Fundraising Voices from RNL

Oct 06 2020 20 mins 114

This podcast features conversations with fundraisers, researchers and thought leaders to help propel your fundraising results.

The War for Fundraising Talent - Jason Lewis
Oct 30 2019 29 mins  
This Fundraising Voices podcast features provocative fundraising expert Jason Lewiss, CFRE, author of The War for Fundraising Talent. Jason and host Brian Gawor discuss: Challenging the assumptions we have about what it takes to be a successful fundraiser. What’s happening in small and large shops to recruit and retain top fundraising talent. What you can do as a fundraiser to become better, and advance your career. What’s next for 21st fundraisers looking to engage new and diverse donor populations. Get the War for Fundraising Talent book here. And check out Jason at Responsive Fundraising. Our guest: Jason Lewis, CFRE, Founder of Responsive Fundraising Jason Lewis is willing to question deeply engrained beliefs and assumptions about how effective fundraising really works. Whether writing or speaking, Jason challenges the prevailing wisdom about effective fundraising practices, hiring decisions, and donor behavior. In the last two decades, Jason has raised millions of dollars for a variety of non-profit organizations throughout the United States. He has been certified and re-certified as a Certified Fundraising Executive and recognized as a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Master Trainers. Jason earned his MS in Nonprofit Management at Eastern University in 2010 and in 2014 graduated from the College of Executive Coaching. Jason also hosts the Fundraising Talent podcast where he features the voices of top fundraising professionals.

Jillian Nelson - Illinois State University - Annual Giving in Campaigns
Jun 10 2019 27 mins  
Like many of you I'm lucky enough to have more than one alma mater. One of those is Illinois State University where I'm actually still currently a student finishing up my doctoral degree. I came to Illinois State University kind of in the middle of my career and the institution really blew me away. ISU has an incredibly deep commitment to the success of students. When you look at the key statistics on Illinois State University they blow away the competition in terms of retention, student success, student satisfaction. And one of the reasons for that, is that throughout their entire history they've just been totally focused on education. They were a Teachers College until in the 70s they transformed into the modern comprehensive university. Along with that came a shift in fundraising strategy, and the institution started raising more. Now, they're in the midst of a transformational campaign and like all campaigns there's more than one effort involved. Modern campaigns now also will often include a big push in annual giving. I've had an opportunity to talk with Jillian Nelson at Illinois State University about the efforts of ISU to grow alumni giving, the number of alumni who give in any given year, and by nature of that, of course, alumni participation. I got Jillian on the line to talk a little bit about ISU's efforts to transform donor engagement, the new things they're trying, what they've had success with, and what they think is next to engage this great group of alumni.

Phonathon Index 2018 - Insights on higher education phone solicitation
Apr 17 2018 17 mins  
Over three quarters of higher education institutions use the phone in some way to reach out to donors each year. At the biggest programs, this amounts to a student caller phonathon, which contacts thousands of alumni, parents and friends. These phonathons or telefunds can generate millions in support, not to mention great conversations which build the relationship with a donor. We’ve just released the RNL Phonathon index, looking at 93 phonathon programs from 2014 to 2017, with over $300M in pledges. We uncover some of the key trends and best practices in phonathon programs and make suggestions about how to take your phonathon to the next level. You can download the full index at today. I got on the line with podcast pal Josh Robertson, a fellow phonathon veteran, to break down the results and talk about what’s next for this key donor contact channel. Chances are, if you’re doing the same thing you’ve been doing with your phonathon for years, you’re probably not getting what you could out of the channel. This channel deserves the best you can offer in terms of strategy and technology. As the only truly scalable personal conversation channel in higher education fundraising, phonathons can have a lot of value. But only if you do them smartly, in a data-driven and focused manner. As Josh mentions, it depends on your goals, but you can craft a solid 21st century phone strategy, as these 93 institutions show. So, if you want to take your phonathon to the next level, drop us a line here at RNL. We have a team of experts ready to help.

