Western Carolina University

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Higher Education Institutions
North America

Western Carolina University uses multi-channel, person-to-person fundraising techniques to boost annual giving funds.

Blackbaud Guided Fundraising™ helped the annual giving team at Western Carolina University empower student fundraisers and increase its revenue by approximately 100 percent year over year.

Western Carolina University’s Office of Development and Annual Giving recognizes the impact of having a thoughtful, person-to-person donor solicitation strategy. Prior to implementing Blackbaud Guided Fundraising, the annual giving team relied on its legacy calling software and an outdated model that was cumbersome for students, which prevented them from being able to fully execute on their fundraising strategy.

Understanding the value of their phone program for university advancement, Director of Annual Giving Jonathan Brooks championed fiercely to expand the program. “For us, it was a no-brainer that Blackbaud Guided Fundraising was the right solution to support our future campaigns,” he said. Both the implementation and adoption of Blackbaud Guided Fundraising were seamless, according to Brooks. “Students were really impressed with its interface, and from an administrative perspective, it was an easy transition with minimal challenges to overcome,” Brooks added.

Personalizing Fundraising Appeals

Upon refining their different strategies for audience and segment preferences, the team established a benchmark that would enable them to reach future campaign goals more effectively. “Our program is designed with our students essentially acting as mini development officers and managing portfolios, and it provides mentoring and professional development opportunities,” Brooks explained. “Empowering students with an experience that not only fosters a creative atmosphere but one that supports their success has been equally exciting for them and us.”

Blackbaud Guided Fundraising is the primary tool used for the annualgiving team’s engagement efforts. In addition to fundraising, they use it for prospecting for gift planning, alumni outreach, and event invitations, along with contacting parents and other parent activities. “Our use of the solution is highly diversified,” Brooks said. “Being able to target the right people at the right time has helped us increase revenue by approximately 100% year over year—and our donor capture rates through our phone program have increased by about 20% year over year.”

Plus, with the right technology in place, Western Carolina’s annual giving team can be agile when plans change unexpectedly. “Upon COVID-19, we easily pivoted to student emergency check-in calls for our populations who were highly at risk,” Brooks said. “We also suppressed our healthcare contact lists to ensure they weren’t overburdened with messages and solicitations while working on the front lines.”

Making Authentic Connections

With Blackbaud Guided Fundraising, the annual giving team can easily share where donations are going and how they are supporting student and academic success. “The students have an easier time interfacing with people, and the reporting is a lot better,” Brooks said.

Students are also seeing great success in ongoing engagement through text. Engaging donors via text is a new, unique benefit for the team. “We have seen a lot of people who otherwise had never engaged with us, either via email or phone, get in contact with us through text specifically through the Blackbaud Guided Fundraising platform,” Brooks said. “In the future, having students making more meaningful connections and being empowered to operate like real alumni engagement and development officers will drive positive impact on our annual giving program.”

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Western Carolina University
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