Oregon State University Foundation

Oregon State University Foundation Uses donorCentrics™ from Target Analytics® to Increase Acquisition Rates

The Oregon State University Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to fundraising and investment activities that benefit Oregon State University. The OSU Foundation was formed in 1947 to support the state’s largest public research university. The University has a diverse student body of nearly 22,000 annually. It is located in Corvallis in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The OSU Foundation uses peer-to-peer benchmarking services from Target Analytics® to collaborate with similar institutions for a better understanding of where the Foundation stands with its fundraising programs and to discover opportunities for improvement.

Challenge

When Lacie LaRue, director of annual giving programs, started her position at the Oregon State University Foundation in 2007, she took on a big task — the Foundation was in the midst of its most ambitious campaign ever that spanned over a seven year period. When she began her task, she found an unexpected ally in Target Analytics.

“I came to the Foundation at a time when the landscape was changing,” said Ms. LaRue. “Leadership had changed and much of the information I had was anecdotal. When I discovered that the Foundation had Target Analytics, it saved me. I was able to delve into the donor data and nail down how annual giving should be defined and what I should be doing.”

Solution

Ms. LaRue first used Target Analytics while working for the University of Maryland, and she said, “It opened her eyes as to how much data was available, how many ways you could slice and dice it, and how to use it from year to year to see trends in retention, attrition, or reactivation.”

At the OSU Foundation, Ms. LaRue turned to donorCentrics Performance Benchmarking Services from Target Analytics to help her get up to speed quickly. “We had several years of historical data, which was very important in understanding our donors and to get leadership on board with the direction I wanted to take the program.”

“One thing that I’ve found interesting is that by looking at reactivated donors, we find they come back at a higher gift level,” said Ms. LaRue. “That helps me decide where to spend time.”

Ms. LaRue also used donorCentrics for benchmarking results against peer institutions. “Everyone wants to know how we measure up compared to other schools. With Target Analytics, I can give them measurable data.” To Ms. LaRue, one of the key benefits of using Target Analytics is the annual benchmarking group meeting, which is an intensive workshop held for each peer group. “Hands down, this is the best conference you can go to. I’ve told my colleagues this is the most important meeting I go to all year.”

The annual Collaborative Benchmarking Meeting is designed to allow representatives from peer schools to get together, review reports, share best practices, and discuss ideas. “At the last event I spent a lot of time talking to someone from a university who is able to get a large number of thousand dollar gifts during the school’s telethon,” said Ms. LaRue. “It was great to hear about their tactics. It shows you what’s possible.”

Ms. LaRue was also interested in online fundraising and found a lot of interest within the group and connected with several people who are doing cutting-edge work. “I came back with a lot of ideas and names of people I can call…ideas that have had a measurable impact on our programs.”

Results

“In the time I have been at OSU, by focusing on acquisition, we have been able to increase the rate by 12 to 16 percent even with the recession,” said Ms. LaRue.

She also includes staff development in her success measurements by encouraging participation in the annual Index of Higher Education Fundraising Performance. “The annual web seminars that roll up the combined higher education benchmarking groups are great. They are very data heavy and I love that. I make sure that those who are working with me attend. It’s very inspirational for them to understand how the work we do is based in data and that we can influence the results.”

Ms. LaRue sees lots of opportunity for the Foundation and its use of donorCentrics over the next couple of years. “I always tell people to get Target Analytics. You need good data to make strategic decisions because you can’t only measure smiles.”

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