4 Tips to Help Increase Donation Revenue

January 19, 2017

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Development is a critical component of funding for all universities. For instance, athletic donations provide scholarships to thousands of student-athletes and fund projects for buildings and renovations crucial to the success of the program and recruitment process.

At the University of Kansas Fan Relationship Management Center (FRMC), The Aspire Group has been working with the Williams Education Fund (WEF) to increase donation revenues and improve customer service for donors. Originally Aspire was given accounts who were contributing less than $2,500 on an annual basis but were quickly servicing higher level accounts after the success of the initial campaign.

Since 2014, Aspire has generated $3.1 million in incremental donation revenue for the WEF including bringing in 11 new Hall of Fame level donors ($50,000+) and 7 new Champion level donors ($25,000+).

Based on the successes we have experienced in stand-alone donations at KU and numerous other universities around the nation, Aspire wants to share four impactful tips to increase stand-alone and ticket-related donation revenues:

1. Give donors a full-time account representative.

The number of donors can vary, not only across the levels or thresholds of contribution but also across universities. It is understandable that assigning a full-time account representative can seem overwhelming if you have an extensive database of donors with a limited staff, but the opportunity cost is much higher.

The reality is that every donor, no matter the level of donation, wants to feel a connection to the property and be appreciated. Give them a contact at the university to call instead of just the general inbound line. When a donor knows someone is looking out for his or her best interest, they not only feel more inclined to donate but will do so at a higher threshold.

For example – At the KU FRMC, an account representative called a donor who had never been contacted to introduce himself as their personal contact for KU Athletics. The account representative met with the donor face to face, and because of that simple, small gesture, the donor who had been previously donating at the $10,000 level doubled their donation.

“I love face to face. It gives our donors a face to the name. They are not just calling KU Athletics anymore they are calling ‘their guy’ Zach,” said Former KU FRMC Director of Sales & Service, Damian Paul.

 2. Identify donors with a higher capacity to give.

Get to know your donors. The touchpoints with donors should not just be the renewal email or phone call with a follow-up ‘thank you’ email once you’ve received the payment. Quality relationships are not built through generic emails. It is vital to open the line of communication and see what questions they have or ask what they want out of their donation.

There are a lot of reasons donors contribute to athletics. Some of them are purely philanthropic, some donate for better seats, and some live out of town but want better access when the team comes to their city. Whatever the reason is, it is important to know it.

An example of this at KU is an alumnus was donating at one of the lowest level tiers of $1,000. His objective in donating was purely to support athletics. He was a former baseball player at KU but had picked up tennis as he aged. Since his account representative knew the donor’s reason for contributing and the new-found interest in tennis, he brought up discussions around the tennis department’s new facility. The conversation led to an $85,000 donation to support the project.

3. Give donors a plan to reach their goals.

If you have a sense of why your donors are donating, it allows YOU to develop a plan for them to achieve their objectives – not the other way around. Often, the prospect does not say exactly they want over the phone or even know what it takes to achieve it.

Remember – It is not always about what’s next. At properties where season tickets are heavily driven by priority points and/or donations, it can take a lot to obtain season tickets in a desirable section in a short period. Put an actionable plan together with them to help reach their goals, no matter what they might be. Not all donors are going to want or be ready to move to the next level of giving.

You told me you want season tickets. Yes.
You told me you want to sit in Section 121. Yes.
You told me you want to sit there by 2018. Yes.
Okay, this is how we can get there.

4. If you are going to use your student staff… Be careful.

With limited resources and a small staff, it is easy to see why a student staff is a desirable solution. The problem lies in the basic premise of having a personal account representative in the first place… TRUST. I know you, and I’ve got your back.

If a donor receives a certain level of customer service with a student, what happens when they leave after their internship or assistantship is over? Not only do they lose the connection to the person, but worst of all, it could damage the relationship to the brand. If those donors are always being thrown around from rep to rep, it is going to be hard to make them feel valued or appreciated.

If you must use students, create a seamless transition between reps when the assistantship/internship is ending. Set a precedent with the account up front that they will have a new rep every couple of months, but that you will do your best to make sure there are no slips through the crack.

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Top Comments

Tudi S.

Great article. In this world of cell phones and not following up with personal handwritten letters, the world is losing touch with identity and personal touch. A handwritten letter goes a lot further than a typewritten e-mail. Trust me, I know!

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