impact the bottom line. Whether it is personal URL campaigns, video appeals or greater segmentation amongst their donor base, development offices now have more options to utilize technology to interact with their bases.

However, with these options comes the need for research and discussion. One place where this takes place is at netwitsthinktank.com. This site, which is funded and operated by Blackbaud (the makers of Raiser’s Edge software), is a great resource to learn about new ideas in fundraising and how new technology can be applied to help a non-profit.

While the site is not geared towards athletics, there are certainly items that can be learned and applied to the athletics realm. Articles about the rise of online giving, how to add calls to action to online videos, and the three social media metrics you should use all have some great information that can be applied to athletics.

Taylor Wood

Advice on how to use social media in development

via www.theconversationprism.com

This past week I had the opportunity to attend the CASE-KY Convention in Louisville. During my time there, I heard some great advice during a session led by Jason Falls as he discussed Social Media and its application in University Advancement.

Falls started out his presentation by comparing many people’s thoughts of social media to that of a “magical unicorn” (as evident by this complicated graphic called The Conversation Prism). He admitted there is a lot of mystery surrounding social media because of its relative novelty, but recommended that it be viewed as a tool, not a mysterious cure-all.

With that in mind, he does mention that social media often operates a little differently than your regular media. This relies primarily on the fact that there must be a conversation occurring in social media, something that does not traditionally happen with a brochure or direct mail. People want that human interaction with their social media assets.

If a university or an athletics department interacts with their fans and supporters, they are creating conversations. This is something development officers do everyday through traditional means, such as the telephone, email and face-to-face contact. Social media should be utilized as another way to have a conversation. He commented that when a conversation is made, it becomes a market. That market is full of human beings who are interested in your cause.

Falls went on to say that what people want the most out of social media is relevant, easily-shared content, ability to comment on articles, and the ability to follow their interests on their channels. In doing this, the university can create a community of users who can share the news about the school’s accomplishments. Essentially, it creates a conversation that can then be leveraged to generate revenue.

When asked what would be the largest investment if a university were to start a social media campaign today, Falls quickly responded by saying that it is the people who will run the outlets. In his mind, there needs to be a person who is responsible for connecting the dots between the Universities activities and the conversations they are creating.

In the end, Falls stated that social media does not raise money, people raise money. Regular development avenues will continue to be effective, but adding a social media campaign has the potential to increase the conversation and drive more people in to your market.

Jason Falls can be found online at www.socialmediaexplorer.com. You can also follow him on twitter at @JasonFalls.

Taylor Wood

Thinking about Text Messaging? Make sure you have enough fans.

Image via Wikipedia

As technology continues to race forward in the effort to make us all more connected, it is worth noting that several foundations and non-profits have started reaping great rewards from text message giving. The coming out party for this new technology was the Haiti earthquake and the subsequent response from all of America with over $2 million raised from text message giving.

This makes text-message giving a great new way to solicit and engage current and potential donors on national scale. However, I would encourage that any athletics department debating on the merits of mobile giving programs give a good look at the pros and cons of text giving and apply those to their current situation. For most departments, text message giving is a very easy way to raise a quick $5 to $10 from an individual at a sporting event. Yet one must wonder, among other things, if the gift could have been larger from each of these donors.

For the most part, text message programs need a large audience to be successful. The following is a break-even analysis for two text-to-give companies that place their pricing online (Please note that the prices for this analysis are the stated costs on the website of the organizations mGive and Give By Cell. They do not reflect any discounts in pricing or the cost after arrangement of an official contract with either company. Prices are based on minimum agreement lengths).

mGive Foundation

  • Prices – $500 for one time set up fee, then $399/month for 12 month minimum. mGive charges $.35 for every text, plus 3.5% of the total raised.
  • To break even, one would need 569 texts of $10 or 1,182 texts of $5 over a year.

Give By Cell

  • Prices – $500 for one time set up fee, then $49 per month for three months, then $299 per month for next six. Give By Cell charges $.48 for every text.
  • To break even, one would need to get 213 texts of $10 or 448 text of $5 over the 9 month period of service.

From the above breakdown, one can see that a large amount of texts are needed to break even on the set-up of text message giving. However, there is an opportunity for increased revenue if a large, captive audience donates through the simple act of texting.

For more information on text-give-programs, visit the Mobile Giving Foundation to learn about the procedures and processes that surround this new and exciting form of technology.

