"One key strategy was to try to reach everybody in our class personally," says Danny Hest, MBA '10, who chaired the campaign for his class. He recruited a diverse team of 15 classmates from different immersions and social groups and asked each of them to identify 15 to 25 people they felt comfortable contacting. Each of them tracked their donors' gifts on a Google spreadsheet. "Every week we all tried to finalize donations from at least three people on our lists—we chipped away at it." For the first time ever, the team also solicited recurring donations. The result: about a quarter of the class signed up to make annual gifts automatically by credit or debit card.
Via email and personal contacts, the team made the case, put forth the goal, challenged classmates to beat the previous year's participation rate, and made the ask. As the weeks went on, they tailored the messages to individual situations. For example, Hest says, "Toward the end, with people who did not yet have a job, we said, 'You know you'll have a job soon. Give small now and bigger later.'"
The team's strategy worked. "Ultimately, we got 98 percent participation—one of the highest rates ever—and that was what we wanted to accomplish," says Hest. "It's important to ensure that future students have great opportunities, just like we've had."
Also in this section: