April 2017 Newsletter

Our New York Team
In This Issue
Corporate Giving Rising As Alumni Support Flags - What Is a Development Officer To Do?

In February 2017, the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) released its annual Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey. The good news: philanthropic support for higher education remains robust. Colleges and universities raised a combined $41 billion in 2016 - a number consistent with previous levels of support when adjusted for inflation. Support for financial aid remains steady and donors continue to remain enthusiastic about academic research.

While the fundraising economy for higher education appears stable, the 2016 survey revealed a number of notable trends: a rise in corporate giving, flagging alumni support, and a lack of enthusiasm for endowment giving.

In higher education, revising development strategies to respond to emerging trends is a necessity, not an option. With the New York Times reporting that smaller colleges are "under financial siege" and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) declaring a second year of declining endowment returns, it is clear that nonprofit colleges must adapt to a constantly changing financial environment, or risk institutional decline.

Outlined below are three strategies universities can utilize to build and sustain education fundraising in 2017:


In 2016, corporate gifts to colleges and universities jumped 14.8%, which helped buoy declining personal gifts.

Corporations treat their gifts to higher education as long-term investments. Their large gifts aim to create excitement, and stimulate innovation or sector-specific talent pipelines.

A prime example of this is the Dolese Bros. Co. $210 million gift to Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and University of Oklahoma. The gift enables these universities to increase their capacity to train engineering students and to increase the local talent pool that Dolese is dedicated to hiring.

With corporations giving $6.6 billion a year to higher education, it is critical that development officers create distinct strategies that resonate with corporates. Focus on how your university interacts with a prospective corporate donor's industry, and your potential influence on the social, economic, or regulatory environment within which the company operates.

Corporate outreach requires relevant and dynamic cases for support. Messages should be clear: your company's gift will yield tangible outcomes for your business.


Total alumni support fell by 8.5% in 2016. Against the background of a decades-long declining alumni giving rate, this drop warrants a need to revisit your college or university's alumni engagement.

Generational and economic trends require new strategies. In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the United States workforce according to Pew Research Center. While not necessarily wealthy yet, Accenture Consulting projects millennials to inherit $30 trillion over the next 30 - 40 years. That's an average of $750 billion a year.

Higher education has an opportunity to capitalize on this wealth transfer. Career networking, social events, engaging social media content, and mobile access - staples of the millennial lifestyle - should be a core focus of university administrators. Ask yourself: does your university have a thriving and curated LinkedIn presence? Do your local alumni chapters organize happy hours and mentoring events? How are you delivering mobile, social media, and other web-based giving opportunities? Each strategy should aim to recapture the sense of community that alumni experienced as undergrads.

Cultivation now will yield future results. Provide tangible support to young alumni and meet them in the media they use every day to ensure that millennials' future wealth will find its way to your institution.


All donors want to make a tangible impact. They want to initiate a program, fund an underprivileged student, or construct a concert hall. This makes endowment fundraising - where impact might not be realized in the donor's lifetime - more difficult.

How to grow the endowment, then? Consider the following tactics:
  • Revisit the institution's case for support for your endowment. Do you use clear and compelling messaging to convey the importance of an endowment on the institution's current and long-term financial health and ability to educate and serve its students? Do you have examples and stories of donors who have made endowment contributions and why they chose to do so?
  • Create tailored endowment campaigns. These could include endowed professorships for donors interested in permanent support of social justice and endowed scholarship funds for donors interested in permanent support of promising science students.
  • Bolster your planned giving efforts. The long-term focus of endowment growth pairs well with donors looking to make "legacy gifts" that strengthen their alma mater beyond their lifetime.
These strategies enable development officers to pitch endowment gifts as mechanisms that not only grow your school's impact, but also protect your school's mission and character in perpetuity.

The three strategies outlined above are just a few ways that development teams can respond to the emerging higher education philanthropy trends. More broadly, the Voluntary Support of Education Survey shows that higher education remains a dynamic fundraising environment in which generational, economic, and technological changes require constant strategy updates to increase giving while remaining true to your college's ethos and mission.

Working with higher education fundraising teams, Orr Associates, Inc. has developed comprehensive and effective approaches to respond to trends and market developments. Whether it's testing your case for support with key stakeholders or analyzing industry giving trends, Orr Associates, Inc. is here to help you and your teams to sustain your mission through increased revenue.
OAI In The News 

OAI Senior Associate Director Lisa Keitges provides a timely reminder on things to think about between now and the end of the fiscal year on Guidestar's blog.  Read more here:  Finish Your Fiscal Year with a Bang: What to Do Between Now and June 30 .

