Featured Profile: Elain Evans
Elain Evans, Director, Annual Giving at UBC
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at UBC?
I am the Director of the Annual Giving team. We are responsible for doing all the direct response work for over a dozen faculties, schools and campus initiatives. I lead a team of 13 full-time staff and also 70 part-time student callers.
We’re a busy bunch! Last year, we completed 169 campaigns resulting in 29,417 gifts. I love my job, as it is the perfect combination for my data head (I studied monitoring and evaluation) and the writer in me (I’m also a food writer for Men’s Health magazine). Basically, I like creating things that cause people to take action. I also feel very blessed to get to lead a team of talented people who bring their A game to work every day.
You’ve had a successful year, recently reaching a billion dollar goal. How do you integrate running the annual campaign with higher levels of giving?
Well, there were a lot of other people involved in reaching that billion dollar goal. I work with exceptionally talented major gift fundraisers and alumni engagement specialists. But I take my responsibility of feeding the pipeline very seriously—I am constantly striving to move our donors along the pyramid and understand who wants to be a supporter and ultimately who wants to be a philanthropist.
It is a good day at work when the ground that has been laid in Annual Giving makes it easier for my colleagues to build a qualified prospect list. I am also responsible for UBC’s mid-range giving program and this initiative has been amazingly successful at moving annual campaign donors to higher levels of giving.
What would you say has been your greatest integrated success at UBC so far?
It is difficult to choose one campaign, but I would say my greatest success is that every campaign is integrated, and our levels of integration continue to grow. When I started my career, I sent letters, then I added phone calls then e-mail… It is amazing to me that 18 years on I now spend my days doing that plus, landing pages, peer-to-peer campaigns, SEO and SEM optimization, writing Google ads, choosing SMS keywords, and getting our campaigns heard about across social media platforms from Twitter to Instagram, making web videos and memes, optimizing everything for mobile… Phew, the game has changed. A lot. I’m certainly never bored and my pursuit to be on the cutting edge has connected me with some great people like the professionals at hjc.
Is there anything you still want to accomplish at UBC that you haven’t (yet)?
Oh lots! UBC is one of British Columbia’s largest employers, which means there is no shortage of brilliant projects that could use a boost from Annual Giving. I am data hungry and always on the lookout for new sources of insight that could result in our team making the campaign that engages an alumnus who has never given to make their first gift. First gifts make me very happy, which is why I took the time to send a personalized card to the 3,000+ people who made their first gift to UBC last year.
You have worked at small shops and at large organizations. What do you find different or similar about the two?
I am grateful for the small shops that I worked at earlier in my career. I learned a lot and in some of the organizations, I was entrusted with a lot of responsibility, which is no different from my job today. I have worked in non-profits my entire working life because I identify with the causes and am driven to make a difference – that force, to make the world a better place, is the same whether you are in a large or small shop. I love working in a large organization because I am empowered to go “narrow and deep” really focusing on Annual Giving and how to make it as successful as possible. When I worked in a small shop a lot of my energy went to a multitude of things from preparing board reports to writing press releases – I am glad I learned how to do all those things but am happier being more focused.
We recently fell in love with the comic book that explains Annual Giving to your University. Can you tell us about your inspiration behind it? Why did you crate it?
The comic book entitled “The Wonderful World of Annual Giving” was an idea that we had in the work plans for a couple of years before it came to fruition. We have a wonderful orientation program at UBC and I try to give an engaging session as the work we do in Annual Giving is so very different from other arms of fundraising. But, it could be months before a new employee would do a campaign with us and inevitably would have forgotten the preferred process (not their fault at an organization this big and complicated—the first few months are like drinking from the fire hose). Because we have such a specific process and are so busy, we wanted to make something that would be helpful and not a bore to read. One of our student callers, Kim Villagante, used to leave the most amazing drawings at her call station at the end of shift so we approached her to do the illustrations. I’m glad you love it; we were pretty pleased with the results ourselves!
How is the comic being used at the University? Have you seen any improvements yet?
It is hot off the presses. We have a bi-monthly skill training session for development and alumni engagement staff, and the comic book was rolled out there with a warm reception. Every new member of staff will receive a copy as well. The comic book is just one element of my team’s pursuit of maximum efficiency. I can tell you it blows my mind that we were able to do 169 campaigns last year, but I know that the reason we were able to achieve this is because of our relentless approach to perfect project management. Every campaign has a full creative brief and a timeline. We use MS Project to ensure our multi-channel approach is optimal for the timing to lift the results of each channel. The comic book will certainly help our partners understand how important timing is to us and ensure that we meet our deadlines.