The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 7 months ago

State of Capital Campaigns: Internet Giving & Micro-Philanthropy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ever since the internet lowered barriers for fundraising, getting the attention of donors has gotten increasingly harder.

Many colleges and universities have responded by making their capital campaigns bigger. However, our guest, Steve Brady, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, believes they should get smaller.

In this episode, he explains why higher ed institutions should turn to “mini campaigns” and how to get started.

We discuss:

- The state of capital campaigns

- How the internet has changed fundraising

- The benefits of mini campaigns

- Finding small opportunities to thank donors

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

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You were listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don't have relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marketer podcast. I'm troy singer and, as always, I'm here with my cohost and mini golf caddie, Bart Taylor, where each week we do our best to interview hired marketers that we admire for the benefit and hopefully, the betterment of the entire Higher Ed Marketing Community. Bart, today we get to talk to Steve Rady, who is the vice president of institutional advancement at the Rose Wholm and Institute of Technology, and we are talking to him about the future of capital campaigns for small and midsize universities. Yeah, it's a great conversation and, in all transparency, Steve is a client, former client, of Kaylor solutions. We worked on the two hundred fifty million dollar capital campaign with him and he'll talk a little bit more about that during the show, but I really like a lot of what Steve Talks about kind of the future of where, you know, where things are shifting, where, instead of going two hundred fifty million dollars every ten years, there's, you know, and and don't you know, don't Tun now, right now, because those are big numbers for your school. You know, just take off a couple Zeros and think about it from you know, a twenty five million dollar campaign. But instead of doing that you're kind of doing little, many chunks that, instead of waiting for ten years, you're doing in three or four years. So I like his his philosophy on on this and I think that you pay attention to it, there's a lot of really good nuggets in there for Higher Ed marketers. He's very articulate and very passionate about what he does and I think it's a great episode and very interesting to listen to and to speak with. And here is Steve Brady from rose holeman. Today we...

...get to talk to Steve Brady of rose holeman in Tara Hoot, Indiana, and before we get into our conversation about capital campaigns, would love to hear from Steve a little bit about rose holeman and your role there. Thanks, joy and Barker, having me on. So I've been I've been at Rose Holman for just going on six years now and I'm the vice president of institutional advancement. So my rolling compass is naturally all things alumni relations and fundraising. And Rose Holeman, for those you who don't know, is a small engineering focused stem only school that is primarily undergraduate and Tara Hoot Indiana. We are about two thou give or take, undergraduate students, focusing, like I said, only on engineering, math and science majors. We've been around since one thousand eight hundred and seventy four, started as rose polytechnic and then in the early s transition into rose holman. We have in ranked by US WHO's in world report as the number one undergraduate engineering under Focus School for the last twenty three years, something that we're very proud of. And when you start to look at where our graduates end up, they do incredible things and they're very, very successful, not only in the midwest but around the country and around the world. Thank you, Steve. The reason why we reached out to you to be a guest on the show is Bart was very familiar and I believe even worked with you around capitical campaigns, and the conversations went back and forth of the current state and how they're changing, and that's what we would like to tap back into today. So if you would, if you could touch a little bit about one of the campaigns that you recently finished her and also the current state of where capital campaigns are in your view. So rose just wrapped up back in the end of June, early July, our mission driven campaign, and this was a two hundred and fifty million dollar comprehensive campaign.

