Stewardship: St. Mary's College - Gold Medal

Category 2E: Fundraising Programs – Stewardship
St. Mary’s College – Recognition Weekend

Contact: Adaline Sashore, director of donor relations, Development, 110 Le Mans Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556, Phone: (574) 284-3706, e-mail:

Total Number of Professional and Support Staff Who Worked On the Event: Overall, 26 professional staff, six support staff, and numerous staff from building services, food service, and security were involved in some aspect of planning and executing Recognition Weekend.

Primary team – five professional staff: director of donor relations; director of development; director of special events; director of marketing and communications; vice president for college relations.

Secondary team – 10 professional staff: Assistant Director of Special Events; Graphic Designer; Production Coordinator; Writer; Director of Advancement Services; Director of Building Services; Assistant to the President; Director of Campus Ministry; Food Service General Manager; Food Service Catering Manager

Additional support – 11 professional, six support, numerous building services, food service, security staff: All remaining development professional staff (8); all college relations and development support staff (5); director of alumnae relations; special events professional staff (1); special events technical staff (1); director of security (1); building services staff (numerous); food service staff (numerous)

The logistical coordination of four days of non-stop events required intense teamwork from all areas of the college. The weekend was intentionally planned to coincide with the spring meeting of the board of trustees, meetings of two development office advisory groups, and a popular annual lecture and day-long seminar sponsored by the Center for Spirituality. These events were immediately followed on Sunday by the admission office’s “Spring Day on Campus.” The success of the weekend can be attributed, in part, to superb college-wide teamwork.

General Description: Recognition Weekend is a two-day event that offers our major donors the opportunity to be intellectually challenged, spiritually nourished, and graciously thanked for their investment in the mission of Saint Mary’s College. Initiated in 1981 as an annual Mass and gala dinner for our major benefactors, the event was extended to two days in 2002. It has been held biennially since 1994, in the off-years of the University of Notre Dame’s recognition event. The biennial schedule for both schools eliminates a conflict of interest for donors who are affiliated with both institutions.

The 2006 weekend program consisted of presentations and activities designed to showcase the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural aspects of life at Saint Mary’s, as well as carefully planned occasions to thank our donors for their generosity and assure them that their gifts are essential and make an important difference in the Saint Mary's College experience. Through personal testimony from the president, faculty, and most importantly our students, the message was consistently communicated that they have made a valuable investment which is needed, appreciated, and carefully stewarded. As a Catholic college, we also strive to provide meaningful opportunities for spiritual renewal.

Recognition Weekend also provided a unique opportunity for the development staff to explore new strategies for raising our Women’s Philanthropy program to the next level. Through research and association with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute we have become more aware of the gender differences in philanthropy, especially at the major gifts level. In order to garner more and larger contributions to Saint Mary’s, we have initiated a Women’s Philanthropy program to educate Saint Mary’s alumnae about the power of philanthropy. We viewed Recognition Weekend as an opportunity to more fully engage our major donors as philanthropic leaders. With the expertise of philanthropy educator Eleanor Clement Glass, we offered a workshop entitled, “Values and Vision: Making a Difference Where It Matters Most.”

Weekend highlights included:

  • Be a Student for a Day – Donors attended a Friday class of their choice.
  • Values and Vision: Making a Difference Where It Matters Most – This interactive seminar and donor panel discussion was facilitated by Eleanor Clement Glass, director of the philanthropy Incubator Silicon Valley and a nationally recognized philanthropy educator. The goals for the program were: 1) to empower the donors attending to recognize their leadership in the financial life of the college; 2) to provide a forum for Saint Mary’s donors who practice philanthropy to share how they build their giving into their values, culture, and lifestyle; and 3) to secure donor feedback that will help the College build a stronger financial future. Thirty-five individuals attended the morning-long seminar.
  • Appreciation Luncheon – The luncheon was held in two venues; each site featured inspirational testimonials which received standing ovations.
    1) Luncheon for endowment and planned giving donors. Endowment donors were seated with scholarship recipients, faculty, and administrators who were the direct beneficiaries of the donors’ investment. A unique feature of the endowment luncheon was the moving story told by an alumna of the class of 1941 who was the honoree of a scholarship established by her daughter, class of 1970. Other speakers included the president, the holder of one of the college’s endowed chairs, and the student recipient of the scholarship mentioned above. The donor/daughter was, unfortunately, unable to be present.
    2) Luncheon for donors whose focus of support is unrestricted gifts to The Annual Fund. This luncheon featured the personal testimonies of two students who described the impact of financial aid in their lives and their transformational experiences as Saint Mary's students.
  • Capstone Event – A Mass, Reception, and Gala Dinner have been the hallmark of our donor recognition program since its inception in 1981. The highlight of the dinner was the personal testimony of five students. Donors were riveted by the poise, articulation, and amazing stories of these students who stood in the spotlight with only a microphone in their hands as they told their own unique story of what it means to be a Saint Mary’s student. Donors raved for weeks about their flawless delivery and meaningful substance. The dinner closed with a musical benediction by the Women’s Choir and a slide show featuring the essence of the Saint Mary's College experience, with background music provided by the choir.

