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Bluebird Gifts – They Come When You Least Expect it and From Unexpected Places

By Amy Baker

Reeher has spent years analyzing types of donors who give to higher education institutions. We have even grouped donors into three distinct categories:

Bluebirds: Bluebirds arrive “ready to donate” and were not necessarily identified by prospect research. Something unique at your institution drives their affinity. There is little you can do to influence a bluebird gift.

Pipeline: Prospects in the Pipeline group fall into Discovery, Cultivation, and Solicitation categories. They may have been self-identified or found through prospect research. Donors often travel through the Discovery-Cultivation-Solicitation process multiple times and could fall off at any point in the process or rejoin along the way. The majority of major gift fundraising effort and expenses should be used to develop donors from this group.

Evergreen: Evergreen donors are your known and reliable donors. Moving donors from the Pipeline group to the Evergreen category requires good stewardship and a modest amount of targeted investment. Gift officers are typically incentivized to focus on Evergreens because it’s easy to plan visits with them and secure their gifts. However, some of this effort should be redirected to Pipeline donors to ensure a new cohort of Evergreen donors for the future.

As a proud Minnesotan (and lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan), I wanted to highlight a Bluebird giving moment that has been happening this week in our community. I think this unplanned gesture of giving and affinity for football, good sportsmanship, and children’s health has struck a chord no matter what football team you root for, what causes you tend to support, or organizations you fundraise for.

At last weekend’s Minneapolis Miracle, New Orleans Saints punter, Thomas Morstead, led his team back out onto the field for a technicality to defend an extra point to officially complete the NFC playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Hurt earlier in the game, Morestead showed his good sportsmanship by finishing a heart breaker for his team. Vikings fans took notice which led to a very unexpected string of Bluebird gifts to Mostead’s charity,  What You Give Will Grow, an organization that helps children battling cancer. As the gifts kept rolling in from the Minnesota Vikings community, the New Orleans Saints punter decided that his foundation would donate all of these gifts to Children’s Minnesota, one of the largest freestanding pediatric health systems in the United States.

As of 9 AM today (1/19), more than 5,200 people from across the US have donated almost $217,000.  As a fundraising organization, you can’t plan for these types of Bluebird gifts. However, when they come in you will want to analyze these donations. In this case, Children’s Minnesota may have uncovered some new Pipeline prospective donors that otherwise they may not have uncovered. All because of a good guy, a high-stakes football game, and a community known for its generosity.

Here is a cute video of gratitude form Children’s Minnesota to their new-found friend, New Orleans Saints punter, Thomas Morstead!

Go Vikes – SKOL!


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