Data Science for Fundraising - Ashutosh Nandeshwar
Apr 09 2018 18 mins  
Strong use of data is the cornerstone of any great fundraising program. The best programs take this to the next level, moving from descriptive to predictive – actually guiding gift officers and annual giving appeals to the donors who seem the most ready. Making this transition can be daunting. So today, we’ll talk with one of the authors of a new book, Data Science for Fundraising, building data-driven solutions using R. Ashutosh Nandeshwar is a fundraising data veteran, and a thought leader in this important emerging field. The book is part introduction to new data techniques and an in depth hands on manual to get started. Whether you’re the geek who will be manipulating the data or just interested in how this new way of thinking can transform your fundraising, he’s a great source of insight. You can find the book here: Ashutosh's website: In our recent surveys of over 3,000 fundraisers, fully three quarters told us that they don’t feel like they are using data in the best way possible. This extends to annual giving, major and planned giving, as we try to harness our massive databases to provide better, more personalized appeals. As Ashutosh and I discussed, this isn’t just the best way to fundraise—it’s better for donors, and uses their time and attention efficiently and with the highest impact. If you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get into the data, Ashutosh and Roger’s book is a great tool. Data-driven fundraising is a big focus here at RNL, and we’ve launched new products which do what we’ve discussed in this podcast –taking fundraising into the 21st century. If you’re ready to provide a more personal experience to donors and transform your fundraising, drop us a line. We’re ready to help.

Fundraising Voices - Mitch Linker
Apr 08 2018 19 mins  
How do we get more people interested in fundraising as a profession? It’s a key question we’re trying to answer, as we struggle to fill positions, engage donors, and take advantage of the tremendous interpersonal talents of a rising millennial generation. I came across a book that is quite different than anything we’re used to reading about fundraisers. What happens when you go from rocker to fundraiser, and go all in on philanthropy? Mitch linker, author of No One Dreams of Being a Fundraiser: My Unexpected Journey from Music to Major Gifts can tell us. I got Mitch on the line to talk about his book, his journey, and how we can get more unlikely candidates interested in our profession. You can find the book on Amazon. Getting over the fear of asking by just doing it, finding coaches, and staying with an organization long enough to learn about the donors are all great steps on your path to becoming a better fundraiser. Mitch’s passion and insights for our profession are incredible, even if he came to the job in a bit of a non-traditional way. Well, come to think of it, who does dream of being a fundraiser? Probably no one. But for those of us who stick with it, and as Mitch says, go all in, find out that our jobs are a dream. We get to work with great people, see transformational giving, and the impact of our work on the people our charities serve. So I say, dream on fundraisers, and if you see someone you think might be great, take them in and give them a shot. It’s time for us to look in different places for the next generation of fundraisers.

March (Alumni Giving) Madness 2018
Apr 02 2018 15 mins  
We have the winners of the 2018 March (Alumni Giving) Madness tournament! This tournament is our fun way to determine the top alumni giving institutions for higher education fundraising. We took the institutions in this year's men's and women's NCAA Basketball Tournaments, analyzed their alumni giving statistics, and determined the two top institutions for alumni giving. In this podcast, we break down the results, methodology and talk about how to amplify alumni giving for your institution. 2018 March (Alumni Giving) Madness final brackets View the final 2018 March (Alumni Giving) Madness bracket You can read about the methodology we used and about the first two rounds of results in our first blog. And the winners are... Men’s Bracket: University of Pennsylvania. Returning after last year's win in our women's bracket, Penn continues to have one of the highest alumni participation stats in the tournament. As we mentioned last year, donor growth and consistency in young alumni giving have been real strengths at Penn. Women’s Bracket: University of Notre Dame. Another return winner, Notre Dame also took home a win in 2016 in the men's division of our tournament. Two years of consistent alumni donor growth and a LeBron-level performance for giving-per-living-alumnus made the Fighting Irish unstoppable. All this year’s tournament participants are winners. As we approached the final bracket stages, we noticed some pretty incredible alumni giving and donor growth at the top institutions. All participants in this year’s tournaments should be congratulated. The generosity of their alumni is incredible, with more than $3.7 billion given by alumni to these institutions in 2017. Get the E-Book with all the results Check out all the results, with expanded commentary on the stats, in our March (Alumni Giving) Madness 2018 e-book. Download your copy here.