So a comprehensive campaign by our definition, includes all things capital, but all things also endowment and are continuing operational needs. And so we had a variety of important focuses of a campaign and new academic building, a renovation to the union, some other just general sort of capital needs around campus, in addition to growing our scholarships, and doubt scholarship was very important, and then faculty, Sport and down chairs, new programs, etc. So that's kind of what we just wrapped up. It took us a while. We had a fair amount of transition, both at the presidential level but also in the vice presidential level. And Yeah, you're absolutely right. Bart came in and was helpful from a marketing perspective, kind of coming in being handed a box of craziness and said, Hey, could you put some of us together piece of porter and, by the way, we needed it yesterday. And so we did some, I think, some good work, both from a marketing perspective as far as getting our our online presence up and running, and then we use some of our internal communications to do some of our videos and just general press releases to sort of keep the message out there. But it was a unique campaign in large part because it's started and had what I would say starts and stopped over the years and now that we finished, one of the things I'm working towards, and it's still a little bit up in the airs that how it will work. If it will work the I'll be allowed to do it, who knows? But the idea of focusing less on a comprehensive campaign and more on what we're sort of terming term, using the term like mini campaigns and many campaigns probably being again, using our benchmark, a two hundred and fifty million dollar for a comprehensive campaign. For us, a mini campaign might be anywhere between twenty, thirty, maybe fifty million dollars for a very specific project that is ideally going to motivate our alumni and donors. To say this this projects is really what the most important need is right now and...

...it's something that we want to focus on where what I would considers a relatively short amount of time get our comprehensive campaign last in ten years. Most campaigns are somewhere in the seven eight years, give or take, but it allows us to hopefully get in do some interesting fundraising, fill in need that's particularly pressing for the institute at the time and then start to move on to the next really important project for or rose woman. That's great. And see if I know. When we were talking earlier, before the before the recording, we were kind of talking about the campaign that we worked on together. But one of the things that I think you made a comment was is just how, sometime, even with with capital campaigns, and I know you and I are career span from you know, before we had the Internet to do everything. Now we have the Internet. Sometimes it can be at a blessing and sometimes it can be a curse. Tell us at bit about what you're thinking on that. So the the current number, I mean current being maybe within the last year or two, of five hundred and one C threes out there is somewhere in the neighborhood of one point six million. And most of those, I think again, I'm trying to go off of memory and it's anecdotal to them. Don't quote me on it, but it's something like ninety percent, or like tremendous amount of these new or nonprofits. Ninety percent of them are are new as of one thousand nine hundred and fifty. And so when you think about just about every non profit out there has been an existence relatively short amount of time compared to your traditional churches, many cultural organizations and higher education who've been around for hundreds of years. The Internet hit and, my opinion, has really done a lot to sort of allow this micro philanthropy where people can get very specific with the causes that they want to impact. They can direct their dollars in a way that they couldn't pre Internet. If you are passionate about something as specific as making sure that people in South Sudan, not just Sudan, but South Sudan, have access to clean water, you can find a charity and they are working towards that and you can give online...

...and you can make that happen, and that's something that I would say pre Internet, you couldn't do. You couldn't blank it through Mars Man Mass Marketing, you couldn't most, most of these three nonprofits can't afford to do advertisements in a way to get to a general audience. But between the Internet and social media there is an ability to get in front of people in a way that we just couldn't beford. So it's great from a smaller nonprofits perspective because it's lower the sort of the cost of entry, but at the same time it's increased competition because previously, I would say most higher educations, we're competing with the you know, Your Salvation Army and your churches for trying to get the front of my messaging to our prospects. Now I'm competing with one point five nine, ninety nine, one hundred, ninety other millions of nonprofits out there who have propelling cases, they have reasons to be supported and my creativity has to be better than there's in a way that engages and attracts prospects. Yeah, that, I think pre Internet we didn't really have to deal with. Yeah, I think you're right on that. I think sometimes to it did. It's a danger of donor fatigue. You know, they're going to just be seeing so much the same thing come across. But also the fact that I think that sometimes it's just really important as as as, like you said, the hiread and and some of the other folks, we really begin need to almost craft our messaging and distinctiveness very clearly, and it forces us even more so on that well, because, I mean you can use all kinds of tools to do the research to find out who are going to be the donors and who has the capacity to give and those types of things. And I I'm talking about the donors, that not the not the five hundred dollar type. You know, yearly give some talking about moving into the major donors. They're getting accorded a lot more than than they have or have been. Yeah, the the amount of online research to find out who has capacity out there is I remember when I first started in higher it fundraising, which...

