In the world of major gift fundraising, engagement is everything for higher education institutions. However, keeping pace with today’s donors and their expectations has become an uphill challenge.
To serve the rapidly evolving needs of its donors and prospects, the Texas A&M Foundation realized that it required enhanced visibility into its constituents. With nearly a million records, it needed an advanced system to manage donors and better align its data with the complex process of directing major gifts.
As its legacy system came to its end-of-life, the Foundation turned to Salesforce to deploy a modern CRM platform that could drive donor centricity and transform operations into a next-generation major gift fundraising shop.
41%increase in average gift size
37%increase in dollars raised
78%increase in click rates for general newsletter
Putting the Donor First
The primary goal of the Texas A&M Foundation, and its sister organization, The Association of Former Students, is to put its donors at the center of everything. However, with a shifting donor trajectory and a rapidly growing alumni base, donors’ needs were changing and the Foundation had to prepare.
“We needed to look forward with a donor-centric lens and provide our constituents with the tools they are expecting to be able to use and the interactions they are expecting to have — alongside managing everything easily and efficiently,” said Chris Speier, Vice President for Information Services & Analytics.
Texas A&M donors are passionate, impact-driven, and want a sense of connection with the university. These donors also live busy lives and part of the challenge for the Foundation was to be able to work at their pace and communicate on their preferred channels.
“Our donors have a passion, they want to talk and want to engage,” said Speier. “That means we not only have to utilize the right communication channels, but also be responsive with the timeliness they expect.”
To facilitate impactful interactions and create high-touch, high-value relationships, the Foundation needed to be technologically advanced and have a clear picture of its donors’ needs. This would require having the right processes in place and a modern, cloud-based CRM toolset that provides flexibility, scalability and 360-degree visibility.
The dynamic stack of tools that is the holistic Salesforce ecosystem lets you meet your needs faster and therefore meet the needs of your donors faster.” Chris Speier, Vice President for Information Services & AnalyticsTexas A&M Foundation
The Donor-Centric Ecosystem
The Salesforce toolstack offered an effective, easy-to-use, and flexible solution for the Foundation to adopt a donor-centric mentality and work towards achieving its advancement goals.
“The dynamic stack of tools that is the holistic Salesforce ecosystem lets you meet your needs faster and therefore meet the needs of your donors faster,” said Speier. “Plus, it gives you the configurability and speed to be able to change course and adapt to your environment.”
For implementation, the Foundation partnered with UC Innovation, using Ascend. The team chose a phased approach to simplify the process, focusing on its top priorities so they could start leveraging the platform as quickly as possible.
The frontline fundraising team was live on the product in six months, with Marketing Cloud added and launched within another four months. In the final phase, the Foundation is transferring and testing its data to ensure its gift processing procedures are in place.
Once fully live, all of the Foundation’s demographic data and records—including opportunities, contact reports, events, and tasks—will live within Salesforce. Salesforce will become the go-to tool for managing all development, fundraising, and business activities, as well as all reporting and analysis using embedded tables, dashboards, and CRM Analytics.
Adoption was rapid and the Foundation now has 170 active Salesforce users, with a total of 370 planned once fully live. It’s being used by teams all across the Foundation, including development officers and ancillary support staff, research staff, and teams supporting scholarships, stewardship, and donor relationships.
A Better Way to Raise Private Support
The move to Salesforce has helped the Foundation transition from traditional fundraising and prospect management to modern relationship building with increased timeliness, heightened visibility, and advanced forecasting abilities.
The Foundation has been able to successfully strengthen the working relationships it has built with its generous donors over time. These relationships have led to a 37% increase in dollars raised as well as a 41% increase in average gift size. These increases can’t be attributed to Salesforce alone, but the flexibility and visibility have allowed the Foundation to see and leverage its data in a much more meaningful way.
“Salesforce has really given us a better way to do things, with much better data management and data hygiene,” said Speier. “We’re very pleased with the increased efficiency and making information highly visible and immediately actionable.”
Users are now able to track information and manage contacts more efficiently and have a clearer picture of the activity and details involved with each opportunity. Administrators no longer have to wait for quarterly status updates and now have a full understanding of the gifting cycle and how big gifts come to fruition. With CRM Analytics, the Foundation has upfront reporting and insights to identify the impact their activities have, with less disconnect between granted amounts versus amounts actually booked.
With Marketing Cloud, the Foundation has experienced increased click rates on all of its sends, with a 77.5% increase for its general newsletter—although other factors, such as targeted content, were involved. Perhaps the biggest impact for the marketing team has simply been reducing the amount of time it takes to build, test, approve and send. They’ve been able to cut this process from a minimum of three weeks down to one week.
Salesforce has also helped bolster collaboration and improve how the foundation approaches new opportunities. They can now assign roles and holistically work as a team to focus on actions that best serve each individual donor.
“We’ve successfully migrated to the new reality of a nebulous platform that creates an entire ecosystem, which makes all the data connections and all the tools work so well together,” said Speier. “It doesn’t feel like that hub and spoke thing, but rather a layered and connected ecosystem.”
More About Texas A&M Foundation
Established in 1953, the Texas A&M Foundation’s mission is to build a brighter future for Texas A&M University, one relationship at a time. The Foundation is the primary academic fundraising institution for the university and is charged with raising and managing gifts of all types and sizes, with a focus on major gift endowments.
Gifts create scholarships, advance faculty endeavors, enhance student programs, and fund college programs and campus construction. Collectively, these investments greatly enhance Texas A&M’s mission to provide the highest quality undergraduate and graduate programs and develop new understandings through research and creativity.