New Research - Giving Day Index
Nov 27 2017 19 mins  
Giving Days – Campaigns that focus a groundswell of donations to a specific day, have really made a splash in the fundraising world. Using online portals that track donations as they come in, as well as offering challenges, match donations and real excitement for donors, giving days have been a game changer. We’ve just published a new study on how giving days can transform your fundraising. The RNL Giving Day Index looks at over $32 million in giving to answer key questions about average donations, campaign totals and donor counts, as well as the impact of volunteer ambassadors. You can download the full study at right now to see how your giving day stacks up. I got on the line with my podcast pal Josh Robertson to unpack the results and talk about what they mean for your giving day success. As Josh explains, giving days are one of the best opportunities to get donors excited and to build a sense of urgency around giving. Outside of calendar or fiscal year end, they’re really the only other option to answer the key question “why give now.” And giving days do this simply, with the answer – because everyone else is doing it. In order to have a successful giving day, you need the right technology and a provider who knows how these complex campaigns work. With RNL Giving Days, powered by the ScaleFunder platform, we’ve integrated the best technology to make donors feel comfortable giving to YOUR institution, and make it easy. It’s important to integrate giving from all channels in your platform. We’ve also implemented key donor engagement tools like heat maps, challenges, matches, and leader boards to make it fun. Contact us today to see how RNL Giving Days can help take your special event to the next level.

Fundraising Voices: New Digital and Millennial Donor Engagement Survey
Oct 16 2017 13 mins  
Digital Engagement – it’s important for any fundraiser, especially those of us who want to engage younger donors. Whether it’s targeted digital advertising, social media, or great new methods like crowdfunding and online giving days, we have a great menu of options. But we hear from fundraisers that they haven’t always been able to really optimize their digital outreach. So we wanted to know more... We are about to release part four of our series Advancement Leaders Speak, and this edition is the results of a survey and conversations with advancement professionals about how they are doing digital outreach, and how they feel they connecting to young alumni and young donors. I got on the line with Caryn Stein, one of our top digital experts, to go through the results. You can download the full report here. It’s great to hear that ¾ of fundraisers feel that digital communications are effective. But with only one fifth of fundraisers using these communications as part of a defined young alumni campaign, it’s not surprising that we’ve seen giving participation really lag with Millennials. As Caryn suggests, the solution is to get more personal, and harness the power of digital. The right message to the right donor at the right time, that’s what we’re shooting for. And if we can get our multichannel game in gear, we can really transform fundraising. We’d love to tell you about how we’re having success with RNL partners doing just that. If you’re ready to transform your digital donor outreach, give us a call. We’re ready to talk.

RNL 2017 Crowdfunding Index
Sep 21 2017 17 mins  
Crowdfunding has become very popular over the past few years. Following success in the commercial world, funding new products, artistic endeavors and other projects, we’ve seen hundreds of charities create crowdfunding campaigns and full portals with multiple campaigns to attract donors to specific needs. Higher education, with a wealth of student, faculty and athletics opportunities, has really benefited from this optimized, online and socially integrated technology. We’ve just released a comprehensive index of results from over 4,000 campaigns Ruffalo Noel Levitz charitable crowdfunding powered by the Scalefunder platform. And the results show that crowdfunding has really made a difference with our partners—over 22 million dollars actually. You can download the 2017 RNL crowdfunding index at Today on the podcast, I talk with Josh Robertson about what we discovered as we looked a these great campaigns. If you are looking to attract new donors, particularly younger donors, and give your long time supporters something exciting with active feedback they can support, crowdfunding is a great tool. We’ve seen millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of donors engaged through RNL crowdfunding. You can offer campaigns that support new initiatives, student and faculty needs, and even market your traditional annual giving program through crowdfunding. We’d love to help you get started or accelerate your existing crowdfunding program. Drop us a line and we’ll help you take your donor engagement to the next level.

