The Trustees have acknowledged that La Verne has historically underinvested in Advancement, and at their meeting April 15th, they approved a university budget that includes $750,000 to be added to the expenditure budget for Advancement. This is a significant sum, but as Development Committee Chair Ivan Misner said in his presentation, it only “brings us up to below average” for our type of institution in terms of expenditures for Advancement as a percentage of total institutional expenditures.
This is far too big a topic adequately to address in a single blog post. Here I will present an outline of a few thoughts on about the benefits of investing in Advancement. The university needs to step up its fund raising to a new level in order to prepare for the next campaign, and I look forward to speaking to faculty and others more extensively and in various forums about how this can be done.
Basically, the current investment in the 2011-12 budget starts to make up for years of underinvestment. The principles underlying this investment are that before people will give to La Verne, we need to inform our alumni and donors of what is happening at La Verne, engage their interest, and give them opportunities to be involved – all of which costs money and requires staff. People who are informed, interested, and involved are the people who give!
Resources – both staff and program operating support – will be put into three areas:
- Communication - With new resources, we will send alumni and donors two issues of the VOICE magazine instead of one per year – the standard at nearly all schools is four issues but failure to fund communications to alumni has reduced publication to one issue per year at La Verne. The budget includes a media relations/writer to support a “Success Stories” initiative and generate more stories on faculty excellence and student achievements, for media, publication and the Web site. We will further develop the Advancement, PR and Alumni Web pages including the very successful VOICE online, and expand both electronic and print communication with alumni, as well as social media outreach.
Why do we need to do all these things? In order to raise money, we need to communicate with constituents. If they never hear from us, if they are not aware of news about La Verne, and aware of good things happening at La Verne, why would they want to give? Yet printing and mailing – still the best way to reach the most people even in this digital age – are very expensive. It costs $60,000 to print and mail our VOICE magazine to 60,000 people. Barely more than the cost of two postage stamps per person, but it adds up to a lot of money. Budget constraints have drastically reduced our mailing of what used to be a quarterly magazine to once a year, and other mailings to almost none – a level of communication that is inadequate to support fund raising.
- Alumni & constituent information and research – An alumni records position and prospect research position are proposed, together with funding to put in place a systematic process for updating information about our alumni, conduct an ongoing alumni survey to acquire more and updated bio/demographic data on alumni, fund quarterly electronic screening of our data base to acquire email addresses for more of our alumni, and establish a prospect research program.
What is the point of all this? We need more email addresses for our alumni so we can contact them by email – the most cost effective way to communicate. Currently we have about 22,000 email addresses for 55,000 alumni. We need good data about alumni, and a research program to work with that data, in order to determine who will be the best prospects for financial support.
- Alumni & donor engagement & events – We will provide administrative support for the alumni social media program, and for campus and regional alumni events, alumni events for each of the academic colleges, and donor cultivation events. We will fund online library and career benefits for alumni and add support for alumni and donor events organized around existing campus academic, cultural and athletic events; campus and regional alumni gatherings, and alumni events in targeted regional locations where we have the greatest concentration of alumni.
Why does a university need all these activities? Alumni want some benefits from their alma mater such as the ability to access online library services and career services. Alumni who receive these services feel closer to their alma mater, and grateful for these benefits, which strengthens their sense of loyalty and connection with La Verne – and makes them more likely to want to give back. Extensive evidence from hundreds of universities demonstrates that those with the strongest programs for alumni involvement, and the highest participation in alumni events and programs, generally have the highest levels of giving. A stronger program of exclusive, high level donor cultivation events involving the president and board members will also support major gift and board development.
What results can we expect? If we have better data about our alumni, including information about their interests and current contact information (address, phone, email), and if we communicate about La Verne’s news and successes, connect with alumni through email and social media, offer benefits to alumni as well as opportunities to participate in events, the number of donors and participation in giving will rise. La Verne’s cost per dollar raised ($0.40 on average over the last five years) and return on investment (average return 247% over the last 5 years) place us within the top half of comparable universities nationally. Over time, as advancement investment keeps pace with university budget growth and total giving increases, the university will attract more major gift donors and new members to the board of trustees. All of these things are important to preparing for our next campaign.
Please contact me if you have any questions or comments, or if you would like me to speak to a particular department or group to answer additional questions: email@example.com