University fundraising has evolved into a multi-channel endeavor, leveraging a number of different communication platforms from email, SMS, and social media to phone, direct mail, and personalized video to create a cohesive and engaging donor journey. 

All these channels are carefully orchestrated into a series of touchpoints by implementing a cadence, a term borrowed from the sales vocabulary. It refers to an automated, logically structured series of interconnected, meaningful touchpoints or a communication pattern designed to nurture your constituents and guide them from one step of their journey to the next.

In this article, we’ll present an example six-step cadence we set up using VanillaSoft that you can use for inspiration and reference point when building your own workflow. 

Introductory Tips

To set up each cadence, you need to create templates for each touchpoint and use the Lead Status feature. 

Another critical factor that will contribute to the success of your cadence is crafting messaging that will resonate with your constituents, simultaneously calling them to take action. With the help of VanillaSoft, you’ll also be able to uncover your constituents’ communication patterns and preferences and take these into account when creating future cadences to reach them better down the road. 

Finally, the purpose and ultimate goal of this sequence of coordinated touchpoints is to move each donor down and off of the cadence and into another one. Maybe you want to move them to a stewardship cadence once they give a gift, or if things don’t work out this time, you close them out and wait for six months before you start another cadence.    

Donor cadence

Step 1

The first step in our cadence is a Pre-Call Email. 

The point of this touchpoint is to warm up your constituents and prepare them for the upcoming call. Instead of calling them out of the blue and trying to solicit a donation, you’ll have much better odds if you first soften the ground and stay top of mind with this message. Another first step you could explore could be a text informing your constituents they can expect your call. 

Step 2  

The second step of the cadence is the call. Now that you’ve already alerted your constituents and let them know what the next touchpoint is, you can reach out to them in real time and try to solicit a donation. For this step, you should also have your talk tracks in place to assist your student fundraisers in staying on point and effortlessly dealing with potential objections. 

In case your team hasn’t been able to reach a particular constituent, you’ll move them to the next step of this cadence. 

It’s worth noting that in case you do reach the constituent, they will be moved to another cadence with follow-ups that will be in line with your stewardship program and contain another set of touchpoints that will cultivate donor loyalty.    

Step 3 

You want to keep your conversation fresh, so in step 3, send your constituents something they haven’t yet received and personalize it to a tee. This is a great opportunity to reference the previous touchpoints as well to help tie your cadence steps together, making it feel cohesive. “I’m sorry I missed you over the phone, but hopefully, you saw my email. I wanted to pop in your inbox again today…” 

Video is an excellent choice as this medium is a combination of visual and auditory storytelling, making it both captivating and emotionally persuasive. Putting a face to the name makes it easier for your audience to connect with your student fundraisers and builds trust. 

Therefore, choose a narrative that strongly echoes your school’s vision and values and is aligned with that of your constituents. Video delivers an immersive experience that will help you establish more profound relationships with your potential and existing donors, thus ultimately inspiring generosity and commitment to your cause. 

Technically speaking, your students can do this by:

  • Recording a live video and inserting it into an email template via Vidyard
  • Choosing among pre-recorded videos in VidYard. 

Step 4 

By now, your constituents already know you created all this content specifically for them, and this immediately sets you apart from all those mass messages they receive in their inboxes daily. 

So, regardless of how many touchpoints your cadence has, each of them is a great opportunity to customize your message and make it truly unique and tailored to your constituents’ interests and preferences — just make sure to be very strategic about the order in which you’re sending them out. 

Don’t worry if you didn’t catch your constituents’ attention after these three emails in a row. The thing is that all of us get too many messages, and sometimes we accidentally miss something when scrolling through the inbox. But persistence is key, which is why you need yet another well-thought-out follow-up to try and get them to notice you. 

A voicemail message that conveniently follows after a personalized email with a video can do the trick and prompt potential donors to take action and respond to you. 

Step 5  

Your next attempt should be an SMS with a giving link. It’s short, simple, and straightforward. So far, you’ve made sure your potential donor is familiar with your cause, so it’s okay to be very direct with your ask. 

Additionally, texting is not as disruptive as calling and won’t take up any of your constituents’ time, which makes it a perfect follow-up after the first ask. 

Step 6  

If all your attempts fail, then after a couple of weeks, it’s time to call it a day. 

It’s very likely that the unresponsive donor has their reasons for not taking action, and this “Sorry we missed you” email is supposed to wrap this cadence up and inform the constituent that you won’t be reaching out to them in the next couple of months. 

Make sure to end this cadence on a positive note and avoid guilt-tripping the constituent. Instead of that, acknowledge you understand they might be busy or have something else going on in their lives. 

In Conclusion 

This is just an example of how you can structure a cadence, and you can add more steps to accommodate the needs of your fundraising strategy. Make sure to keep an eye on all the metrics, as that’s what will inform your future digital engagement efforts and help you fine-tune your cadences. 

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