Focus on mission drives success of Beavers Care
A closer look at District VIII’s 2021 Virginia Carter Smith Grand Crystal recipient
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, Oregon State University’s students, faculty, and staff found themselves suddenly confronted by serious and unexpected financial needs.
At the OSU Foundation, President & CEO Shawn L. Scoville said staff realized an all-hands-on-deck response was required to take care of the OSU community in the midst of uncertainty — and that time was of the essence. That response was Beavers Care, which mobilized OSU Foundation staff of all disciplines to create and launch a fully integrated, multi-channel initiative in a matter of weeks.
With university-wide and college-specific student emergency funds, unique giving pages with custom messaging, email segmentation and personalized front-line fundraising efforts, the Beavers Care initiative raised more than $1.3 million from over 3,400 donors — all in just four months, from March 2020 to June 2020.
Scoville said one of the keys to the success of Beavers Care was that it was never siloed. The university’s president and provost, recognizing the importance of rallying the OSU community around this single issue, were engaged and close partners in the initiative, as was OSU Athletics.
“We set an ambitious goal and determined a number of major gift, annual giving, participation and communication strategies for segmented audiences, each with a designated staff lead, and volunteer leaders also played a key role,” Scoville said. “This approach empowered us to distribute responsibility, create a team of initiative ‘owners,’ personalize solicitation strategies and support communicators across the university to ensure messaging was broad and aligned.”
Vital to the success of Beavers Care was the OSU Foundation’s investment in technology, particularly with industry firms known for their entrepreneurial and innovative approaches.
“Relationships with these industry leaders aren’t about simply paying for a service,” said Scoville. “They provide the OSU Foundation with an extension of our team through key partnerships.”
Engaging so many donors in such a short period of time wouldn’t have been possible, Scoville said, without the actionable insights from Fundmetric, a machine learning partner. In addition, in-house reports created on Tableau to track daily progress for each donor segment were essential for team leads to measure progress. Meanwhile, the Thankview platform gave OSU Foundation staff the ability to personally say thank you to those who made a gift.
“Our longstanding relationships with our industry partners empower us to adapt to emerging situations and anticipate change,” Scoville noted. “This commitment to strategic investments in technology also ensured we were able to be productive when we transitioned to 100% remote work, which, of course, occurred at roughly the same time Beavers Care launched.”
Looking to the future
Scoville said Beavers Care demonstrated the power of philanthropy to solve both immediate and long-term challenges for the university and confirmed that gifts of any size can make a big impact. That’s one of many lessons learned that will continue to shape how OSU Foundation staff work together after the pandemic.
“Beavers Care energized our staff with a sense of focus on our mission and the communities we serve,” Scoville said. “We learned the power of cause-focused fundraising initiatives, not just to raise funds and to communicate what the university is doing, but also to identify donors' interests.”
OSU Foundation has since deployed several other cause-based fundraising initiatives. These initiatives focused on food insecurity; diversity, equity and inclusion; and the most recent, launched in May, focused on veteran and military-connected student success.
“We had 100% support of the Beavers Care initiative by our staff and the university’s leadership, and have therefore committed to 100% giving from these groups each year in support of the university’s many worthy efforts,” Scoville said. “We are pleased that we achieved this goal again in fiscal year 2021. This time, though, gifts supported a variety of university programs, demonstrating that our staff and OSU’s leadership continue to be inspired by our students, faculty, and community.”
Learn more about all of the 2021 Best of CASE VIII Awards recipients on our awards website.