On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Jane Vickers, Director of Development at Warwick Academy, shares her donor retention strategies with us.
Steven: Hey there. Welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks so much for tuning in. Really excited today. If you’ve watched a lot of Bloomerang TV episodes you know that I tend to interview fundraising consultants, other people who are experts who maybe have customers or clients who are fundraisers or nonprofits, but I’ve been wanting to talk to some real “boots on the ground” fundraisers at nonprofits to see what they’re up to, to see if they can share some strategies with us. My first thought was to reach out to my buddy, Jane Vickers, over on the island of Bermuda actually, so Jane is joining here. Jane, how’s it going?
Jane: Great, thanks so much for having us.
Steven: Oh, yeah, this is great. This is a real treat for me. Maybe you could tell folks about the institution that you work at and a little bit about yourself as well.
Jane: Absolutely. So the school that I work at is Warwick Academy. We are located in Bermuda. We were founded in 1662, so that makes us over 350 years old.
Jane: Yeah, so we have a lot of history behind us. We were always a government school until in the fairly recent 15-18 years, we turned private. We are co-educational, and we go from year one where there are five year olds through to we run the International Baccalaureate program the last two years. When you graduate, you’re 18 so we go all the way through. This coming September, we have introduced a reception year, your equivalent of kindergarten, so you’ll be starting at age four.
Steven: Wow, wonderful.
Steven: So 300 years and counting.
Jane: Yeah, 350 years and counting, and I’ve been here at the school almost 10 years now. I am Bermudian, though I lived in London, Ontario in Canada for 18 years. Sales and marketing background, human resources, and then I came back to Bermuda about 10 years ago. So it’s just two of us here in the development office- Terri McDowell works with me, and we do everything from all the alumni relations, all the annual giving, marketing, public relations, all the events of the school all come through our office.
Host: And so you wear a lot of hats, obviously, and one thing that drew our attention to Warwick is you guys have a really high retention rate. You beat the FEP average, it seems like. How do you guys do it? What’s sort of your strategy on donor retention?
Jane: Sure. So much of it with donor retention is the relationship that you have with your donors. We have 783 students this year, and Bermuda itself has a population of about 60,000 people. So I think with donors, they give to people that they know and they like and get along with, so I think a relationship with them is really important. The school itself sells itself. People want to invest in the school and in their child’s education. So I think it has that going for it in itself.
Our communication with our parents has really improved over the years, everything from the Facebook pages to a newsletter, including notes from the Principals. We make sure that our success with our students and with our alumni get reporter in our . . . we only have one newspaper, so in the daily newspaper. So we keep the school in the foremost forefront of people’s minds, which I think makes a big difference. And we just have a great relationship with the people and we do nurture it. We don’t take for granted, by any stretch of the imagination, a donation. So we’re constantly in touch with them, constantly involving them in the school. I think when people give you money it’s an investment. If you put money in a bank or with an investor you want to know how your money’s being invested.
Jane: We’re constantly telling them what we’re doing at the school, and how their investment is working and benefiting the students today.
Steven: So you have a lot of kinds of different people that you talk to-you’ve got students, you’ve got parents of students, you have alumni, and you have people who just live on Bermuda. How do you handle communicating differently to all those different types of, I guess, segments you would call them?
Jane: Yeah, and I think it’s really important that you do because you can’t just clump them all together. So I can give you an example. Last year’s annual giving, what we did is we did two different brochures, one for alumni and one for parents. So our parent one had lots of pictures of all our current students, and the alumni one we filled with all alumni pictures. Because pictures, I think, do so much of the selling. Everybody wants to look at the photos, see if they know anybody, and see if they know themselves, that type of thing.
And then what we did is we took . . . as you said, we have lots of different groups. We have our current parents, we have former parents, we have alumni, grandparents, and then we have local companies. And so we got parents from each year group write a letter to their own peers and said, “Listen, in year three, this year we really need your support.” With our alumni, we broke it down to decades. So we had one representative from each decade write to other alumni as parents and as former parents. So we differentiated it in that respect, which I think made a really big difference. You can’t just clump them all together.
