A Year With Leadership Giving Officers: What I’ve Learned

Kathleen HowleyDirector, Client SuccessNovember 1, 2023

RNL launched its Leadership Giving platform powered by RNL Engage this summer with immense success. We are excited to partner with clients on their strategy across various levels of the gift pyramid. When we started this effort, we knew a thing or two about leadership giving here at RNL, but I have learned so much more from working with clients day-to-day on these efforts.

Leadership giving engagement at scale is the most effective approach

Fundraising leadership and seasoned staff often work within a portfolio of 100-250 prospects, and that mindset tends to carry over to leadership annual giving work. Portfolios are built with basic criteria in mind, like recency and frequency of past giving, or common degree program. But we have found that you can and should think bigger when it comes to leadership annual giving outreach.

We use powerful predictive modelling to find the prospects with the highest likelihood of giving to your institution, from your database. When you add the staff expertise at RNL reviewing these data sets, we have seen institutions reach a group of 1,000 prospects or more within just months.

How do you move through all that outreach? It turns out leadership giving officers can do it fast, given the right technology and support. In a matter of 21-28 days, officers can move a large mass of prospects through a discovery outreach cadence with high personalization, ensuring movement that is wide-reaching. This requires automated cadence prompting, integrated channel technology, and templates that officers can customize.

As they receive responses, gift officers can find people who don’t just look like they have capacity on paper, but also have inclination to give. RNL Leadership Giving further allows users to continue cultivating relationships with these donors by reminding them when officer follow up is needed, when they might send a holiday message, renew an annual gift, say hello on a birthday, or invite them to an event on campus.

Image: Baylor University engaged a third of its leadership giving pool within just 90 days, with high-ROI results.

Think bigger when you start, and you will naturally create a robust portfolio of engaged prospects while also establishing a history of movement and interaction across your entire leadership segment.

It’s all about omnichannel outreach: Multiple channels matter

And how do we find these prospects? Omnichannel outreach is key. RNL Leadership Giving allows leadership giving offers to send videos, emails, and text messages, as well as make calls. from one place with a coordinated strategy. Prospects receive a suite of content over a period of time that drives them to the point—we want to engage you and talk about the ways that you can make a difference on campus. It’s crucial that this conversation comes from one platform, with integrated channel outreach, that is extremely low friction for officers.

Image: RNL Leadership Giving automatically prompts officers on what to do next, with texting, email and calling coordinated in one platform.

It’s often the complementary channel that helps us cut through the noise. We need multiple prompts to “say yes” to something. It’s the way our lives work: you get a call reminding you about your dental appointment, but you don’t call back to confirm because you’re busy. Later, you get a text to remind you and this time you can confirm right there, via text, in seconds. This technology is now available for leadership and annual giving outreach, and we are going to see it grow.

The reality is that prospects need a nudge and reminder as we all do for any call to action these days. When you do it right, omnichannel outreach isn’t about tossing spaghetti at the wall. It’s about helping leadership giving officers find the right way to connect with someone on their terms.

Nothing can replace the human element: conversations are crucial

Now that we are using AI, predictive modeling, and pressing all these buttons to reach out to prospects, do we still need development officers to do this work? The answer from our data is absolutely yes.

The final stage of leadership giving adoption is almost always a personal conversation. I have been reminded over and over that relationship building happens person to person, not person to machine. However, you will never get to that “action” conversation at scale unless you get donors ready with quality engagement.

Leadership giving success is a team and technology effort

This tech is the support system to help connections between donors and your mission take place. Nothing will replace the people: leadership giving officers still use their expertise in this realm to be creative about how and what they call to say, what they text, and the ways that they are cultivating prospects to land a visit/conversation and move them toward a leadership annual gift.

Human relationship building is still primary as we help RNL clients move their prospects through an outreach cadence. The key is to make it unique for each donor—personal will always mean more—and full-time professional fundraising staff still know best how to make that a reality for your constituents. When you give them the tools to do it at scale, results, and the satisfaction of your donors, skyrocket.

I have been on a journey myself, learning these lessons while we expanded our leadership giving engagement efforts with early adopters of RNL Leadership Giving. The results have been incredible, and it is exciting to grow philanthropic revenue while also building relationships that will pay off greater in the long term.

We are onboarding new partners right now, and this system is about a third the cost of other solutions in the market. Drop us a line, and we’ll show you more about how it works. It’s time to provide a better leadership donor experience, and we have the tech and strategy to do that.

Transform your leadership giving outreach

It’s time to give leadership gift officers the tools that can truly fuel their success and maximize the donor experience. Request a consult with RNL experts  to find out more about how new technology:

  • Integrates texting, email, video messages and calling in one secure platform.
  • Helps you smartly target the prospective donors most likely to make a big gift.
  • Makes it easy for donors to give and for you to monitor results and coach officers.
  • Does it all with setup in weeks and at 1/3 the cost of other solutions available today.

Request now

About the Author

Kathleen Howley

Kathleen provides strategic leadership for RNL platform partners, maximizing their success with RNL Engage, ScaleFunder, and Quadwrangle, including digital engagement centers, and omnichannel communications across phone, texting, and video messaging. She helps RNL partners meet...

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