Impact on Overall Institutional and Advancement Goals: The goal of the college relations division is to enhance the mission and reputation of Saint Mary's College, establish and sustain long-term relationships with alumnae, parents, and friends, and to secure philanthropic support for the college. College relations staff support this effort through education, outreach, and stewardship.

Therefore, we believe that an event such as our Recognition Weekend is an essential way to maintain our most important long-term relationships and remain accountable to our key stakeholders. This event provides a high-touch opportunity for our president, vice-presidents, faculty, and staff to personally express our gratitude, reinforce the value of each gift, request donors’ continued investment, and present the impact of donor gifts – our students – to those who help make possible their Saint Mary's College experience. The 2006 weekend provided an invaluable opportunity for our annual fund and major gift staffs to cultivate donors for future gifts. And, it also offered an excellent opportunity for our development volunteers (via our Madeleva Society Steering Committee members) to develop personal relationships with our donors, recruiting their attendance over the phone, and personally meeting them during the weekend.

We placed the college mission statement front and center in the formal invitation to reinforce the reason for our donors’ philanthropy and our theme for the weekend – “Educating Women, Transforming Lives.” The inside flaps feature quotes from two of the college’s most notable Sisters of the Holy Cross, after whom we have named the giving societies recognized in the invitation.

Goals and Objectives:

  • To thank and honor our major benefactors for their generous philanthropy to Saint Mary’s College.
  • To celebrate and demonstrate the impact of our donors’ investment in Saint Mary’s.
  • To provide a “magical” experience and create a meaningful memory that emotionally transforms donors so they feel totally appreciated, confident about their investment in Saint Mary’s, and inspired to contribute more.
  • To highlight our academic excellence and our intellectually ambitious students.
  • To enable our donors to dialogue with the president and college leadership.
  • To maximize attendance, reduce expenses, and create a more meaningful event by holding one inclusive recognition event rather than separate events throughout the year for endowment donors and planned giving donors.
  • To increase attendance by providing a variety of activities, programs and opportunities to motivate our donors to return to campus.

Target Audience: The donor groups below are not mutually exclusive; there is considerable overlap within categories. Total number of constituents (individual or couples) in target audience: 1461

  • All Madeleva Society members (annual gifts of $1,000+) in FY04, FY05, and/or FY06 who contributed to one or more of the following areas: The Annual Fund, restricted funds, endowment priorities, Master Plan priorities.
  • Donors who established endowed funds in any fiscal year. This includes all donors and family members who receive the annual stewardship report.
  • Members of Saint Mary’s lifetime giving societies: Le Mans Society and Spes Unica Society.
  • Members of Saint Mary’s planned giving society: Mother Pauline Society
    The following also received invitations to the event:
  • Sisters of the Holy Cross Leadership Team.
  • Scholarship recipients, faculty, and administrators were invited to attend the Appreciation Luncheon as beneficiaries of our donors’ philanthropy. The majority of the faculty and administrators in attendance were members of The Madeleva Society.
  • The 45-member Women’s Choir was invited to attend the Mass, reception, and dinner because they provided musical assistance at these events. Choir members were strategically seated at donor tables throughout the dining room.

