Saint Mary’s School is an all-girls Episcopal college preparatory day and boarding school in Raleigh, North Carolina serving 300 students. They adopted Veracross in 2010. 

The Challenge 

As the fourth oldest girls’ boarding school in the United States, Saint Mary’s School has over 9,500 living alumnae with diverse characteristics and connections to the school. The Advancement Office sought to reimagine their outreach strategy in a way that recognized each constituent and catered to their unique donor relationship.  

Additionally, Saint Mary’s has a small — but mighty — Advancement Office with two full-time fundraisers. These staff members were spending hours sending solicitations, manually processing paper checks, and searching for potential new donors. Lauren Gerber, Director of the Annual Fund, knew that by eliminating these manual efforts, they could free up staff time to focus on more strategic initiatives like relationship building.  

The Process 

After implementing the Veracross Development solution, Saint Mary’s was able to harness donor data in new and powerful ways in support of a personalized approach to fundraising. They focused their efforts in three areas: personalized outreach, dedicated giving days, and lapsed donor outreach. Here’s how it went. 

Personalized Outreach  

Saint Mary’s started small with their personalized fundraising strategy. Led by Gerber in her previous position as Senior Project Manager for Institutional Advancement, the school pulled data from Veracross to personalize solicitations based on names, grades, resident statuses, constituent groups, donor types, giving society levels, and giving timeframes.  

They supported these unique solicitations with customized online giving forms for each campaign and user group. These forms included relevant content, branding, and messaging for each constituency. Saint Mary’s built the online giving forms within Veracross along with vanity URLs for campaign landing pages, appeal codes to track solicitations, and eye-catching email communications and auto-responders. 

Each of these touchpoints helped create consistency and a unique experience for each donor. By focusing on online giving, Saint Mary’s also improved the user experience for both donors and fundraising staff.  

“The more online giving you can drive, the more labor expense you can put into other areas,” says Gerber. “There is definitely a direct link between lessening manual labor and decreasing costs by using online giving and personalization.” 

Dedicated Giving Days 

In fall 2019, Saint Mary’s started hosting dedicated giving days throughout the year. These 24-hour fundraising campaigns encourage donors to rally around a cause and participate within a defined timeframe. 

The school hosts three giving days: All Saints Day of Giving (November 1), Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving), and Valentine’s Day of Giving (February 14). Giving day campaigns are supported with print and digital solicitations, custom online giving forms, and social media content. All campaign material is designed to match the look and feel of the campaign to further inspire support. 

“Our giving days have greatly impacted why, how, and when our donors give,” says Gerber. Also, by focusing on three specific giving days each year, Saint Mary’s staff can spend more time cultivating relationships than on creating one-off solicitations. 

Lapsed Donor Strategy 

Saint Mary’s also started analyzing their donor data to identify opportunities to reengage lapsed donors. These donors are often categorized as LYBUNTs (last year but unfortunately not this year) and SYBUNTs (some years but unfortunately not this year). 

Using Veracross, Gerber and her team pulled LYBUNT and SYBUNT reports to track and assess giving trends and hypothesize what was causing donor fatigue. They then crafted an outreach strategy that was optimized to combat fatigue by analyzing data points like last gift date, last gift amount, and giving history over the last five years. 

At Saint Mary’s we’re lucky because we use Veracross and we have a lot of data because this is the lifecycle database. Students transition to an alum, they become a donor, they might become a parent, they might become a grandparent… our database pulls all of that data together and helps us with our research.Lauren Gerber, Director of the Annual Fund

This data helped inform the school’s communication strategy with personalized touchpoints for each lapsed donor. Using data fields within Veracross, Saint Mary’s customized each solicitation and sent targeted asks for each individual donor. They pinpointed key dates like anniversaries and birthdays to further appeal and encourage donor activity.  

Lastly, Saint Mary’s used Veracross’s drag-and-drop email builder, Composer, to craft and analyze email solicitations. After each email send, staff can assess which send date, time, or subject line proved most effective and use this data to improve future email campaigns. 

The Impact 

Since implementing these strategies, Saint Mary’s School has seen a dramatic improvement in both donations and donor relationships. Check out their progress:  

  • Number of online gifts increased from 400 annually to over 1,200 
  • Amount of online gifts increased from $100,000 to $400,000 
  • Average alumnae gift increased from $658 to $868 
  • Average parent gift increased from $364 to $980 
  • Annual fund contributions increased from $1.55mm to $1.755mm 
  • Increased donor retention rate to 67% (compared to 43.6% industry average) 

Even more, Gerber and her team have been able to focus their time on other key initiatives rather than spend all day processing paper checks.  

Curious to learn more? Get in touch for a demo of Veracross Development and learn how our school fundraising software can help your school achieve similar results.