Fundraising Campaign Opt for Email Pledge to Save Green, Up Donations

Cornell University Email Pledge Helps Funds Programs

Cornell University Email Pledges Help Funds Programs

For years, it pained me to receive that annual alumni donation phone call.  It wasn’t about the money. It was the paper pledge card I would receive in the mail because I refused to give my credit card information over the phone. Why couldn’t they just send me an email fundraising pledge?  Can you imagine the amount of money spent on postage, paper, and labor? How about the carbon footprint of my donation?

As I mentioned before, I did have another alternative.  The caller always asks for a credit card number.  With identity theft on the rise, why take the chance?

My Green Godmother Granted My Email Wish

After years, of getting on my green soap box to any given donation-seeking caller, University of Miami and Cornell University granted my wish.  An email pledge.  Pinch me, someone.  

Now just to make sure I am clear.  This is the annual fundraising phone call you get once a year (or now twice a year) asking for you to donate to your high school or college alma mater.  Typically, it is made by either someone from your class or a student.  This concept isn’t to be confused with the occassional email request to give money.

University of Miami School of Law Quad, my alma mater

University of Miami School of Law Quad, my Law School Alma Mater

If Cornell and UM Can Build It So, Can You.

I was so impressed with the forward thinking of Cornell and Unversity of Miami,  I had to speak with both of their donor relations departments to find out how they incorporated email technology into their  fundraising campaigns.  I knew in my heart that this method of donation was just not that complicated.  After speaking to both Universities, they indicated that the rewards paled in comparison to setting up this method.

Before you dismiss that Cornell and University of Miami has some technologically advanced, expensive system, guess again.  Andrew Headley, Unviersity of Miami’s Donor Relations Coordinator, explained they use a program similar to Microsoft Office mail merge with their alumni email list.  The amount you donated is in the email notification, which provides a link you to their online giving portal.  Once there, a donor must enter all of their personal information as well as the amount of the donation.

I wondered if my personal information would be retained for future donations.  Headley explained due to privacy issues, you would need to re-enter the data each year.  Believe me, those extra steps are not a deterrent to online giving.

On the other hand Jennifer Hudler, Cornell University’s Manager of Student Program, explained that they use a mail merge file and a computer program created by the University.  Similar to University of Miami’s email, CU emails you what you pledged and then that amount is populated in the corresponding online venue.  However, you still need to input in your personal information.

Donation Conversions Increased:

Hudler explained that 40% of the donations are paid by credit card, 50% by email, and the balance still paid via a paper donation request.  Since they have started the email program  three years ago, Hudler was not able to give me actual dollars savings, but she did indicate that they have saved thousands of dollars and almost 80% of their donations are collected.

Another advantage of the email notification system, acording to Headley, is that they collect the email address of the alumni for future correspondences.  He also stated that donation collection was faster through credit card payments and email pledges.

Despite Email Confirmation, Solicitors Still Need Improvement:

When both sets of students called me requesting a donation, of course, they pushed for the credit card.  When I told them I wasn’t comfortable with giving my credit card out to a stranger, they immediately told me that they could send me a paper donation.  I had to ask them for the email notification which the students then said it was available.  I told both Hudler and Headley that their students need to be better trained to offer email requests when a prospective donor bulks at credit card donation.

Can Any Charity or School Use a Email Donation Notification?

While talking to Headley, I asked him if he thought a charity or high school could develope a easy system to send out email pledges?  He emphatically agreed and suggested that they could use a Microsoft mail merge file with an excel sheet of their donors’ names, emails, and the pledge amount.  You simply use the email function instead of paper to create your file.  Done.  No paper.

I took it one step further and looked for instructions for using the excel spreadsheet method.  And there were several articles begging to be read.  So, if you are in charge of alumni donations or giving at your charity read the following articles.  You will not believe how easy this method is.

What Can You Do?

In the future, when your alma mater calls seeking a donation, ask them about sending you an email pledge. (This is assuming you are uncomfortable about paying by credit card over the phone.) If the caller can’t accommodate you, ask to talk to a supervisor.  The more people who ask for this vehicle, the more likely an organization will look into email pledges, which means more money for programs at your school.

Join the Conversation:

  • Does your charity or college offer to send you an email pledges?
  • Do you know any innovative charities offering an email pledges?
  • How do you feel about paying donations by giving out your credit card over the phone?
  • If your school uses email pledges for donation, how much have you saved?
  • Any other suggestion on how to make it easy to create an phone/email campaign?


Photo of Cornell by Kathia Shieh and Photo of University of Miami by Jaine

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