Taylor Wood

Online Forum Explains New Plan

After recently introducing a new initiative in the Nittany Lion Club (the Nittany Lion Club Seat Transfer & Equity plan), Penn State Athletics found themselves in a situation that can be found at schools across the country: their donors had questions…lots of them. Of course, the administration at Penn State provided the answers to most questions on their website in a very detailed and complete manner. Anyone who could get online could find the reasons, strategies, and processes to work with the new plan.

Fortunately for their donors, Penn State staff sought out a creative way to answer questions that their donors had about the new program. Using technology that provides them with an online and live chat-room, the staff in the Nittany Lions Club (including their Associate Athletics Director) answered questions for 60 minutes on their website. Fans and donors could submit questions in advance or during the program that the staff would answer in real time with all the answers that their fans needed.

This type of online forum could be used for any number of functions for an athletics development department. Obviously, new initiatives come to mind, but special press conferences, event announcements, and interviews can be conducted using similar technology and the donors or fans of the school would benefit.

Rob Norris

University of Alabama updates donors on progress of stadium renovation

The University of Alabama is using a new and interesting approach to keep their donors in the loop on their football stadium renovations. Bryant-Denny Stadium is undergoing a South Endzone expansion project set to be completed before the upcoming football season. In addition to launching an informative website, the University is also producing update videos via YouTube.

In these update videos, they have an athletics department personality talk about the expansion and update donors on the progress of the construction. This interactive approach is in many ways better than a picture gallery or a webcam because it puts the viewer in the stadium with a personal tour.

Videos are a great way to engage your donor clients and keep those who donated to the project in the loop on the construction of the facility. This keeps all fans of Alabama Athletics in the loop on this high profile, high interest project, generating buzz amongst the fan base.

Special thanks to Brian Gainor for sending along information about this project.

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YouTube videos: Educating your donors and communicating your fundraising message

Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, has recently launched a viral campaign of YouTube videos directed toward educating viewers on a wide range of university-related topics. One of these videos explains, in approximately two and a half minutes, endowed student scholarships at Hope College.

In the brief, but comprehensive video, a number of key fund raising tactics are employed. First, the video begins with a mural of student pictures, putting a face to those who benefit from endowed scholarships. Second, the basic financial aid model is explained in a simplified form, shedding light on the percentage of students who receive some sort of aid and the average amount of money students receive each year. Third, the opportunities available to students as a result of donor support as well as a complete breakdown of the allocation of donor funding are given.

Once this information is communicated, the stage is set to present a goal and to solicit support for the future – which is exactly the strategic approach taken in the video. The goal is to increase the endowment by $140 million, with $50,000 designated for student scholarships. The video continues to explain the amount raised and the total number of endowed scholarships to date – 623. The last major piece to any fund raising strategy, stewardship, closes the video with a formal “Thank You.”

In an interactive age, disseminating information in a short, easy to watch, entertaining way will surely reach a wider audience and be more effective at communicating the message. Many athletic departments publish brochures or attempt to explain the process illustrated above in written form on their website, a more traditional approach. The innovative and creative example shown here by Hope College sets the bar for future donor communication.

To view the Hope College Endowed Scholarships video, click here

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Matt Kirinovic

Make Jim Pay – Washington State uses radio talent to bolster new campaign

Washington State University, in need of a variety of facility upgrades to service all their sports teams, has launched a new development fund called the Student-Athlete Excellence Account. This new fund is designed to improve the experience for all WSU student-athletes and engage a donor group that includes former student-athletes, alumni, and university friends. The most unique part of this campaign is the use of their color analyst (and former WSU head coach), Jim Walden, for the fund drive.

Jim Walden has been describing Cougar football for the past nine years and, in an attempt to spur giving to the Student-Athlete Excellence Account, is putting up his own money as a matching gift to the athletics department. For each $5 donated to the new account, Jim will donate $1 of his own, up to $100,000. However, if the account grows to $1 million, Jim will donate an additional $100,000 for a total of $200,000 for WSU student-athletes.

The use of radio/television talent in fundraising is not unique, but the degree that Washington State is utilizing their long-time football analyst is impressive. Schools looking for a unique way to engage fans and facilitate new donations should look to WSU for an example of a creative, and perhaps effective, plan. To see the “Make Jim Pay” video and read more about the account, click here.