...was twenty five plus years ago. You use ZIP codes primarily to gage where people had well and I remember as working on my Alma Mater and they're very excited because they came to me and said, Steve, one of your classmates, lives in this zip code and we think he's worth millions of dollars. And I said I know Jason. We went out for a beer called of weeks ago. He's living in his uncle's garage. He doesn't have you know, and I had to buy his beer. So the you know, the ability to really get down and find out through public, publicly available information, who has capacity and then reach out to them has changed so much in the last ten years that you're right. Finding five hundred donors is one thing, but trying to find those major gifts at the twenty, five thousand and fifty, a million dollars or more is getting more and more competitive. One of the things that we're trying to do at Rosehomon is, you know, you think about the the old adage that it's easier and more cost effected to keep a customer than it is to find a new customer. That's the the business saying, and we're sort of trying to recognize that, particularly from a stewardship perspective. Our ask, you know, where we can be as creative as we want on the ass but we're really competing with many other organizations on the ask. But if we can get even a gift of obligation from an alum, can we steward that gift and we think that donor more creatively and more personally, that makes them a repeat donor. And so this again, it's sort of why we keep leading ourselves back to these sort of micro or many campaigns where, if we are going to do something very specific for one area and we get a thousand donors to participate in it, can we focus on j stewarding with regular communication, those thousand donors what's going on with the new building or what's going on with this new program in a way that we hadn't historically done? Yeah, that's great because, I mean I think you walk that fine line, I use the word earlier, donor fatigue. You walk that Fine Line of how many times you're going back to talk to them and how many times are you asking them versus, how many times are you thanking...

...them participating, getting them, inviting them to participate just because of who they are, not necessarily because and because of the relationship that you have with them? I mean sometimes I think is as marketers and we sometimes forget that it's as much about the relationship building as it is about, you know, a specific ask yeah, I mean, you got to any fundraising conference that across the country and they will, at least they used to always do this. Everybody you know, raise your hand. Why do you think people give? And the number one's answers always because I was asked, and so you're absolutely right. I think there's a lot of donors out there who have supported projects that they may not be passionate about, simply because they were asked and there was a relationship there. And then there's a whole other set of donors who are giving regardless of the relationship, because of the passion of the project. Right. And you know, you can talk about gifts of obligation and gifts of passion. You know, we got to figure out a way to my opinion, transition was gifts of obligation that we can get because of the relationship that we have existing through parents, community members, alumni, etc. And then find out what their passion is and then really try and leverage that to a larger gift. Okay, that sounds great, Steve. Earlier you talked about transitioning from the longer more comprehensive campaign means to maybe, as you said, mini campaigns. Would love to hear a little bit more about that. Could you kind of define that a little bit more and give us a few examples of what you have in mind? Sure. So. You know, one of the things, as I was stating earlier about the the mission driven campaign at Rose and we had a lot of transition at the presidential level. You know, the the average tenure of a college president is shrinky and I think it's somewhere at six point, six and a half years now, but I think even as recently as four or five years ago it was closer to eight years. Presidents are transitioning quicker and so if you think of your average silent phase being somewhere between three and four years by the time the president has figured out what their priorities are, they're launching that maybe the silent phase,...

...but then they're also transitioning on to the next school. And you know, I've worked with a number of wonderful presidents through my career and I've seen a number of these wonderful presidents kind of come in and say, well, I certainly understand why so and south up this was the priority, but now I'm kind of married to this and I need to finish this and oftentimes it's been right after the launch of a campaign and we're having to continue to finish that campaign with a more mini campaign that is a shorter duration, like I said, maybe just two years. I believe we can get in, accomplish a goal and then kind of get out and then transition that donor to the the next project. I'm also you know, as Bart was talking about our conversation about donor fatigue. I think as we look at our donors, we can look at them in a way and say this donor or this group of donors are passionate about this project, maybe it's athletics, and this group of donors is passionate about this project, which might be scholarships. We don't need to necessarily wait until one mini campaign is over before we launch the next. I think we have an opportunity to layer these on and then, because the messages are slightly different, because the goals of the programs are different, I'm hopeful that the donor fatigue lessons in that, instead of philanthropists coming to us and sort of saying, okay, what do you need this money for and doing it, like I said, out of obligation. They're kind of waiting to see what's on the horizon. I think our donors are more particularly a certain set of donors are more sophisticated now than they were thirty, forty years ago. And I've had conversations. I'm sure many major gift donor major gift officers have had this conversation where the donors asking, I understand you're not in a campaign right now, but when will you be and will this gift count towards that campaign? And it's simply because they recognize there's one. We're always about to go into a campaign and they don't want to give their hundred thousand dollar...