And the other thing, with our events, I think it really struck home that you have to segment, is that we had a get-together and I had this little, wonderful 80-year-old alumni, and she was sitting next to a shots of tequila table, with salsa music blasting at our fiesta party, and I’m like, “Okay. You know what? This really is not working.” So we segmented out again. So we had a morning coffee for the older people, and we had a Kentucky Derby party for the middle, and we had a boat cruise with dancing onboard for the younger. Because not one thing fits everybody, so it’s important that you do segment it out.
Steven: Now you do use Bloomerang, I should say.
Steven: Can you talk a little bit about how the database helps you out, what you like, even what you don’t like, even if there is anything. How does Bloomerang kind of fit into all this?
Jane: Well we struggled for years getting our former database system to produce the reports with the information that we needed. It might be great if you have hundreds of thousands of constituents, but we basically have anywhere from 6000, 7000 constituents. And it was so cumbersome; it was the most frustrating thing. So I went out looking for something that would work better. We investigated all types of different ones, and Bloomerang is very intuitive, it’s really easy to use, so lot of common sense. If you use media today, whether it’s Facebook or anything like that, it all works sort of the same way.
So for us, for Bloomerang, to get our reports out we have to produce monthly reports for the board, and one of the most important things in fundraising is you’ve got to keep an eye constantly on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and where you are. You have to constantly be looking at it. So the dashboard on Bloomerang is amazing. You can see at the drop of a hat where you are, on any given week, on any given day. With a donor it pops up on a timeline, so it’s really easy to see. Those were huge, but the biggest thing for me is getting reports out. As soon as they sent them all over to me, I can do them all in a matter of a couple hours versus a couple of days and a lot of hair pulling out. So Bloomerang has been amazing.
Host: That’s good to hear. Maybe the last question for you, before I let you go, because I know how busy you are, if you were to run into Jane Vickers 10 years ago, if you could talk to yourself 10 years ago, what advice would you for her? What would you differently maybe that you know about now that may have saved you some time or some energy?
Jane: As far as database is concerned?
Steven: Anything, really.
Jane: Anything? Well, the biggest thing that we struggle with, and the biggest thing that I think anybody needs to do is you’re only as good as your database, and you’re only as good as your information that you’ve got in it. So keeping that current, keeping your relationship with your donors is absolutely vital. And keeping your database up to date is probably one of the biggest things. Get to know your donors; get to know what appeals to them because people will invest in what matters to them. A library may mean something to an older generation; investing in iPads and so forth is more of a younger generation thing. So get to know your donors, keep your database up to date, keep your information accurate, and you’re good.
Steven: You’re good
Jane: And listen and thank people.
Steven: Yeah, thanking is huge, obviously. Absolutely.
Jane: Thanking is huge. Absolutely.
Steven: But people don’t do it, it’s crazy.
Jane: Yeah. Well, we’ve tried to come up with different ways, and we do it through multiple vehicles. We have our principal call people, we made a thank you video this year, which is something that’s different. We sent a hard copy of a thank you letter, and we have a thank you reception at the end of the year that we bring everybody together so that they can all see that everyone is supporting us. So it’s really important to find different vehicles for people.
Steven: You can never thank too much.
Jane: Absolutely, you can’t thank too much.
Steven: Well, Jane, I’ll let you go. This was awesome to have you. Thanks for taking the time. Keep on doing what you’re doing; you guys are rocking over there.
Jane: Well, thanks so much for having us, and thanks to Bloomerang for all that you guys do to make our life easier, because you really do.
Steven: Well, thanks, that means a lot. And thank you all for watching this episode. We will catch you next week; we’ll have another great guest. So tune in then. We’ll say goodbye for now, and we’ll see you soon
Jane: Bye, everyone.