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Rice University to Receive AFP’s Highest Fundraising Honor

(April 13, 2010) The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) will bestow its highest fundraising honor, the Campbell & Company Award for Excellence in Fundraising, Large Category, to Rice University.

The award, which honors an organization that has developed campaigns, initiatives, projects or techniques that have grown and increased its fundraising infrastructure, program and results, will be presented during the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore on April 13, 2010.

Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, is being honored for its Centennial Challenge to Young Alumni fundraising program, a featured component of the Rice Annual Fund. The program also is part of the Centennial Campaign, the university's $1 billion fundraising effort that culminates at the end of its centennial year.

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."

The challenge resulted in a swift turnaround in alumni giving. The number of young alumni donors increased by 25 percent. More than 1600 young alumni made annual gifts, and nearly half of those were new or lapsed donors. The challenge had such an impact that the university's overall alumni participation rate actually increased despite the economic challenges prevalent throughout late 2008 and 2009.

"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."

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 to come. The success of the program helped secure a critical philanthropic gift that will help keep the challenge operating through June, 2010.

"By focusing on building its young alumni base now, Rice University is ensuring its pipeline of supporters in the future and setting an example for future graduates about the importance of alumni giving," says Peter Fissinger, president of Campbell & Company. "In addition to using a combination of new and traditional methods to reach recent graduates, Rice found a way-through the '100 Reasons' program-to get alumni to really consider why they support their alma mater. Campbell & Company is proud to recognize Rice's innovation, persistence and vision."

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The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) represents 30,000 members in 207 chapters throughout the world, working to advance philanthropy and ethical fundraising through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. For more information, visit

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Campbell & Company is a national, full service fundraising firm offering counsel in advancement planning, fundraising, marketing communications and talent management. The firm has offices in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, Portland and Washington, D.C, and its website is

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