Ring of Fire
The pre-call letter approach makes sense, Brennan says.
“Much of our work in fundraising is based off of the pre-call letter concept,” he adds. “If you’re a major-gifts officer trying to schedule an appointment, you would send a pre-call letter ahead of time and then follow that up with a call to schedule the appointment.”
The pre-call letters are signed by major-gift donors, Brennan explains, which also makes the process a great cultivation tool. Signers share their Rutgers experience with the development staff, which then writes the pre-call letters for their approval.
Involvement on that level gets signers excited about their alma mater again and often leads to their own increased giving, Brennan says.
Over the past three years, Rutgers has partnered with Advantage in an effort to reach Brennan’s goal of contacting every alumnus, parent and friend on the 240,000-name prospect file at least once a year, regardless of his or her giving history. Outsourcing to Advantage made that possible, though fewer calls will be outsourced going forward since Rutgers recently opened a second calling center, doubling its call-center capacity. The new center is on its Camden campus; the original is at the main campus in New Brunswick.
Next up is to increase the goal from one contact a year to two. And that’s no small task, especially when you consider that the Rutgers program isn’t automated. It relies on telephones, paper call cards with preprinted donor information, handwritten thank-you notes, and lots of busy fingers.
“Would we raise more money if we were automated? Maybe. But the only real advantage is in the processing and reporting,” Brennan says. “Aside from that, in some ways it can be a detriment … computer crashes, loss of data, and computer equipment and software costs. I’m not convinced that it is worth the startup, maintenance and ongoing computer-replacement costs.”