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Donor Participation Project

How Purdue University Revolutionized Its Fundraising with Pods and Quadrants

Purdue University faced a common challenge: while dollars raised were increasing, donor participation was declining. The development team refused to accept this as inevitable. They reconceived their entire fundraising model, implementing an innovative “pod” structure and “quadrant” approach to revitalize donor relationships.

The pod structure centralized related teams to facilitate collaboration and career growth. For example, prospect researchers, gift officers, and stewardship staff for a college are grouped together in a pod. Regular meetings within each pod and across pods help teams understand challenges and develop joint solutions. This structure reduces duplication of efforts and helps staff feel supported in their work.

Within each pod, the quadrant approach further customizes strategies.

The quadrants represent a matrix of high or low donor interest and high or low capacity to give. The pod devises targeted action plans for each quadrant to optimize the donor pipeline. For example, high-interest, high-capacity donors receive focused cultivation and tailored engagement to move them to major gifts. Less engaged but high-capacity donors are identified for “moves management” to reignite their passion.

This innovative restructuring strengthened relationships in proven ways. Purdue’s focus on “donor centricity” puts the donor experience front and center. The more Purdue understands donor interests, the more tailored their outreach. Regular “self-assessments” survey donors to evaluate communication and impact. Multichannel engagement meets donors where they are with social listening and customized digital journeys.

Metrics also evolved to represent this relationship focus.

In addition to dollars raised, scorecards now track meaningful interactions, proposals submitted, and stewardship activities. Quarterly reviews discuss both fundraising and engagement metrics to craft data-driven strategies.

By revolutionizing their fundraising model, Purdue University achieved the seemingly impossible: raising more money and better engaging donors.

Their inspiring story demonstrates that even large, decentralized nonprofits can implement transformational change with a relationship-centered vision, collaboration across teams, and customization for key donor groups. Overall, Purdue provides a model of philanthropic success for nonprofits seeking sustainable growth and impact.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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