Total number of individuals from the above audience attending one or more of the events within the two-day program: 337 (approximately 50 students; 287 donors)

Total Number of Affected Constituents: Two hundred eighty-seven individuals in the targeted donor audience attended one or more event during the weekend. While this group was personally affected and emotionally moved by the opportunity to experience the impact of their philanthropy, the remaining constituents in the target audience were also affected. From the initial save-the-date postcard, to the invitation, to the post-event mailing, the entire target audience was continually and graciously thanked for their investment in Saint Mary’s. Constituents who could not attend received a follow-up mailing. The endowment group received a letter from the vice president for college relations, a keepsake bookmark, and the program which included a listing of all endowed funds. Donors whose focus of support is the Annual Fund received a letter from the director of the annual fund along with the keepsake bookmark featuring an expression of gratitude from a current student. The objective of these follow-up mailings was to reaffirm our gratitude for their support and dedication and to reassure them that their investment in Saint Mary’s is making a difference in the lives of our students.

Total Number of Living and Addressable Constituents in Database: 33,031
17,500 alumnae; 203 alumnae spouses; 1,424 current parents; 12,576 past parents; 1,328 friends

Total Number of Volunteers Involved With the Program: 23-member Madeleva Society Steering Committee. These volunteers serve as ambassadors of the college to the membership of The Madeleva Society – Saint Mary’s premier giving society which recognizes restricted and unrestricted gifts of $1,000 or more in a fiscal year. The Steering Committee helped to recruit attendance at the event via phone calls.

Program Budget/Costs: $40,646.46 (does not include staff salaries or overtime)

Food Service: Includes cost of gala Saturday Reception and Dinner at $37.50 per person, Appreciation Luncheon at $12.75/person, Friday Reception with president and trustees; chocolate “thank you” favors at the dinner; miscellaneous costs for additional refreshments and hospitality. $18,777.56
Liquor: Includes cost of full bar and wine at gala Saturday Reception and Dinner, Reception with president/trustees, and bartender fees. $ 3,241.00
Printing: Includes cost of save-the-date postcard, invitation packet, schedule of events booklet, programs for luncheons, liturgy, gala Dinner, bookmark favors, and miscellaneous printing. $7,625.44
Postage $1,505.84
Purchased Services: Includes 35 centerpieces for gala Saturday dinner @ $30 each, plant rental, signs, photographer, shuttle bus, and miscellaneous costs. $3,312.49
General Supplies $47.13
Equipment Rental: Includes piano rental, golf cart rental, and technical equipment rental. $677.00
Musicians: Includes cost for strolling violinist at Saturday Reception, pianist at dinner. $460.00
Lecturer: Fee for presenter at philanthropy seminar. $5,000.00

Results/Measurements of Effectiveness: Anecdotal feedback from our donors and from college leaders has provided us with an excellent assessment of goal effectiveness. The feedback was effusive! Based on comments we received following the April 2006 Recognition Weekend, we believe we exceeded our goal to have our guests feel totally appreciated, convinced that their investment in Saint Mary’s is wise, and inspired to give more to ensure Saint Mary’s future. Without a doubt, the personal testimony of students and alumnae is the most effective way to strike an emotional chord with our donors and to create a “magical experience.”

In addition to face-to-face remarks immediately following the event, the president also received numerous letters, complimenting the college on a successful and meaningful weekend. The following remarks are representative of the comments we received: “It was very encouraging to see so many signs of the college’s vitality.” “Saint Mary’s sparkled.” “The weekend was one of the nicest I have ever experienced at the college, and I have attended many lovely events over the years.” “The president’s remarks at dinner and the student testimonials were meaningful, full of impact, and inspirational.” “Although the company, the food, and the music were all highlights, the best part was hearing from the eloquent and posed young women who spoke at the dinner.” “There were many moments competing for that blue ribbon, but the highlight was the five students who spoke at the Saturday evening dinner; I kept looking for the teleprompter.”

The final measure of success is the increase in attendance over the previous event in 2004.

Year Total attending one or more events (includes approx 50 students) Luncheon #1 (endowment and planned giving donors, faculty beneficiaries, student scholarship recipients) Luncheon #2 (Annual Fund donors, selected faculty, student financial aid recipients) Reception and Gala Dinner
2004 Did not track 113 Not offered 204 (includes approx 15 students)
2006 337 144 71 284 (includes approx 50 students)