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Act today: transform tomorrow: How a legacy appeal at Loughborough University had an unexpected legacy of its own
Over six months in 2016, Loughborough University in the UK nearly doubled the number of alumni pledging to leave a gift to the university in their will, using little more than an in-house alumni survey, three telephones and a back-to-basics, people-focused philosophy. The mini-campaign cost basically nothing beyond staff time. The principle was to get the fundraisers themselves — not a student-calling team or a third-party telephone marketing agency — to pick up the phones for a calling campaign to speak directly to a warm segment of alumni about their wills. They expected, rightly, that putting one-to-one human interaction back at the heart of legacies would yield admirable financial results. What they did not anticipate was that the exercise would be the catalyst for a permanent culture change, coming at a critical time for the newly created Philanthropy Office. Fundraisers at all levels of experience redeveloped a hunger for ‘relationship fundraising’. Against a backdrop in the UK in 2016 of a national loss of public trust in charities and a media furore on some questionable yet widespread fundraising practices, the experience transformed and re-energised the team, many of whom were at risk of becoming distanced and disillusioned by the same transactional mentality in fundraising that had led to a national crisis of confidence in fundraising in the UK.
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Rachel Third is Head of Philanthropy at Loughborough University, with overall responsibility for fundraising at the University. After graduating with a BA Hons in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Oxford, she started life in fundraising at the University of Nottingham as one of the 2012–13 cohort of CASE Europe graduate trainees in educational fundraising, a fast-track graduate scheme for early-career fundraisers. Subsequently she experienced life in one of the largest development offices in the UK at King’s College London (an office of more than 130 staff), before moving to Loughborough University as a major gifts officer in 2015. When she took over leadership of the Philanthropy Office in 2016, she became the youngest leader of a university development function in the country. She most recently spoke at the CASE Spring Institute in Educational Fundraising and sits on the Fundraising Committee at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford.