Auburn University Strategic Plan

Priority 6: Building Financial Resources
The Auburn University System will continue to dramatically expand our endowment, annual fund, and gifts to the University to support academic excellence and increased scholarships.

Initiative 2: Establish a new Auburn tradition of annual giving.

Strategic Priority 58: Alumni Survey | COMPLETED

Auburn University successfully completed an annual giving survey among alumni and friends.

"We plan to survey alumni to better understand their perspectives and Auburn's needs. We will then develop revised communications approaches."

Summary of Progress Achieved:

  • A survey of 600+ volunteer leaders who serve on various boards and advisory councils was conducted in the winter of 2011. The results of the survey were included in the final assessment report in June 2011.

Summary of Progress Achieved
Bentz Whaley Flessner conducted a survey of 600+ volunteer leaders who serve on various boards and advisory councils in the winter of 2011. The results of the survey were included in the final assessment report in June 2011.

Key Discoveries/Confirmations

The survey found that

  • 99% of participants rated their personal Auburn experiences – as a student and volunteer – as outstanding (78%) or good;
  • 97% of participants rated their satisfaction with university leadership as very satisfied (68%) or satisfied;
  • 97% of participants rated their satisfaction with the quality of Auburn academics as very satisfied (58%) or satisfied;
  • 93% of participants rated their satisfaction with the quality of Auburn fundraising as very satisfied (44%) or satisfied;
  • 98% of participants rated the influence Auburn has had on their life as very positive (73%) or positive;
  • 98% of participants rated Auburn's reputation as improved since they attended (69%) or has stayed the same and remains strong.

When asked how they prefer to stay informed about Auburn, survey participants identified the following as their top five responses:

  • Auburn Magazine
  • Event attendance
  • College/School/Unit newsletter
  • Contact with faculty
  • Auburn website

When asked how they prefer to receive information from Auburn, participants replied:

  • Electronic communication
  • Print communication
  • Visits to campus

When asked how they prefer to receive fundraising communication, participants identified the following as their top responses:

  • Letter from the president
  • Electronic fundraising appeal
  • Personal visit from Auburn staff
  • Letter from fellow alumna/us

Eighty percent of participants indicated that Auburn ranks among their top five giving priorities, with 53% indicating that Auburn is their first giving priority and 18% indicating that Auburn is among their top three giving priorities.


Based on information garnered through this survey, it was noted Auburn should consider the following:

  • Capitalize on Auburn graduates' and volunteers' high ratings of their Auburn experiences and support of university leadership to engage them in further/continued support and promotion of Auburn;
  • Develop strategies through the Auburn annual giving program to increase giving by leveraging graduates' high affinity for Auburn and their giving priority status;
  • Use the communication methods most preferred by Auburn graduates and volunteers – communication through electronic vehicles such as email and websites as well as communication through traditional methods such as the Auburn Magazine and college/unit newsletters;
  • Place a greater focus on fundraising communications through letters from the president and other alums, through electronic appeals, and through visits from Auburn staff;
  • Utilize on-campus events to engage Auburn graduates and volunteers.

Strategic Priority 59: Peer Survey | COMPLETED

Auburn University completed a development of survey peer institutions in 2011.

"To help advance our thinking as we build increased financial support from the Auburn Family, we will perform a comprehensive analysis of the approaches and results of peer institutions and aspirational peers."

Summary of Progress Achieved

  • An annual giving assessment was completed by Bentz Whaley Flessner.
  • In June - July 2011, a survey on annual giving habits of 70,000 alumni and friends was conducted.

Key Discoveries/Confirmations

The report from Bentz Whaley Flessner revealed that

  • The returns from annual giving programs, direct mailings, and phonathons have remained relatively constant over the past five years, while other programs have experienced greater fluctuation with the economic conditions;
  • Annual giving at Auburn has increased in terms of dollars, donors, and average gift size over the past five years. Average gift size has decreased or increased more slowly in the last five years than in the previous five years;
  • Annual cash flow to Auburn through giving is slightly below the mean and median of its identified peers;
  • Auburn alumni participation in annual giving – currently about 11% –is below peer and aspirational institutions despite an identified great affection for Auburn;
  • Auburn's annual faculty/staff campaign with a participation rate of 72% is extremely successful compared to peer and aspirational institutions;
  • University reunion programs at most peer and aspirational institutions have a reunion giving component while Auburn does not;
  • Resources available for Auburn's annual giving program lag behind peer institutions and have been reduced and/or diluted in recent years due to increased external costs and budget reductions. Auburn's annual giving staff is considerably smaller than most programs.

The Office of Development/Auburn University Foundation adopted a five-year strategic plan to enhance the Auburn annual giving program. Our goal extending through 2017 is to grow annual giving dollars from about $2.8M annually to $5M annually. An additional goal is to increase annual alumni participation from 11% to 17%. The plan calls for:

  • Investing additional resources in the annual giving program both in terms of staff and budget.
  • Expanding Auburn's in-house student call center to increase phonathon efforts. (The capacity of the call center has not grown in the past decade.)
  • Outsourcing production-heavy, high-volume print and mail activities to a print shop/mail house (printing, folding, stuffing, and mailing) so staff time and resources can focus on strategic activities and constituency collaborations.
  • Using electronic tools to cultivate, solicit, and steward donors, highlighting electronic giving as easy, cost-effective, and "green."
  • Improving utilization of constituent and giving data to allow for more data-driven segmentation and solicitation.
  • Using an analytical approach will result in resources focused on segments with a higher likelihood to give.
  • Prioritizing calling efforts on graduates and friends with higher connectivity to Auburn (i.e. membership in the alumni association, attends campus events, etc.) then move to those with less connectivity.
  • Enhancing Auburn recognition programs to recognize consistent donor participation with the creation of recognition groups for those that have given for 5, 10, 25, and 50 consecutive years.
  • Marketing creatively to retain current donors by sending donors an appeal based on the anniversary of their last gift, saluting regular donors in electronic honor rolls, and directly contacting previous year's donors who have not renewed their gifts in the current year.
  • Considering institution of a reunion giving program in conjunction with the alumni association.

Last Updated: Feb. 22, 2013

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