Fundraising at the Speed of Life | npENGAGE

Fundraising at the Speed of Life

By on Feb 21, 2019


Higher education advancement teams from around the country are noticing that alumni participation is shrinking, even as donations and commitments from a small group of big donors has grown. Maybe you’ve felt the effects of reduced alumni participation, or maybe you’re worried about the sustainability of a fundraising model that draws wealth from a few, volatile sources. As teams in both large and small fundraising shops grapple with how to address these issues, the lifetime value model has emerged as a way to engage with more donors and increase your prospect pool.


What is the lifetime value model?

The lifetime value model involves managing the entire lifecycle of a constituent’s relationship with you.  Work focuses on engaging donors at all levels of the giving pyramid through sustained programming. Years of this steady activity helps guide constituents of all wealth and affinity levels toward a more committed relationship with you.

Fundraisers who adopt the lifetime value model can identify the best prospects early on, establish the right path for them, and then create alternative paths that allow new prospects to easily engage when the time is right for them.

A new perspective requires new strategies.

It’s nice to imagine a world where suddenly you’re able to maintain vibrant, long-term relationships with thousands of donors. For most fundraisers, it’s a dream. However, there are processes you can begin now that will pave the way towards this long-term goal. Here’s how to do it:


1. Create an environment where gift officers thrive.

Fundraising managers are under tremendous pressure to keep their team together long enough to meet fundraising goals. Our research has shown that among U.S. higher education institutions, the average gift officer is at an organization for less than three years, but the time to cultivate a prospect from first visit to first major gift is more than four and a half years. Rethinking how we manage gift officers will help them maximize their impact during their short tenures.

Learn gift officer management best practices to help you create a sustainable fundraising program. Download “Fundraising at the Speed of Life” for research-backed ideas and insight from higher education advancement leaders.


2. Connect with constituents based on their preferences.

Blackbaud research shows that the average donor gives for 4.8 years. To create a more sustainable fundraising model, institutions must increase this figure—with the goal of creating a greater number of loyal donors who give habitually over their lifetime.

Connecting with donors at the right moment, and through the right medium, is one way to foster a culture of sustained philanthropy. In order to accomplish this goal, you’ve got to maximize your opportunity.  While most institutions already use direct mail, email, social media, phone, and SMS to reach donors, they use these channels largely in isolation. The next step is to closely align the messaging and the scheduling so that each channel works together to deliver a cohesive message.


3. Deploy Specialized Cultivation Technologies

Trying to have a single technology solution to meet all needs is not be the best option for data management and workflow. As more schools realize this, they are moving toward the best practice of hub-and-spoke infrastructure. With hub-and-spoke, institutions solve their business problems by integrating their data repositories with multiple, purpose-specific tools. The resulting network of interconnected tools radiates out from a centralized information source—much like a bicycle wheel.

Your Donor Database is the Hub; Spokes Are Specialized Systems

With the hub-and-spoke infrastructure, your CRM system or donor database is the repository for information. You won’t have to rely on this system to help you with every-day fundraising workflow tasks. Rather, the hub is surrounded by software solutions specialized for these functions. This set-up makes work more efficient for back-office staff as well as for the advancement team.


4. Continue your quest for efficiency.

Most advancement organizations are already operating on lean budgets after years of being asked to achieve more with less. Making your existing processes more efficient will ensure that you’re able to sustain fundraising operations for years to come.

Build a Pipeline of Major Gift Donors

Many times, advancement offices inadvertently prioritize work with known, generous donors. It’s easy for a gift officer to set up a meeting with one of these “evergreen donors.” However, these donors won’t be able to give forever. Using some of today’s major gift officers to cultivate the next generation of major philanthropists is crucial for your program’s future.

Finding Lost Annual Giving Donors

Phone programs are not able to reach annual giving donors as effectively as they once were. Despite the rise of crowdfunding, event and social media-driven giving, no single channel has emerged to replace the effectiveness of a phone program when it was in its heyday. Connecting and coordinating all parts of your annual giving operations will be critical in developing new donors.

The future of fundraising.

The lifetime value fundraising model requires you to take a hard look at your existing major gifts and annual giving operations. It’s possible to develop a healthy balance and meet today’s goals without jeopardizing the future of your program.


We’re building the future of fundraising together. Download Fundraising at the Speed of Life for research-backed strategies and insight from higher education advancement leaders.


With more than two decades of experience in consumer marketing, executive leadership, and entrepreneurship, Andy has made a career out of the application of data to improve organization performance. Andy served in a variety of management roles, including vice president of marketing at Deluxe Corporation. At Deluxe, Andy spearheaded brand management, product management, distribution strategy, direct marketing, internal and external communications, public relations, strategic organizational development, and consumer technology delivery efforts. 

Andy left Deluxe in 2001 to join Connie Cervilla in her consulting firm, Core Group. Through that work Andy was introduced to the fundraising practices and donor behavior for many of the nation’s great universities. In 2002, Andy started Reeher LLC to provide a shared management system that provides insight and frontline focus to improve management practices within university fundraising. 

Through the adoption of this cooperative approach, the Reeher Community has grown to more than 130 higher education institutions. Reeher subscribers have reached new highs in performance and productivity in all aspects of college and university advancement. Andy has a B.A. in history from Grove City College and an M.B.A from the University of Chicago.

Comments (1)

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    These are great tips to help mitigate shrinking alumni participation, but it seems like the trend is mirroring society’s ever growing divide between the haves and the have-nots. If things continue along this trend, the problem may be much larger and the effects much greater than are currently being experienced. Thank you for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *