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Colleges and Universities Missing Opportunities With Major Gift Prospects

New study reveals half of major gift prospects do not receive an annual visit

June 13, 2018—Ruffalo Noel Levitz, leading provider of higher education fundraising, student success, and enrollment services, released results from a study of college and university major gift fundraisers. Key findings indicate frustration among higher education gift officers with identifying big givers, reaching out to meet personally with major gift prospects, and a lack of personal support for gift officers.

Conducted for a second year, the study draws from an online survey administered in April to 480 fundraising professionals. It includes additional data sources and interview responses to uncover current challenges and opportunities in higher education major and planned gift fundraising.

The results revealed five key challenges:

  • One out of two fundraisers cite the need to spend more time directly with donors in solicitation.
  • For most fundraisers, fewer than half of identified major gift prospects receive a personal visit each year.
  • Nearly 90 percent of fundraisers use wealth ratings, but less than one-third find them highly effective in focusing on the right prospective big givers.
  • Half of fundraisers identified “focusing on the right donors” as their biggest barrier to success.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of fundraisers have live support in scheduling visits with donors.

“We are in the middle of the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history, and the time is now to connect with transformational donors who are looking to make a difference,” says Brian Gawor, CFRE and vice president for research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “Colleges and universities have immense stores of data at their disposal, but the vast majority of fundraisers don’t feel they have the right tools or insight to be more effective. They feel almost like independent contractors. This is bad for fundraising, and it’s bad for donors.”

Campuswide challenges such as stagnant enrollment growth and rising student financial aid needs, coupled with tight resources in advancement divisions, have created even more pressure on institutions to spend these resources wisely and maximize the donor experience.

“Focusing on the right opportunity, for the right donor, at the right time is the most important thing that institutions can do to book more big gifts more quickly,” says Caryn D. Stein, vice president of marketing for Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “The most successful institutions are those that can focus their resources more intelligently, to reach the right donors through the right channels—with the right message. We are investing in helping fundraisers focus their most valuable resource—their gift officers—in ways that fully leverage that personal touch with a data-informed and donor-centric approach.”

Advancement Leaders Speak 2018: Major and Planned Giving Productivity is available at RuffaloNL.com/Major2018.

For more information about Ruffalo Noel Levitz, visit www.RuffaloNL.com.

About Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Ruffalo Noel Levitz is the leading provider of higher education enrollment, student success, and fundraising solutions. The firm serves more than 1,900 colleges and universities through data-driven solutions focused on the entire lifecycle of enrollment and fundraising, assuring students find the right program, graduate on time, secure their first job in their chosen field, and give back to support the next generation. With a deep knowledge of the industry, Ruffalo Noel Levitz provides institutions the ability to scale their efforts by tapping into a community of support and resources.