Currents

Voices

What members are thinking and sharing

Graphic by Jeff Koterba

ILLUSTRATION: JEFF KOTERBA

ADVICE

No Pushing

Q: A seven-figure donor and trustee at the school won't designate her gift until we finish our campaign case statement, but the early work on the case statement leads me to believe that athletics and dance (her interests) won't feature prominently. What do I do?

A: In most comprehensive campaigns, many high priorities go unfunded while many second-tier priorities get funded because of donor interests. It's important to align campaign priorities with donor interests—that's the sweet spot. Adjusting campaign goals solely to match donors' interests is a bad idea because priority projects will go unfunded. Plus, if you do this for one volunteer leader, you may be asked to do so for another.

I would do further exploration with the donor to determine possible connections between dance, athletics, and a featured campaign priority. You may uncover an interest that aligns with campaign priorities. For example, maybe the donor will consider a named scholarship for a student-athlete or a math major minoring in dance. Is there a strong campus influencer whom she trusts who could delicately steer (not push!) her in a different direction? If not, is there flexibility in campaign recognition such that she might support a high campaign priority and receive an honorific naming opportunity for something in dance or athletics? Work with campaign leaders to get creative with recognition if there is no way for her interests to be prominently featured in the case for support.

—Carla Willis, vice chancellor for university advancement, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Oops!

The lessons we learn when we make our worst mistakes

As part of our spring appeal, we emailed alumni based on the college they graduated from here at Ball State University in Indiana. But a database glitch caused the email for College of Applied Sciences and Technology alumni to accidentally go out to every person in the university's database: parents, friends, even people coded "do not email." Yikes!

In a fun follow-up email to everyone who hadn't graduated from the science and tech college, we humans apologized on behalf of our database. We also promised not to send alumni a CAST diploma in the coming weeks (or months or years). The reaction was incredible. Alumni and friends sent us more than 550 emails—many of them wanting an honorary diploma. Some even said they're now looking into Ball State for further educational pursuits. Others updated their information even though we didn't ask. Some called it the best email they've ever gotten from the university.

THE LESSON: Own up to your mistakes. People appreciated the honesty of our follow-up email, with some alumni saying that they were going to start giving. One person even asked to meet about a planned gift. People also loved that the apology was from a human. Our oops turned into something amazing.

—Lola Mauer, associate vice president of annual giving, Ball State University Foundation

In the News

"[D]emocracy is only as strong as its citizen discourse and the quality of decision-making. Here, [we] really have been struck by the sense that we're at a very challenging moment in history, with remarkable levels of citizen alienation and division and distrust."

Ronald J. Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, speaking to The Washington Post in June 2017 about establishing the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at JHU, which will examine societal, cultural, and political polarization in an effort to improve decision-making and civic discourse. The joint effort will be funded by a $150 million gift from the foundation.