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Rob Norris

Transparent ideas from the National Sports Forum

I have had the privilege to attend the National Sports Forum in Baltimore for the last two days. While the conference is more focused on sponsorship and marketing, I have found many parallels with development that can be utilized to help grow development offices.


In a panel with representatives from some major sponsors in sports including Anheuser-Busch, Cintas, and Sports Clips, the consensus was do your homework and less-is-more in the early stages. Sponsors get hundreds of emails a day with ideas and proposals, but it is better to contact the sponsor after you have done extensive research into the company and ways the two brands match-up going into the future. This works the same in development. Very few schools have the luxury of getting large donations from unfamiliar figures. It is a daily challenge for fundraisers to gain the best understanding of the prospect to get the initial foot in the door. If you choose to approach the prospect via email, it isn’t going to do much good to send the large development brochure. Sum up the message into a couple of paragraphs and personalize it to that particular prospect.

New Media

New media such as Facebook and Twitter is a hot topic in sponsorship and marketing because no one has figured out how to make consistent revenue from the medium. Many development offices have dabbled in the practice, with the main goal spreading news about the offices to followers. While this can fulfill some objectives, one tactic being discussed extensively at NSF is using new media as a focus group to gain feedback. Allowing followers or fans to contribute to the school or feel as if they have insider information is a great way to build rapport with the group and gain important feedback from donors, particularly younger demographics.

Ticket Sales

Major League Baseball teams have one of the toughest tasks in attempting to sell tickets for 81 home dates between April and September. Because of this challenge, baseball teams have gotten extremely creative with season ticket holder programs. One such idea is a new customer reception at the beginning of each season. This reception not only allows the team to thank the new customer, but to also educate them. It is a great way to get in front of new customers early and ensure a relationship before renewals come up the next year. This is a strategy that can be utilized by development offices with new donors to grow their relationship but also to educate on the benefits of becoming a donor.

Sean Phifer

Mobile iPhone Applications stand to benefit athletics development efforts

A large number of universities are now offering Mobile iPhone Applications for their athletic department. The University of Iowa is the latest school to announce the official iPhone Application for Hawkeye Athletics. Although this technology is not being used for the sole purpose of raising money, its many ancillary benefits will surely contribute to development efforts.

Villanova , Oklahoma State , Michigan State and Indiana are among the many universities that are taking advantage of this increasingly popular technology. For each athletic department, the application will serve the same primary purpose: to offer “easy access to up-to-the-minute news, scores, schedules, rosters and audio and video streaming” at a price of around $5.00 per year. The application’s content is fed directly from the athletic department’s official web site. As is the case with all mobile applications, the selling point is that fans are no longer required to have a computer with internet access to get the most up-to-date athletics information.

Any time an athletic department becomes more accessible to its fans, it serves to benefit in a big way. A large number of donors will be a part of the contingent of fans who see value in downloading this application, further strengthening their affiliation with the university and the athletic department. The increased accessibility will also draw new donors to the fold.

It is only a matter of time before development officers find a way to directly reach both existing and new donors through this distinctive technology, offering a much needed new revenue stream to fundraising efforts.

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Matt Kirinovic

Miami of Ohio integrates press releases with online giving

Miami University logo
Image via Wikipedia

Throughout the nation on a daily basis, athletics annual funds will issue a press release to promote events, games, and key donors. However, many of these releases are just that, simple informational articles that describe their purpose. While this by itself is fine, Miami of Ohio has started to integrate them into their online giving strategy.

Recently, the Red & White Club (the annual giving arm of Miami) released a statement about a barbecue luncheon held on January 13. In the release, they talk about their upcoming event the key coaches who will be attending the event. However, at the very beginning of their press release, there is a linked graphic that states, “Make a Gift.”

If a user clicks on this link, they are taken directly to the foundation page for athletics, allowing the user to make a donation in just a few clicks. By doing this, anyone who views the article will be able to make a gift in a manner similar to ordering a pair of shoes online-by inputting their information and clicking submit.

While placing this tab on all press releases may portray the department as a little desperate, a well timed press release that details an annual fund or development activity can serve as the perfect medium for reminding or encouraging people to give. The efficiencies that can be realized from online giving will not only help raise funds, but also free up hours for staffers to work on other items.

Taylor Wood