...get now and then be asked two years from that when the campaign starts, sorry, that other hundred undred thousand didn't count. We're looking for your next gift to be counted on our new game. Yeah, and so short durations, more focus and then a more evolving cycle that I think could allow us the opportunity to keep donors engage in the way that we have it before. I think even today, to to Steve just thinking about that. I mean what we did a few years ago with the with the rows driven. You know, we it's a comprehensive campaign. We're presenting the case statement that has a lot of different things in it. With these many campaigns, I would even think now, and especially with the way digital technology has kind of evolved and grown, you could probably do a lot more, you know, custom personalized case statements to particular donors. That are excited, because I mean a very personalized case statement that says here's you know, we recognize who you are, we recognize your passions, you can you know all the communications can be and and just being able to set up systems like that. It seems like that's an opportunity to with these many campaigns. Yeah, I think, you know, I would say that the term Mani campaigns not new, right, I don't think. I don't think we're looking at doing anything that's overly unique. I think we're looking at it as an alternative to the comprehensive campaign and I felt like the comprehensive campaign, you look at the annual fund, you're as you're writing those annual fund materials. Often Times I found when I did it, I was trying to throw in as many little hot button items for everyone to get excited about. So I might touch out an athlete story just because I know some people are passionate about athletics. I might also touch about a faculty doing some interesting research, because that's something else. But at the end of the day I'm trying to get all these people at a very consistent level, to get excited about one fun and that, in my mind, is a little bit with a comprehensive campaign. Is, I think, absolutely right about the opportunity with a minier campaign to get really focused on what the donors interested in and then really what, hopefully groups of donors are interested so...

I think troyd asked what some of the possible mini campaigns that we're looking at. One of them is certainly going to be we're going to need to do something for our athletics at rose home and sometime in the near future. We just got a new, wonderful athletic director, letting her get her feed on the ground to figure out what her areas of opportunity are. I think it's going to be great. But scholarships a continuing need. We just launched recently, a couple years ago, this novel scholars program which is a very boutique scholarship program for special students who just do tremendous things, but growing out our scholarship opportunities something we're always going to need to be focused on. We have a really growing area of entrepreneurism and rose has the Sawmill Society, which is a group of alumni who are entrepreneurial and sort of support each other through online group chats to sort of say, do you need access to patent attorney or are you looking to do some fundraising and how can we do that? And they're supporting each other. So we see that as another opportunity. So we're looking both at you know, even the idea of we might do a capital campaign. That would be a small campaign, but maybe layer on some programmatic elements that would be instead of a fifteen million dollar capital campaign, might be a twenty million dollar themed mini campaign around Entreprenur prism or something like that. That's really cool. I like that. But I have to also wonder, and I'm ask you about this because I know a lot of schools are struggling. I mean the the demographic cliff is coming up for undergraduate students. There's a lot of enrollment challenge is going on, competition is getting stronger. So not only are you in the middle of doing fundraising for for these, you know, comprehensive campaigns, these thematic these you know, these capital campaigns, but you've also got this operational fundraising kind of going on in the background and probably getting more pressure on that, as you said, on the cabinet. Tell us little bit about that. Yeah, so smaller schools, and I should say every school I've ever worked at, has had a focus on its operational need, whether it's unrestricted dollars or determined or called operations. Every school...

