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Donor Participation Project

Purdue’s Pod Structure: A Case Study in Centralization and Collaboration

Purdue University revolutionized its fundraising operations by implementing a “pod” structure that centralized key functions while fostering collaboration. The pod model addressed issues of unbalanced resources, gaps in donor stewardship, and the need for stronger oversight of metrics across fundraising areas.

Purdue assembled cross-functional teams, called pods, around each academic unit and area of focus. Each pod includes members from marketing, donor relations, prospect development, and development. The pods meet monthly to review metrics, discuss priorities, and develop customized strategies for donor engagement. This integrated approach makes it possible to target the right constituents with the right message at the right time.

The pod structure also enabled Purdue to implement standard practices and oversight across the fundraising enterprise. Centralizing communications, for example, gave Purdue data on donor interests and engagement that fueled more personalized outreach. Standardized metrics, including donor participation rates, make donor progression and performance transparent across academic units. Quarterly business reviews, which pods and leadership attend, shine a light on what’s working and where new strategies or resources are needed.

For other nonprofits seeking to enhance collaboration and boost fundraising effectiveness, Purdue’s pod model provides an innovative blueprint. Some key takeaways:

•Assemble cross-functional teams around donors and priorities. Include representatives from all areas that touch donors and supporters.

•Centralize data and communications to gain a 360-degree view of donors. Look for opportunities to personalize and customize outreach based on interests and engagement.

•Implement standard metrics and reporting across the organization. Measure what matters for donor relationships and fundraising, not just dollars raised. Review reports together regularly.

•Foster open communication within the teams and across leadership. The pod structure succeeds when teams meet often, voice challenges, and work jointly on solutions.

•Be willing to reorganize and reassign resources as needed. Purdue shifted responsibilities across teams to play to people’s strengths and fill critical gaps. Not all changes will be right the first time. Review and revise.

With comprehensive insight into donors, priorities, and performance, Purdue’s pod model is enabling the university to fulfill its vision for an integrated and donor-centered advancement program. By enhancing coordination across all areas impacting the donor experience, other nonprofits can achieve similar success.

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

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