Eduventures Study Focuses On First-Time Major Gift Donors to Colleges and Universities

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A new three-part report from Eduventures, Transitioning Donors to Higher Gift Levels, provides college and university development offices with answers to a number of key questions related to first-time major donors, among them: what are the characteristics of first-time major donors, what are their motivations, and what can development officers do to accelerate first-time major gifts?

A new three-part report from Eduventures, Transitioning Donors to Higher Gift Levels, provides college and university development offices with answers to a number of key questions related to first-time major donors, among them: what are the characteristics of first-time major donors, what are their motivations, and what can development officers do to accelerate first-time major gifts?

The report analyzes data on nearly 1,300 donors who made their first major gift ($25,000 or more) to an institution in fiscal 2007. The data was collected in conjunction with The Reeher Group, consultants to the higher education market specializing in data mining and analytics, and includes demographic information, dates of contacts of various types by the institution, donation history, and proposal information. Eduventures also conducted Web surveys of both gift officers who cultivated first-time major donors and the donors themselves.

Chapter 1 of the report provides an overview of the demographics, giving history, and overall cultivation timeline for different segments of first-time major gift donors. Chapter 2 focuses on engagement strategies used with these donors, as well as the timeline of cultivation. The final chapter features scenarios about donors' motivations for giving and diagnostic tools for gift officers to use when qualifying and cultivating first-time major gift prospects.

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Donors follow two distinct patterns in transitioning to higher giving levels. More than one-quarter of donors made a gift of $25,000 or more within five years of making their first gift to the institution. In contrast, almost half of all donors made their first gift to the institution more than 20 years before making a commitment at the major gift level.
  • Overall, gift officers reported conducting an average of 3.6 face-to-face visits with donors within the two years leading up to the major gift commitment. They also indicated making an average of 14.5 other contacts - e.g., personalized letters, e-mails, and phone calls.
  • Among donors, there was a wide range of motivations for making a first-time major gift - e.g., grateful patients motivated by the desire to support the research efforts of those who helped them; alumni seeking to take advantage of financial and/or tax benefits; and parents motivated by their children's personal and academic growth.

"Development offices are continually looking to increase the value of donor relationships," said Jennifer Zaslow, Senior Analyst at Eduventures and author of the report. "This study identifies the characteristics and motivations of donors - segment by segment - and provides cultivation strategies that will enable colleges and universities to quickly accelerate donors to higher gift levels."

Zaslow said she anticipates the report being used by development offices in a number of specific and concrete ways, including to identify and track gift prospects earlier; to project the cultivation and solicitation pace for donor segments within gift officer portfolios and reunion classes; and to target outreach efforts relative to demographic and philanthropic patterns of the most promising donor segments.

Transitioning Donors to Higher Gift Levels is available exclusively to members of the Eduventures Development Learning Collaborative, a research consortium of college and university development offices. The collaborative's research, analysis, and implementation support focus on common challenges development divisions face, including annual giving, campaign planning and management, development services, development strategy and organization, individual and institutional giving, and staff management.

About Eduventures, Inc.
Eduventures, Inc. is the industry leader in shared-cost, data-driven research and consulting for higher education. Eduventures is dedicated to helping colleges and universities become more efficient and successful institutions. More than 300 higher education institutions participate in one or more of Eduventures' seven Learning Collaboratives: Continuing and Professional Education, Development, Enrollment Management, Online Higher Education, Schools of Education, Student Affairs, and Summer Sessions. These collaboratives provide members with research reports on current trends and issues, custom analysis, and implementation support, including opportunities to network with fellow professionals. More about Eduventures can be found at http://www.eduventures.com.

About The Reeher Group
The Reeher Group is dedicated to helping leading colleges and universities achieve more® by applying practical business and marketing strategies and advanced performance management tools. The firm is based in St. Paul, Minnesota, and serves clients nationwide. For more information about the company and its products and services, please visit http://www.reehergroup.com.

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