New Survey: Major and Planned Giving Productivity
Jun 28 2017 13 mins  
We’ve just released part two of our major research series Advancement Leaders Speak here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. This time, we surveyed and spoke with 270 major and planned giving officers to find out how they do their jobs and how they feel about productivity. You can download the study at—we included questions about average prospect pool sizes, number of visits with donors, key frustrations and challenges for gift officers, as well as what they think would make their jobs easier. I got on the line with Caryn Stein, Vice President here at RNL, to go through the results and talk a bit about what we are hearing from gift officers about their important work with donors. Download the Report here Productivity—it’s not always the first topic that major and planned giving programs jump on. For a profession primarily focused on personal relationships with donors, we’re not really drawn to metrics and deep data on our solicitation effectiveness. But given the increase pressure all charitable organizations are facing, and definitely for higher education, putting the right tools in place so your major and planned giving team can have success is crucial. And as Caryn and I mention, focusing on the right contact to the right donors at the right time is a key donor-centric practice that will keep your top supporters happy and increase their joy in giving. You can download the full study at We’d also love to hear from you about your major and planned giving program. Drop us a line, and we’ll talk about how you can improve your team’s productivity and book more gifts, immediately.

Student Philanthropy with Josh Harraman and Felicity Meu
Jun 11 2017 21 mins  
Student philanthropy continues to be a hot topic in higher education. Just about every institution hosts some form of student philanthropic engagement. The goal is to engage students in causes that they are passionate about, help students thank current donors, and if we do it right, help students understand the importance of giving back as future alumni. Josh Harraman and Felicity Meu are experts with years of experience with successful student philanthropy programs. I’m proud to serve as faculty with them in the upcoming Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium, put together by CASE this coming August. I got Josh and Felicity on the line to talk about the state of student philanthropy, what we’re talking about this year, and what the future holds for this crucial higher education effort. Josh and Felicity offer great insights on how to engage students in philanthropy. We’re talking about a lifetime relationship with your alma mater here, and increasingly, institutions are working to start that deep philanthropic relationship before students graduate. Engaging students with the causes they care about, and inviting them to thank current donors can go a long way to making that happen. Join us at the 2017 Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium, August 3-5, as part of the CASE Conference for Student Advancement in Columbus. It’s the biggest event of the year for student philanthropy programs. And if you are hearing this podcast after the symposium, head over to to find resources on accelerating your student philanthropy program, including the CASE ASAP network, the premier network for student philanthropy. Check out the Symposium program and registration at:

Fundraising Voices: Robert McGuire on Content Marketing
Apr 19 2017 18 mins  
Getting great content in front of your donors, things that are interesting and invoke a passion for giving, is a sure fire way to build your base of support. Robert McGuire of McGuire Editorial knows this well. He’s spent years helping top non-profits and higher education institutions put together great content strategies. Increasingly, we’re hearing that the communications you provide that are outside of the ask are crucial to engaging and retaining donors. I got Robert on the line to explain what content marketing means for fundraisers, and have him provide some tips on how to accelerate your content. Marketing, communications, multichannel, omnichannel, whatever you decide to call it—it’s for sure that you’ll want be providing great content to your donors if you want to keep them engaged. In a digital world, where you can track and respond to what donors are viewing, clicking on and clicking through, you can even tailor content to specific donor interests. You’ve heard us call it a personal journey here at RNL, and content is a crucial part of that journey. You can check out some great content strategy resources from Robert at Getting those messages delivered is another big part of your content strategy. At Ruffalo Noel Levitz, we have a ton of experience crafting these multichannel plans. If you’d like to accelerate your content and message delivery strategy, give us a call. We’re ready to help. And thanks for listening to the podcast.

Fundraising Voices: Rob Henry at CASE
Apr 19 2017 15 mins  
Rob Henry is one of the most passionate people I know about higher education. He cares a lot about making college available to more people and to more diverse people. He also knows that bringing new professionals into Advancement will help make that possible. As Vice President of Education for CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, he has a unique platform to help promote those goals. I’ve talked with Rob a lot about these topics when we see each other at CASE conferences every year, and I wanted to get him on the line to talk about the strategic goals of CASE, his feelings about diversity in our profession, and how we can welcome more young people as both advancement professionals and donors. Rob offers some great insights into how we can create a pipeline of energetic new professionals in the field of advancement. The work that CASE is doing will be important – we need to really broaden our view of how we bring people into our profession in order to meet our diversity goals. Developing great ways to mentor and encourage young people who want to get involved in philanthropy, because as Rob reminds us, Millennials and young people will be dominant in our donor base in years to come. RNL invests significantly in CASE because we know that sharing our experiences and successes is a key part of fundraising and donor engagement success. You can find us on the road at CASE events, conferences and even on CASE webinars. If you haven’t heard, the organization has opened up new resources and expanded their view of membership benefits this year. It’s a great time to head on over to to check out what’s available. If you work at a higher education institution, you most likely already have membership through your Advancement division.

