Backup Video Pays Off with $5 million Gift
Client: The University of Montana Foundation, where Beth was vice president of strategic communications and marketing.
Situation: The Foundation was in a campaign to raise $25 million for strategic priorities in three years. The campaign plan included stewarding principal gift donors to ensure they followed through with their pledges and estate commitments. Beth was tasked with leading the stewardship team.
Strategy: Recognize principal gift donors in media and at gift announcements.
Tactics: Long-time donor Tom Cotter had increased the value of his estate commitment to $11 million. This would be the largest gift in University of Montana history at the time. (2014) We took these steps:
- Planned a gift announcement in San Francisco in conjunction with the University of Montana Foundation Board of Directors spring meeting. This was a convenient location for Mr. Cotter, who lived in Palo Alto.
- Interviewed Mr. Cotter on the phone for a story about his childhood and early adult years, and what leads him to donate for scholarships.
- Beth and a videographer visited his home and recorded an interview. The interview was an after-thought. The planned giving director suggested we interview him because we were interviewing another donor who lived nearby for another project. We did not have a specific plan for his interview.
A few days before the gift announcement, Mr. Cotter informed his development officer he would not be attending. He was sending a friend to “pick up his award,” and he was going skiing. Okay, what now? We were glad we had the video of him speaking, that’s for sure. We went ahead with the gift announcement, played the video and gave his friend a keepsake. We also recorded the event.
Back in Montana, our student editor put together a great video of the event, which we sent to Mr. Cotter, along with clippings about his generous gift from newspapers around Montana.
Mr. Cotter was blown away by the event, and rather embarrassed. He hadn’t realized we were throwing him such a big party.
Before long, the foundation leadership was celebrating. Mr. Cotter had written a personal check for $5 million to add to his scholarship fund!
He thanked us for throwing the party. So, what did we do? We thanked him again. When his birthday rolled around, we sent him a special delivery. It included a DVD with a video of students saying thank you for their scholarship. We also sent balloons, a cake, champagne and champagne flutes with the university logo on them. Mr. Cotter immediately picked up the phone and thanked the foundation president.
This was a mutually rewarding relationship with both parties giving and receiving.
Mr. Cotter passed away later that year. His gift now benefits students with four-year scholarships.