...needs to keep the lights on. Everybody wants to keep faculty and staff paid. That's pretty important. And you know, rows, like many many schools, is a tuition driven institution. So when we saw looking at the comprehensive campaign, if anybody asked me what's the most pressing need, it was always operations. Right, but that oftentimes is not the the most attractive opportunity to get particularly large guests, right. You, you, you don't see the needle move often by a gift to the the fun furrows home in or the president's fun it's it's kind of that. It's important and we can't stop doing it, but that's really what the annual fund is for finding donors who want to be a part of that's a challenge. At the other end of the equation for for rows, many of our endowment gifts is particularly our larger ones. We're coming in through both planned gifts and estate commitments, and and a lot of plan estate commitments, and so you have all these deferred gifts that are counting towards our comprehensive campaign goal. But at the end of the day, the number of times I would tell faculty, Eleven nine friends, I know that I said we accomplish two hundred and fifty million dollars, and we did either. I have the receipts to show for it. But there's not a pool on campus that's just filled with with two hundred and fifty million dollars exactly. Know there's a good chunk of this. It's going to come in in the next ten, twenty years and that's important to track. But when you get down to the needs of the institution and the needs of the campaign elevating you, you really need those very project and dollar specific goals to be front and center. In my opinion. Yeah, at the end of the day you can't. I shouldn't say you can't. I've never been able to build a building on an estate comment right, and especially something that's going to be multiple decades out, and so looking a little bit closer to home, I think is a good opportunity and I think that that gets back to how marketing communications can help with that in the sense that, you know, sometimes...

...it seeds of an internal communications. You know, I've been I've seen that before where big campaign complaints, big things happen, but really can't quite deliver on some of the capital campaign promises because, you know, defer give money's not there. If the money is not there, and it's hard to understand. Well, didn't we just raise this big money and didn't we just do that? And I think that's where, you know, marketing communications can come in help craft those messages, help assure everyone of the success of everything. But yeah, it's I think that the the average person on campus and even out in public, the alumni, don't always understand the nuances of how fundraising works exactly. It's a it's an education that, I think, you're right, has to happen and it's something that we've been focusing on educating our donors as best we can, even to the cycle of how does awarding a scholarship work? How does that prospective students get their financial aid and where does their scholarship end? Because this is something that in my experience, we start endowing scholar scholarship gifts at Fiftyzero. Fiftyzeros only spins off twozero and change right each year, and average tuition check twozero. Is it making or breaking that student's decision to attend rose home in right? I also recognize that for many people write in the check of fiftyzero is probably the largest first gift that many of them will ever make. For some people it'll be made over a number of years, etc. So it's Fiftyzo to still a large sum of money. But understanding how their scholarships going to be a part of a package of other scholarships to allow these students to attend rose home in or whatever school they're going to be at, is really important, I think, to the owners because it sets them up for success in a way that when we're not educating our donors, we risk their their stewards should be sort of off kilter simply because they're frustrated that something didn't work. Yeah, and I think that. I think not only is the important to make sure that the communications, the marketing to the donors is online, but I was working with US school last week...

...about the importance of making sure that that financial aid award letter is also communicating those types of things to say, look, there's people behind this, there are alumni, people who are passionate about this place. They've actually sacrificed so that you can do this. And sometimes, I think those kind of personalization and leveraging those messaging and crafting that rather than just typed up letter that says, Hey, here's your here's your award, take it or leave it, when you start putting in emotion, start putting in what we typically think of marketing might be, you know, in advertising or on the website, recognizing that every piece of communications that we have either with perspective students or with donors, is an opportunity to strengthen that relationship. I think that's what that's a key point for some higher red marketers. Steve, we wrap up every episode by asking our guests to share either a quick takeaway or maybe an idea that's top of mind that other advancement officers could possibly benefit from immediately. As I ask you that question, is there anyything that you would like to share? So you know, one of the things that's really top of mine right now for me is, as everyone has been dealing with the the pandemic and fundraising. The pandemic is an unusual and not anything that we could ever obviously plan for, but recognizing that at least. You know, many of my gift officers are working some combination of remotely, but they're also separated by and large from trailing to meet with their prospects facetoface, and as I talk to my gift officers, I guess my encouragement is to spend a little bit of extra time listening to your gift officers and people who are working with your prospects and donors, to hear how they're doing. Many of us, myself included, going for long periods of time without sitting across the table and hearing stories about their time at their alma mater or why they give. That process energizes me and that's where I drive drive my joy from my position is having those stories and those opportunities to engage with people. Not that these zoom calls aren't great,...

