fundraising

March (Alumni Giving) Madness 2022: Who Won Our Alumni Giving Tournament?

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchApril 5, 2022
March Alumni Giving Tournament Madness 2022

Updated: See our interview with the winners below.

It’s time once again for RNL’s March (Alumni Giving) Madness, where we answer the question: “What would happen if the NCAA DI tournaments were decided by alumni giving, not basketball?” We started the giving ‘tournament’ five years ago, but took a break in 2020-21 with everything we’ve all been focused on during COVID.

This is our attempt to get you looking at fundraising statistics, donor trends, and what might be possible at your institution. To make the point that when we consider both short and long-term donor engagement results, some different teams win than we’re used to hearing about. Here’s a breakdown of the tournament. You can download the full e-book and brackets here.

Using only publicly available data from the CASE VSE Survey, U.S. News & World Report rankings data, and institution web sites, we have created a simulation of the men’s and women’s 2022 tournament brackets that focuses on core alumni giving metrics, donor pipeline, and benchmarking with peers. Since we believe that engaging donors over a lifetime is crucial and over three-quarters of alumni who make big gifts have given annually, we focus quite a bit on alumni donor count and participation along with giving per alumnus. Here are the scoring criteria.

Statistical Criteria

  • (20%) Overall team strength: The FY2021 alumni participation figure reported to the CASE Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) Survey.*
  • (20%) Upward momentum going into the tournament: The increase or decline in alumni donor count per the VSE from 2020 to 2021.
  • (20%) Recruiting strength and past tournament performance: The total increase or decline in alumni donors per the VSE between 2012 and 2021.
  • (15%) A strong bench of dedicated team members: The total alumni giving in dollars divided by the alumni of record per the VSE over the last three fiscal years (2019-21).
  • (10%) Full pandemic recovery momentum: The increase or decline in alumni donors per the VSE from 2019 to 2021.

Subjective Criteria

  • (10%) Getting a shot (gift) off: Our team of expert referees compare the two institutions’ online giving presence, including ease of online giving, giving day portal (if any), and crowdfunding. They grade how easy it was for an alumnus to “get a shot off” and make a gift.
  • (5%) Random factor: Our simulator assigns a small portion of each team’s score to a random factor—akin to a random ball bounce during a game that can have a small factor in the outcome.

*When VSE data were not submitted, every effort to provide a comparable statistic from institution reports, websites, or the U.S. News & World Report database was made.

With the two groups of 64 institutions in the women’s and men’s DI tournaments this year, these criteria were then used to create match-ups and build a bracket. Read on for some key insights, or check out the full-on-nerd overview in the e-book.

See the 2022 March (Alumni Giving) Madness Brackets

Download our e-book to see:

  • The fundraising results brackets for institutions in the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament.
  • Insights on the metrics that helped us determine the winners each round.
  • Observations on strategies to increase donor engagement and giving.

You can also request a free Donor Comparison Report when you download the brackets.

DOWNLOAD NOW

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Higher education sees massive generosity, but fewer alumni are giving

The institutions that were in the tournaments this year saw a whopping $3 billion in annual contributions. Participation ranged from 1.3 percent to 37 percent. Alumni giving per alumnus also widely varied, from $5 per alumus to $1,221.

What’s similar with institutions who scored well in the tournament? First, fearless engagement. The pandemic doesn’t mean donor decline was inevitable, and neither does current economic uncertainty or inflation. There are numerous examples of institutions booking 30 percent donor growth (or more) amidst the pandemic, as well as examples of 50 percent or greater alumni growth over 10 years.

Engaging cause- and impact-driven communications, communications coordinated across channels, and excitement through giving days, campaigns, and crowdfunding made a big difference. Making it easy to give, including using payment tech like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Venmo is also a key strategy. The e-book has a full breakdown of what our consultants saw when we reviewed giving programs.

This year’s winners for our alumni giving tournament: Virginia Tech and Baylor University

Watch our LinkedIn Live discussion with Virginia Tech and Baylor.

Men’s tournament bracket winner: Virginia Tech

This year’s men’s bracket tournament was dominated by Virginia Tech, whose strong leadership, innovative donor engagement, and incredibly supportive alumni has produced massive donor growth over the past few years. In fact, they have one of the largest three-year increases in donors in higher education history.

From awesome giving day experiences, to really cool socks, to bad dad jokes that get attention, the Virginia Tech team is innovative, fearless, and impact-driven. They also were one of the first adopters of a digital wallet that makes it incredibly easy to give in less than 30 seconds.

Women’s tournament bracket winner: Baylor University

With significant alumni donor growth in both recent years and over the past decade, Baylor dominated the women’s bracket this year. Engagement has been boosted by the highly successful Give Light campaign, which has surpassed $1.1B. Over 80,000 donors have contributed, and $300M of the generosity is for immediate, expendable needs. A suite of high-engagement events is currently in progress, and you can just feel the excitement.

On top of this, Baylor has an easy-to-use giving portal, and the February giving day topped 2,700 donors. The giving day includes all the greatest hits, from cross-campus involvement, engaging and exciting challenges and matches, and a real tie-in to the direct impact to students. Baylor’s giving is just cool and is a great, mass-involvement effort complimentary to the campaign.

These two institutions have bucked the trend of donor decline and executed exciting, friction-free engagement to all their constituencies. This is key as we build both immediate response and a donor pipeline for major gifts down the road.

Read the full e-book and see the brackets for more insights about these great institutions and their tournament friends.

How does your alumni giving compare? Find out in a free Donor Comparison Report

If this novel idea has grabbed your interest, get in touch with RNL today for a free Donor Comparison Report. We can use the same data to help you see how you compare and where you can see immediate growth with new donor engagement strategy.

And if you have questions, comments, or suggestions for next year’s tournament, drop me a line. I’d love to hear what you think.

See the 2022 March (Alumni Giving) Madness Brackets

Download our e-book to see:

  • The fundraising results brackets for institutions in the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament.
  • Insights on the metrics that helped us determine the winners each round.
  • Observations on strategies to increase donor engagement and giving.

You can also request a free Donor Comparison Report when you download the brackets.

DOWNLOAD NOW

2022 March Alumni Giving Madness CTA image


About the Author

Brian Gawor

Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of RNL clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and...

Read more about Brian's experience and expertise

Reach Brian by e-mail at Brian.Gawor@RuffaloNL.com.


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