Are You Calling the Right Alumni?

One of the most common questions in gift officer interviews involves how the candidate handles rejection. Why? Because blind discovery calls come with a heavy dose of gatekeepers, declined visits, upset alumni and the all-too-common, non-responsive alumni.

But what are the true costs associated with not calling the right alumni during discovery calls? How much money could be raised if these numbers were improved?

Capture Higher Ed wanted to find out, so we analyzed data provided by a large state institution in the Midwest. The data relates to outreach from a team of annual giving officers at the leadership level over the entirety of fiscal year 2018.

Here’s What We Found
calling the right alumni

The data confirms that gift officers currently spend a startling amount of time focused on alumni outreach that does not result in a visit. In fact, 91% of leadership annual gift officer discovery is spent on the wrong alumni. Also, well over 150 hours a year — per gift officer — is spent focused on alumni who are not interested or never respond. That is almost a full month of productivity lost.

Assuming an average salary for a leadership annual gift officer is $50,000, the institution spends nearly $4,000 per gift officer focused on the wrong alumni. That number, of course, increases for major gift officers. Assuming the average salary for a major gift officer is a nice round $75,000, the same inefficiencies have a bottom line cost of over $6,000 per gift officer.

For a vice president with a team of two major gift officers and a leadership gift officer, estimated losses quickly exceed $20,000 annually.

But the real cost is the time spent not calling the right alumni. By valuing a visit (total dollars raised/total visits) we can infer the value of a visit from a leadership annual giving officer is roughly $2,500. Being realistic, 100% of the time spent not calling the right alumni cannot be re-allocated to receptive alumni.

But … if only 20% of the time spent calling the wrong alumni was refocused on alumni receptive to a visit, each leadership gift officer would schedule an additional 85 visits with an estimated annual value of over $200,000.

The same valuation can easily exceed $1 million for major gift officers whose average gift is higher. For that same vice president with a team of two major gift officers and a leadership gift officer, the real costs of not calling the right alumni can quickly translate into millions of dollars not booked annually. Worse yet, potentially lost to other non-profits.

What is Behind the Data?

Leveraging team data helps account for single source biases and inefficiencies in any single gift officer’s outreach. Aggregating data over the entire year helps account for seasonal fluctuations. Salary estimates are generalized to protect data sources, although we hope to provide the data in a format that is easy to compute for your campus.

What is the Opportunity?

Addressing inefficiencies in gift officer outreach has significant financial benefits — some of which may not be immediately apparent. Reducing outreach to non-receptive alumni has a positive emotional benefit on gift officers. Increasing outreach to receptive alumni also makes gift officers more successful — benefiting the institution but also leading to increased longevity and reduced turnover in the position. After all, who says blind discovery calls are their favorite part of the job?

If you have been tracking this data on campus, or if we can help talk about solutions, we would love your feedback. If you have not, we hope this baseline information sheds light on an important opportunity for you and your team.

By Kevin Bauman, Director of Philanthropic Initiatives, Capture Higher Ed