Fundraising Voices: David Callahan from
Apr 19 2017 18 mins is an incredible place to find out about who’s funding what and why. That’s the mission that David Callahan, Founder and Editor has set out to accomplish. You can get fresh insights, about big funders as well as every day donors, daily on the site. David’s a font of knowledge about philanthropic trends, and I wanted to get him on the line to offer his insights on 2017 fundraising, and make some predictions about the philanthropic space. David has just published a great book called The Givers. It’s an inside look at the world of our top charitable givers - mega philanthropists. You find the book on Amazon or your local book store. David makes great points about the explosion of charities, and how funders can even tell them apart. We’re all facing this important need to distinguish our causes. And with donors expecting more transparency and results, we all need greater stewardship and data on the impact of giving. Head over to to catch more daily coverage of philanthropy trends and fundraiser insights. Getting in front of your donors to talk about your institution’s impact and the impact of their gifts is important. At Ruffalo Noel Levitz, we have an advanced suite of solutions to help you do just that. Whether it’s reaching out via digital channels, direct mail or the phone, we can help you put together a rock star strategy that gets your message notices. Head over to to find out more today.

Fundraising Voices: March (Alumni Giving) Madness
Apr 05 2017 17 mins  
Here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, we spend a lot of time looking at higher education alumni giving patterns. Loyal alumni drive a big part of the philanthropic support to higher education. They also tend to be the biggest athletics fans. So, the NCAA basketball tournaments each spring offer an interesting laboratory for us to ask some fun questions. Last year, one of our RNL consultants asked a really interesting one: What if the NCAA brackets were decided based on alumni giving statistics? So, we created our March (Alumni Giving) madness tournament to answer that fun question. It’s a fun way to look at how institutions compare in alumni giving participation percentages, donor counts, total dollars from alumni, and even online giving strategy. On today’s podcast, we break down the 2017 results that lead to victories for Penn and Northwestern. You can see all the results, with commentary, round by round at I got Josh Robertson, Vice President here at RNL on the line to go through this year’s methodology and results. Over 10 billion dollars – That’s what higher education alumni gave in 2016. That’s a huge portion of the philanthropy that makes a difference for students, faculty and all the great life-changing experiences that colleges and universities provide. It turns out that if you base the tournament on giving, not basketball, the winners end up a bit different. If you’d like to see how you compare to peers on some of these statistics, drop us a line. You can head to to request a customized donor comparison report. And we’ll talk about how you can recruit your best possible alumni giving team for next year’s tournament.

Fundraising Voices: Dan Allenby at Annual Giving Network
Apr 03 2017 24 mins  
If you’re an annual giving professional—particularly in higher education, you’ve probably heard about Annual Giving Network. Dan Allenby, founder of the network has done a great job addressing whatever is hot in annual giving strategy today while focusing on the fundamentals. With great content, webinars, a job posting network, and great member interaction, has become a destination for those of us who want to stay educated about the best ways to engage donors. In fact, Dan comes off like he was born into annual giving. And based on what he told me, that’s not too far from the truth. I wanted to get Dan on the line to talk about AGN’s strategy and what he’s trying to accomplish with the network. Dan offers a lot of great insights for how we can do the best job possible engaging, asking, and thanking our annual giving donors. Like he said, we restart every year in annual giving—but the fundamentals of a donor engagement strategy never go away. Find out more about AGN: And check out the 2016 insights report we talked about: 2016 Year in Review Report Are you ready to take your annual giving to the next level? Ruffalo Noel Levitz has great resources, and a great team of experts ready to help you accelerate your annual giving strategy. Head over to to find out about our phone, multichannel and digital solutions which are designed to engage 21st century donors at your maximum return on investment.