In this new era of Big Bet Philanthropy, OAI Vice President, Craig Shelley, advises nonprofits that it is even more important to clearly articulate the desired change they hope to see in the world. Read more about this topic and other key trends in NonProfit Pro's 40 Nonprofit Trends for 2017 .

OAI Has Moved!

OAI is excited to announce that OAI's offices in both New York City and Washington, DC have moved to new state-of-the-art premises.  After spending several months in temporary office spaces, we're all enjoying the opportunity to spread out and discover the new technology tools at our disposal.  In an effort to use our space as efficiently as possible, while also recognizing the fact that many of our consultants spend a lot of time at client sites, we've mostly abandoned personal offices, and even assigned desks, in favor of "hotel-style" work arrangements.  Employees now choose which work station they would like to use within our open floor plan as they come into work each morning, and are encouraged to sit next to and exchange ideas with someone different each day.

We'd love to show you our new space - please let us know if you are in the neighborhood and would like to drop by for a coffee!  In the meantime, here is a picture of OAI at work in our new DC space:

In DC, we're located at: 3000 K Street, NW, Suite E280, and in New York, you can find us at: 747 Third Avenue, Suite 34A.

OAI Client Spotlight: 
Since its founding in 1996, the  National Women's History Museum has successfully created an online museum that has been visited by more than a mil lion people each year, welcomed more than 55,000 charter members, and created physical exhibits and outreach programs to educate Americans about the significant contributions women have made to our nation's history. 

Its many years of work with partners on Capitol Hill finally culminated in December 2014 in the passing of an act of Congress to study the creation of a permanent home for the museum in Washington, DC.  Last November, the Cong ressional Commission on the American Museum of Women's History released its report, stating "America needs and deserves a physical national museum dedicated to showcasing the historical experiences and impact of women in this country."  The Commission stated that the museum should be in a prominent location on or near the National Mall in Washington, DC.

As the first stage in a significant fundraising effort for the Museum, the NWHM is undertaking a campaign to raise early leadership gifts. Building on the findings of an OAI discovery process and study conducted in 2016, the NWHM and OAI are moving forward in partnership to generate these early gifts from individual, corporate and foundation donors. Concurrently, OAI will also assist the NWHM in continuing to strengthen its Board of Directors by recruiting new leaders to join its growing membership.
OAI New Hires - Our Team Is Growing!
Diane Lebson joined the OAI team as a Senior Director in March 2017, bringing the benefits of her more than two decades of professional fundraising and leadership experience to OAI's nonprofit partners. Diane helps clients transform their fundraising operations by devising and implementing development strategies to cultivate and solicit high net worth individuals, foundations, and leadership at Fortune 500 companies.   She is a highly effective communicator with a wide variety of audiences, including board members, staff, donors, and outside advisors.

Highlights of Diane's career prior to joining OAI include leading the signature women's philanthropy program for the American Red Cross, scaling the women's philanthropy program of United Way of America to raise over $100M per year, and establishing major donor programs for United Way of the National Capital Area and SOS Children's Villages - USA.
            Ronni Cranwell 
Ronni Cranwell joined OAI in February 2017 as a Director and Independent Contractor and brings twenty years of experience working with nonprofits within higher education and with academic medical centers. She has experience in grant management, fundraising, large scale event planning, and planned giving.  Ronni works closely with our partners to provide development management and strategic planning.

Highlights of Ronni's experience include establishing the Office of Institutional Research at Johns Hopkins University as well as administering a multi-million dollar federally-sponsored grant program at the Maryland Association of Community Colleges which addresses workforce shortages.   Most recently, she created and implemented strategies to advance the philanthropic priorities at two academic-affiliated medical centers.
Jenny Alpert joined the OAI team as an Associate in January 2017.  She assists OAI's clients with fundraising strategy, planning and implementation, board development, and fundraising event management. 
Prior to joining OAI, Jenny was a Master's student at Lehigh University and worked as a Community Fellow for the City of Bethlehem's Department of Community and Economic Development, where she helped assess housing programs and set goals for the future.  After receiving her M.A. in Sociology, Jenny joined ORC International as an Associate, where she conducted secondary, qualitative and quantitative market research.                
    Katie Nickels 
Katie Nickels joined the OAI team as an Associate in January 2017. She currently assists a variety of clients with fundraising and event management.
Before coming to OAI, Katie was a Development and Communications Assistant at Habitat for Humanity in Rochester, NY, where she supported the development and communications team and assisted in various fundraising projects.