In the eleven days preceding their Phonecast, Gustavus Adolphus averaged 69 gifts received per day; in the nine days following their Phonecast, Gustavus averaged 110 gifts received per day.

Engaging in conversation and community has always been an important part of the Gustavus Adolphus College educational experience. In fact, community plays such an important role in the identity of this small liberal arts college that it is one of the institution’s core values. But as the community of alumni, parents, and friends has grown and expanded throughout the years, ensuring that all members feel like they have a voice in the conversation has become increasingly difficult.

In the spring of 2013, as Gustavus was approaching the end of its fiscal year, its annual fund team was looking for meaningful ways to invite gifts that would help the Minnesota college achieve its goal of $2.1 million.

The staff members wanted something personal—something that would inspire giving from supporters who had yet to make their gift.

In May, the annual fund team sent emails and personal prerecorded voice messages from the president inviting 13,000 members of the Gustavus community to join the town hall conversation. Nearly 4,000 picked up the call on the evening of May 23 and participated in the 45-minute conversation from the comfort of their homes. Sixteen people from across the United States had the opportunity to directly ask college leadership a question. Annual fund staff asked participants to give their input on how they would like to receive information from Gustavus. The team also invited those who didn’t get a chance to ask their question live to leave a voice message at the end of the call, which college leaders later answered.

The next day, the college followed up the call with a thank you email to everyone who was invited to participate, which included an end-of-year ask for the Gustavus annual fund. This strategy, combined with standard end-of-fiscal-year tactics, helped the annual fund team exceed the college’s fundraising goal.

“The Gustavus town hall Phonecast was an excellent experience for everyone involved, and it’s an honor to learn that it has garnered national recognition from CASE,” explained Thomas W. Young, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “The most important takeaway from all of this is that we have a new way to engage with members of our community in conversations. Their vested interest will result in a stronger future for our institution and strengthens our commitment to our core value of community.”