RNL Fundraising Voices: Colin Hennessy and Lori Hurvitz talk Student Philanthropy
Jun 16 2016 18 mins  
Student philanthropy is a hot topic these days, with just about all higher education institutions organizing some student giving program. Two experts on this topic are Collin Hennessy at Penn and Lori Hurvitz at University of Chicago. In advance of the upcoming CASE conference for student advancement, and the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium, which they are helping put together, I got these two experts on the phone to talk about their take on student philanthropy, current research, and their suggestions for the best ways to engage students around giving while they are still on campus. CASE Conference for Student Advancement and Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium: Episode Description: Colin D. Hennessy and Lori Hurvitz join the podcast to talk about the Conference for Student Advancement and the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium that they're organizing together. Colin is the executive director for the Penn Fund at University of Pennsylvania and Lori is the senior director of Annual Giving at the University of Chicago. They both discuss the future of philanthropy, what institutions are doing right, and how behind-the-trend institutions can get up-to-speed with their student philanthropy. Key Takeaways: [1:25] How did Colin and Lori get involved with student philanthropy? [3:45] How are the best institutions engaging their students right now? They're starting philanthropy early. [6:15] Students are naturally very philanthropic. Millennials are engaged in causes. [6:35] What suggestions do Colin and Lori have for institutions who are just starting down this path? [7:50] Look at your own culture and see what's important to your students. [8:15] Colin and Lori talk about the Engaging Students in Philanthropy Symposium they're organizing. [10:45] Colin recently finished his dissertation and talks about his study on the influence of learning and annual giving. [11:45] There's a lack of understanding as to why philanthropy is important on college campuses. [12:05] Lori discusses her research and her dissertation on building a culture of student philanthropy. [13:25] What is the University of Chicago currently doing to engage students in philanthropy? [15:00] What is Colin's university doing right with philanthropy? [17:50] The conference will be held at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta on Aug 4th through Aug 6th. Quotes: "Student philanthropy is a great way to engage students and it gets students to connect with alumni and role models." "Student philanthropy gives us an opportunity to educate students early." "Students are, by their nature right now, very philanthropic. Students have causes these days."

RNL Fundraising Voices: Les Cook and Lifetime Engagement
Jun 02 2016 35 mins  
A lifetime relationship. This is what we are hoping for with our students, who later become alumni, supporters and donors. It’s certain that admission, orientation, financial aid, student affairs, athletics all play into this relationship, well before our alumni are handed off to advancement, alumni relations, and fundraisers. But at most institutions, these areas are separate, and the offices don’t even talk much. That’s not the case at The Michigan Technological University. These areas are all under the leadership of one office, and one leader, Les Cook - Vice president for student affairs and advancement. He has one of the most interesting and impactful jobs in higher education. I got Les on the phone to talk about what combining all of these areas into one division can do for the student, alumni, and donor experience. Les has picked up some great insight from this massive endeavor. Key Takeaways [2:10] How did Les get started? [5:45] What does Michigan Tech gain when they combine student affairs with other activities? [8:00] If you build a sense of pride with your students, then they will come back to invest in the university later in life. [8:50] Les shares some personal examples of how he and his team engage his students. [11:00] There's always huge turnover in gift officer positions, but is Les seeing something different at his university? [11:20] It's not about getting talent it's about growing your own talent. [14:25] Les is trying to minimize the gap between the alumni experience and the student experience. [17:25] Michigan Tech's fundraising philosophy is similar to their student recruitment philosophy. [19:30] If you can keep alumni involvement/engagement pretty steady over the course of their lives, it will benefit the university in the end. [21:15] Les talks about his dissertation and what he learned from it. [23:10] As Les talks to more people in his industry, what is he currently learning from his colleagues? [23:40] People are intrigued with Michigan Tech's growth. [25:20] What are some of the biggest lessons Les has learned during his student advancement career? [28:20] In order for change to work, you need to have a president willing to support new ideas. [29:40] What's next for university advancement? [34:10] It's all about making a difference in the lives of others. Mentioned in This Episode Quotes "Awareness to greatness, greatness to engagement, engagement to investment, and investment is commitment." "Advancement officers work more closely now to bring donors and students together to share what's going on." "There's a magic that occurs when the donors and the students come together."

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