Epilepsy Foundation Finds More Major Gift Donors with Salesforce
For more than 50 years, the Epilepsy Foundation of America (EFA) has shone a light on epilepsy by promoting awareness and understanding, funding research, and advocating for laws that matter to people with epilepsy. This national nonprofit has raised more than $68 million for epilepsy research and trained 600,000 people in seizure recognition and first aid.
As the foundation and its work expanded, the Development team at the national office — especially its few major gift officers — struggled to keep pace with a very limited fundraising system. The EFA transitioned to a customized fundraising CRM built on Salesforce and Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). Now integrated tools help major gift officers identify leads more effectively and fine-tune donor portfolios. Chief Development Officer Geoff DeLizzio estimates they saw a 30% increase in the number of major gift donors and a 15% in major gift revenue year over year — but emphasizes that he believes the real growth and benefits of the new system are still to come.
6months to deploy fundraising & finance systems
30%increase in the number of major donors YOY
15%increase in revenue from major gifts YOY
Wanted: An Ecosystem Robust Enough to Handle the Complexity of Major Gifts
The revenue supporting the EFA’s mission — helping those impacted by epilepsy and seizures — comes through individual giving, major gifts, fundraising events, corporate partnerships, and grant funding. When Geoff DeLizzio became Chief Development Officer four years ago, various teams were using Salesforce at a basic level, but fundraising operations ran on a separate system.
That system, DeLizzio said, was not intuitive or user-friendly. It had limited capacity for analyzing data, which was especially an issue for the three major gift officers, who needed a deeper understanding of the EFA’s donor base. Pulling specialized reports or comparing data sets was difficult and labor-intensive. And because the system ran on a shared platform, the team couldn’t customize it to make it work more easily and more quickly for them.
The EFA launched a Request for Proposals (RFP) process, seeking a tech solution that would be more than just a database. The team needed to build a development ecosystem robust enough to handle the complexities of fundraising, and to grow and change as the foundation and its work evolved. The right solution would also integrate well with systems used by other teams, particularly Finance. DeLizzio, who had used Salesforce in a previous role with the American Red Cross, was hardly shocked when it turned out to be the right solution for the EFA as well.
It’s made our lives better. I’ve been on other systems, and I’ve never seen something as usable, flexible, and sophisticated as Salesforce.” Geoff DeLizzio, Chief Development OfficerEpilepsy Foundation of America
Putting Insightful Data at Major Gift Officers’ Fingertips
Sales Cloud and NPSP form the core of the EFA’s new Development tech stack. The OBO Group, a Salesforce Registered Partner for Nonprofits, assisted with the migration and cleanup of years of legacy donor data. The consulting partner also built custom interfaces that show gift officers all the information they need on supporters at a glance, and automated processes that help them use their time more productively.
At the same time, the foundation was updating its financial system, which tracks revenue from 27 channels. Sage Intacct was selected as the ETA’s new accounting application partly because of how smoothly it integrates with Salesforce. Within six months the OBO Group completed its work and the new fundraising and finance systems went live.
A key source of donor data is the iWave fundraising intelligence platform. Integrated with Salesforce for Nonprofits, it augments donor records with information on the philanthropic history of individual prospects and donors. Using it empowered the Development team to adjust its portfolios to more accurately reflect the realities of its donor base.
“We saw all the data in a new light,” said DeLizzio. “It allowed us to immediately start engaging with people in a new way.”
More Major Donors, More Revenue, and Room to Grow
The big surprise for DeLizzio’s team: They had 30% more potential major donors than they realized. In their records of supporters who had given small donations, they discovered thousands of individuals with the capacity to make large gifts.
The Development team is now engaging such prospects more effectively. Major gift officers use Arjuna Solutions ExactAsk, an AI tool, to inform their ask amounts for specific people. Meanwhile, the team also uses Marketing Cloud Account Engagement to communicate in a more personalized way with groups of middle market leads.
Usually fundraising growth happens slowly, because donor relationships develop gradually and it’s worth the wait to make the right ask at the right time. But even in the first 12 months after their transition to Salesforce, EFA’s Development team saw a significant increase: 15% more revenue from major gifts year over year.
DeLizzio expects to hire two more major gift officers in the coming months. He uses Salesforce dashboards to track his team’s performance on fundraising goals, and to report their progress to EFA leadership and the board of directors. He’s leveraging Tableau to bring together data from other areas — like training and volunteer data — to do sophisticated analysis and segmentation.
DeLizzio said he encourages other CDOs to invest the time and energy to switch to Salesforce: “Just start. You don’t have to do it all at once. Get something going, and you can add and grow as you need to. We are constantly improving it, learning, customizing, and changing things, as our donors and our organization change.”
About the Epilepsy Foundation of America
The EFA is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the welfare of the more than 3.4 million people living with epilepsy in the United States. Since 2003, the EFA has provided funding to half of the therapies in the epilepsy clinical pipeline. Its programs support people living with epilepsy, families, friends, and caregivers.