Data Won the Election, EverTrue Will Win College Donations

With Nadia Leung image

President Obama’s campaign famously utilized big data to collect donations and gain insight on voter turnout. If politicians can harness today’s advanced technology, why haven’t top educational institutions been able to utilize big data to connect with and fundraise from their alumni and donors?

It’s true that fundraising is as much of an art as it is a science. It relies on accurately interpreting and understanding data, and on cultivating meaningful and personal relationships. Much as a salesperson must understand his clients’ needs before formulating their pitch, a fundraiser must understand her donors’ background in order to present them with a compelling reason to make a gift.

Unfortunately, many not-for-profit organizations rely on legacy software vendors with archaic systems that do not provide accurate data on their donors. This was a problem Brent Grinna, EverTrue CEO and founder, experienced first-hand as a volunteer class officer for his 5th year reunion at Brown University.

Brent made a special visit to Startup Institute this week to talk about his experience as a first-time entrepreneur and the idea behind launching EverTrue. Brent discovered that current information on his alumni network was more reliably obtained from LinkedIn and Facebook, and he conducted his own research. This was more than a fundraising issue; it was a big data issue. What should have been a streamlined process wasted hours of time and resources.

Enter EverTrue: a mobile alumni networking platform built entirely on top of LinkedIn’s API. Developed in partnership with LinkedIn’s Higher Education team, EverTrue connects institutional databases with the generally more current data updated on LinkedIn’s platform. Over 100 prep schools and colleges can now connect their databases with real-time information in the social graph. Users can leverage their alumni networks and identify key mentors by searching for fellow graduates in their area based on industry, name, or class. The company is currently debuting a second product developed to support fundraising in education and other non-profit sectors.

It is clear that Brent and the EverTrue team are re-inventing fundraising through great technology designed for an intuitive user experience.

Here are three key takeaways from our chat with Brent:

1. The Value of Alumni: Identifying and cultivating relationships with mentors is extremely important whether you’re starting a company or looking for career guidance. Utilize your existing networks, develop new connections, and Never Eat Alone again!
2. Be the Solution: This is precisely how Brent began his entrepreneurial pursuit. He identified that tracking and engaging alumni and donors is a huge pain point for advancement and fundraising professionals, and he created a platform which enables them to leverage big data to build stronger communities.
3. Ask for Feedback: No one gets it right the first time. Along the way, Brent has always solicited feedback from everyone he talks to about EverTrue. The insight he’s garnered has largely enhanced the mobile app and helped him identify additional pain points leading to the company’s pivot towards developing a mobile fundraising platform.
We’re looking forward to downloading our EverTrue app when we officially become Startup Institute alumna in August!