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AFP Honors Rice University for Groundbreaking Alumni Campaign

(April 6, 2010) AFP will bestow its highest fundraising honor, the Campbell & Company Award for Excellence in Fundraising, Large Category, to Rice University at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore on April 13, 2010.

Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, will be honored for its Centennial Challenge to Young Alumni fundraising program, which led the university to a revived and reinvigorated alumni giving program.

The Centennial Challenge was a huge success and helped broaden and strengthen Rice's philanthropic base. More than 1,600 young alumni made annual gifts during the Challenge, and nearly half of those-45 percent-were new or lapsed donors. As a result, the number of young alumni donors increased year-over-year by 25 percent.

Rice University raised its overall alumni participation rate from 34 percent to 35 percent despite an economic environment in which many institutions experienced a decline in alumni participation. The Challenge also helped the university acquire and maintain accurate contact records, enhancing Rice's ability to engage alumni in the years to come. Finally, the success of this year's Challenge helped secure a major philanthropic donation that will continue the Challenge through June 30, 2010.

Hurdles Overcome

From 2005 to 2008, the university's overall alumni participation rate, while still high compared to other universities, had steadily declined, from 39 to 34 percent. Gifts from students in the last 10 graduating classes had also decreased, from 28 to 22 percent. To address the issue and reverse the trends, the university developed a gift-matching program that would begin in December 2008 and invigorate young alumni from the previous ten graduating classes, creating a foundation for future giving.

Two anonymous board members and alumna Cathryn Rodd Selman matched every gift made from those young alumni over a period of seven months, from Dec. 2008 to June 2009. The challenge also featured an integrated approach to reaching out to alumni, including direct mail, email, Internet solicitations, student calling, magazines, e-newsletters, and social media outlets. To encourage participation, the challenge included a "100 Reasons" marketing program that sought to collect personal experiences from alumni about why they gave to Rice University.

"Alumni giving is a critical part of any university's fundraising program, and the sooner an institution can get alumni involved-and keep them involved-the more likely those alumni are to continue to give to their alma mater throughout their lives," said Paulette Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. "Rice University is to be commended for addressing the issue head-on and developing a tremendous, comprehensive program that reached out to young alumni in different ways. It's a model program for other institutions, and the results speak for themselves."

Paying Dividends

The Centennial Challenge to Young Alumni continues to pay dividends in other ways. Rice University now has an accurate and updated database of young donors that will help to engage alumni for years too come. The success of the program helped secure a critical philanthropic gift that will help keep the challenge operating through June, 2010.

"One of the goals of our campaign is about instilling a sense of pride and loyalty in our alumni, and giving them a sense of momentum," said Darrow Zeidenstein, vice president for resource development at Rice University. "The success of the challenge is a vote of confidence in the university."

See below to view the full list of honorees of AFP's Awards for Philanthropy program for 2009-2010.

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