...but they're not they're not the same, and I think we're going to we're going to see a lot of people who are having a different type of fundraising burnout, because I'm concerned that some of our gift officers for fundraising are losing some of the the zeal that they had for their mission, and I think that's it's important to do that. And then the the other thing I think most most people know this intuitively, but it's one of those moments that I kind of remind myself all the time of never skip a small opportunity to think a donor, and one of the things I found was even taking a picture with myself on and sending a text message of Hey, I just saw the the artwork that you did in our new academic building as I drove in. Thanks again. That was awesome. It's really great. Those little things that are out of nowhere, I think can mean more than the the recognition events that we often do, the large gifts we sometimes give donors, the the portraits that we paint. I think the genuine unexpected thank you goes a lot further sometimes in alleviating some donor fatigue and inspiring them in a way that we can always comprehend. That's great. That's great, Stephen. Thank you very much for being such a engaging guest. If some of our listeners would like to reach out to you for further communication, how would they do that? So you can certainly find me online and Linkedin. My name is Steve Brady. You can also find me on Rose Holman's which is Roset eed you and just do a search for Steve Brady on the vice president as toutional advancement. I think I'm pretty easy to find. Your biggest competition in finding me is the sex and the city guy's also apparently. Thanks Steve Brady. But it you have any questions, I'm happy to continue these conversations. Like I said, I've been in hiring fundraising my entire career. It's something I'm passionate about and I'm fortunate that I get to work on a campus that I see the benefits of people's filanthropy every day in the students, in the buildings that they've been able to support. Thank you for allowing us to tap into that expertise. Thank you, thanks Roy, thank part, thank you bar.

Do you have any final comments that you would like to make. Yeah, I just want to point out a couple all of the the things that Steve kind of said, just to kind of underscored a little bit. But I think that you as we, as high end marketers, look at this understanding that you know we're going to be called on to probably do more of these many campaign types of ideas. I mean, your institution might start looking at that and start saying, Hey, we need to do that. Think about ways that you can actually utilize different methods to kind of build those many campaigns and make them very distinctive and make even the donors, you know, you might say, well, it's not quite as big as the last one. Treat each of them very individually and make sure that you're doing your best work on those things and I think that will go a long way to give the gift officers and the Advancement Department what they need to be able to really be successful in every, every aspect of what they do. And never forget about storytelling. I mean, you know Steve kind of indicated that, and just being able to sit across and listen to that, document those stories. Make sure you've got some organization that you can kind of reference from those, because those are gold and you can really use those in all kinds of different ways, whether it's on the website, whether it's in donor communications, whether it's in your alumni magazine. Just make sure you've got kind of a process in place for that. And then finally, just just think about ideas. As a marketer, I think that you could help your your advancement team. What are those little ways that you can say thank you? I mean Steve kind of talked about the the idea of a text message and a quick things like that. Maybe you just kind of come up in your marketing team with, you know, sit around with your team and come up with five or ten ideas, take them to the advanced but department and say hey, here's some thoughts we had on just little ways that you might be able to thank your donors that are not the big events that we typically do. But you know, you could use Steve's example of the take a picture and send a text. Maybe there's a small thank you card that you know print up some cards. You might want to have them just do personal notes with. Maybe you do personalized videos, kind of like when we talk to Ethan, Ethan but...

...from bombomb video. There's all kinds of ways to do it. You, as marketers, can kind of help facilitate some of that and I kind of lean into that for you. So, Bart, thank you very much and to everyone. That brings us to the end of another episode. The High Ed Marker podcast is sponsored by Kailor solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and by thinking bad and good, a marketing execution company customizing and personalizing print mail and digital marketing. On behalf of Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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