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How the OSU Foundation Pivoted to Support its Cowboy Family

By Guest Author April 28, 2020

For the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Foundation, providing support to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of OSU is all in a day’s work.

However, right now, the OSU Foundation, like many others, has been forced to shift the focus of their giving strategy almost overnight.

Amanda Davis, Associate Vice President of Annual Giving & University Programs at the OSU Foundation, provides some insight into how she and her team have quickly and successfully pivoted their giving and engagement operations to adapt to today’s unique challenges.

Can you give us some background on the OSU Foundation’s focus and major initiatives prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

We were actually having a great year with our giving campaigns and realizing that our new Marketing Cloud platform was performing far beyond what was initially expected. Our previous email tool was pretty slow and arduous and really limited what we were able to accomplish through the channel. A lot of the capabilities of Marketing Cloud helped to improve our ability to engage and acquire new donors. In fact, we doubled our revenue associated with email within the first year of implementation.

What, in particular, has made an impact?

The biggest benefits we continue to see is in the variety of content we can now use within email and the level of personalization it provides. We can embed some of our most impactful and compelling content, like video, and scale how we thank donors for a gift, the specific amount given for it, and much more. We can also test stories, messages, and other content with different groups. We couldn’t do any of this so easily before, and our partner, Sierra Cedar, was a big help in getting us up and running.

The Oklahoma State Foundation at Oklahoma State University

Your “Cowboy family” is really important to you–how has the OSU Foundation pivoted to support them through this hard time?

Absolutely. Over the past month, our focus has shifted completely towards reaching out to donors, supporting any required emergency messaging, and supporting our “Cowboy Family,” which includes everyone across the immediate OSU community, our Alumni Association, and Foundation. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been doubly grateful for Marketing Cloud. We were able to scale up our email open rates before the current challenges, which has helped to ensure that our messages are getting to our community during this pandemic.

Can you talk a little bit more about the initiatives you’ve shifted to support as a result of COVID-19?

One of our goals is to keep the broader community informed about available services for alumni–whether that’s connecting to job opportunities, homeschooling, or finding other ways to access or provide assistance within the current health crisis. We’ve also been doing some light solicitation for the emergency fund as well as overseeing and soliciting philanthropy for the student fund, which includes academic appeals that benefit the current graduating unit. We’re also focusing on grassroots content that brings everyone together and we attached signatures from employees of our OSU Foundation to emails in Marketing Cloud. We’ve also pivoted off our Giving Day, which was scheduled for the second week of April, and repurposed our ambassadors to drive attention to our Cowboy Family website. Again, our communications aren’t all about giving, but supporting our OSU community as family for as long as we need to.

This conversation is part of our Leading Through Change series, highlighting Trailblazers, like the Oklahoma State Foundation, that are rising to meet this global challenge by supporting their communities through adversity.

To learn more about how Salesforce is helping our communities during COVID-19, visit our website.

About the Author

Amanda Davis, Associate Vice President of Annual Giving & University Programs at the OSU Foundation

Amanda Davis

Amanda has twenty years of experience in nonprofit leadership and has spent more than half her career in higher education. Originally from the Kansas City area, Amanda has served organizations ranging from community-based nonprofits to large public universities. She spent a significant amount of time working in New Orleans, including serving as the head of development and public relations for the local chapter of the American Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina and the recovery. She is currently Associate Vice President of Annual Giving & University Programs at the Oklahoma State University Foundation. She lives in Oklahoma City with her husband, daughter, and two dogs named Professor Shorthair and Joan Crawford.