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Maintaining momentum for major gifts fundraising between campaigns

GG+A President Suzanne Hilser-Wiles hosted a webinar with Anne Westfall, Director of Development at the University School of Nashville, to discuss how to maintain major gifts momentum in between campaigns. Anne shared her experience working on USN’s most recent campaign and provided specific insights on how her team remained focused on major gifts once the campaign closed.

Following the webinar, Suzanne and Anne sat down to discuss attendees’ questions. You can scroll down the page to read their responses.

Q-and-A with Anne Westfall and Suzanne Hilser-Wiles

Anne and Suzanne answer webinar participants’ questions.

Q: Anne, do you have any insights on alumni class gift giving? In particular, what currently works well and what has worked well in the past? 

AW: Our alumni class participation is recovering from last year, and we are inching ahead of 20% participation. It is a perpetual challenge, but we have found greater consistency over the past four to five years.

We have a multipronged approach that involves strong overall volunteer leadership, tailored messaging, class agents for most classes, reunion giving, Giving Day, and a relatively new young alumni leadership society. We do not have a strong senior/college alumni giving program right now. Our program wasn’t working well, so we need to revisit it.

We needed an overall plan for the fiscal year with strategies for different age groups, events, and travel locations (when travel returns) in order to be successful.

SHW: USN has developed a robust alumni engagement program. In addition to each of the elements that Anne listed, Alumni Director Patti Wexler and Annual Fund Director Claudia Huskey work in close partnership to ensure there’s both engagement and giving.

We know that alumni who give are more engaged and stay closer to the institution. When an institution stays close to alumni, those alumni become more likely to give. These two elements reinforce each other.

Q: Is there an expectation that USN board members consider a planned gift?

AW: No, there is no expectation. But I have given myself the expectation to ask each of them. In my fall conversations about annual gift commitments with board members, I have started raising this topic as appropriate. Those conversations have taught me that there is a lot that they do not know about these gifts. I am hopeful we will have a commitment from our board chair, who is also an alumna. This will give her the opportunity to say to the full board, “I’ve done this. Will you consider joining me?”

SHW: We encourage all of our clients to have a conversation with every board member about planned gift as part of their commitment to the institution. Making a planned giving commitment enables board members to lead by example. It also allows board members to make the type of generous gift that reflects their connection to the institution but that may not be possible with current use dollars.

Q: Is your development committee exclusively made up of board members, or does it include other members of your community?

AW: No, it isn’t only board members. Our development committee includes: a chair who must be board member; six other board members representing parents, alumni, and parents of alumni; one member of the alumni board, one member who is the annual fund chair (if not already a board member); and past campaign chairs as available.

SHW: We think USN’s model of including people who are not board members but who could become board members—or who have a significant history with the institution—is an excellent way to build leadership for the future. The approach enables USN to take full advantage of the lessons learned of the past.

Thank you to all webinar attendees for the great questions, and thank you Anne for sharing insights from your very successful program at USN.

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