Niagara University

To bolster Niagara University’s $125 million campaign, Orr Group built an integrated and decentralized planned giving program that resulted in 200% growth of realized legacy gifts since 2017, and new legacy gift commitments growing to $12.2 million in 2021.

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For more than 150 years, Niagara University has educated students in the Catholic and Vincentian tradition, emphasizing ethics, lifelong learning, and service to others. With a student body of over 3,000 undergraduates in 80 academic disciplines, Niagara University prepares its graduates for lives and careers that are both successful and fulfilling.

Having executed a highly successful campaign in 2012 that raised $80 million, Niagara approached Orr Group to help it prepare for its next campaign. With the proposed goal of $125 million, this campaign would be the largest fundraising effort ever pursued by the university, and its success would depend on securing very significant leadership gifts while systematically and strategically expanding and engaging the major gift prospect pool.

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Orr Group first conducted a four-month study to determine the feasibility of raising $125 million and the university’s readiness to launch a campaign. We developed a draft case for support which was tested with key donors and alumni, both to gauge interest in the campaign, and cultivate them as potential donors. Simultaneously, we assessed Niagara’s fundraising capabilities and the capacity of the advancement team.

From the initial study, and based upon our recommendations, Orr Group has partnered with Niagara to implement these recommendations, serving as the university’s campaign team and filling the roles of Campaign Director, Director of Major Gifts and Director of Planned Giving. In these roles, Orr Group works alongside the advancement team to guide the direction of the campaign and implement sophisticated major and planned giving strategies and processes to ensure a successful fundraising effort.

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To bolster Niagara’s $125 million campaign, Niagara sought to strengthen and systematize its planned giving program. Orr Group partnered with Niagara to reevaluate motivators for planned giving, analyze and segment the university’s loyal donor base, update planned gift entry and tracking systems, and develop sophisticated planned giving donor strategies to secure new commitments. The outcome was an integrated and decentralized planned giving function. All gift officers now have a working knowledge of planned giving strategies to employ in their donor engagement. With this renewed focus on planned giving, since 2017, realized legacy gifts have grown by 200%, and new legacy gift commitments have grown by 570%, to $12.2 million in 2021.