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From their offices in St. Paul, Reeher President and CEO Andrew Reeher, left, and Vice President and CFO Rod O’Connor sell a software service called the Reeher Platform that helps universities and colleges better target donors.

Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune

Software firm educates colleges on fundraising

  • Article by: TODD NELSON
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • September 16, 2012 - 12:17 PM

Andrew Reeher, founder of St. Paul-based software company Reeher LLC, is teaching college and university fundraisers how to boost donations in the cloud.

The company's cloud-based management system helps colleges identify previously undiscovered best prospects and equips typically staid higher education fundraisers with corporate-style, data-driven sales and management tools.

Those include customized predictive models that quickly find alumni who are most likely to give but who otherwise have gone overlooked in the school's own database. The Reeher Platform, as it is called, is subscription-based software service, installed in just a few weeks, updated nightly with new transactions. Improvements made for one school become available to all on the shared platform.

The data- and analytics-heavy approach reflects the background of president and CEO Reeher, a former vice president of marketing at Deluxe Corp.

He blended that experience with insights he gained into university fundraising while working as a consultant after leaving Deluxe in 2001. He founded Reeher LLC in 2002 intent on building tools to improve management practices in university fundraising.

"I realized how few tools these folks in fundraising had in order to be able to do a better job," said Reeher. He said he had been involved in developing products based on predictive models while at Deluxe, and "what I was seeing in the data was indicating that there were significant opportunities for them to become more efficient and more effective."

The platform has more than 30 customers, from public universities such as Cincinnati and Temple, to research institutions such as John Hopkins and Duke, to private colleges such as newcomers Amherst and Wheaton. Locally, St. John's University in Collegeville and Hamline University are customers.

Reeher has received two rounds of financing from angel investors since 2009, totaling less than $1 million, to expand its sales and marketing. The company has 20 employees and is projecting revenue of $3 million this year, up from $2 million in 2011.

The Reeher Platform likely will add dozens of new customers a year under a partnership with Iowa-based RuffaloCody, which provides fundraising management services to more than 600 institutions. That company's customers, Reeher said, will be able to make better use of phone, mail and other fundraising efforts based on insights they gain from the platform.

Reeher announced the partnership last month, at the same time the company launched a new iPhone app, Reeher Mobile, that connects fundraisers to their donor database while in the field.

William Mulvihill, executive vice president of the University of Cincinnati Foundation, said the Reeher Platform has helped the organization close in on its $1 billion fundraising goal. 

The platform targeted 10,000 key prospects from more than 260,000 potential donors, Mulvihill said. The foundation last year raised $126 million, up from $65 million when the campaign began in 2005.

"It was clear that we needed better data to allow us to work smarter and more productively," Mulvihill said. "It's allowed us to ensure that with our limited resources, we can leverage those against the very best prospects over time."

At St. John's University, the platform has proven to be a cost-effective way to find donors more quickly, according to John Welsh, executive director of institutional advancement. 

"This is basically the Salesforce.com for donor-relationship management," Welsh said. "Universities should take a look at this and say, 'It's an investment up front but if [a university] can find just one donor -- and not even a huge donor -- over the course of the year that it wouldn't have found, that pays for the thing.'''

The expert says: Mike Harvath, president and CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group in Bloomington, said Reeher is in a good position. Data mining is hot, firms specializing in it are enjoying strong growth and the market he has chosen is underserved by software solutions such as his.

The challenge, especially for a small business competing in a what can be a global market, is creating demand, Harvath said. While the partnership with RuffaloCody is a good step, Harvath recommended that Reeher develop a program to recruit, enable and provide operational support to channel partners who can help sell his service.

Harvath also sees long-term potential for Reeher to expand into adjacent markets that depend on fundraising, such as K-12 schools.

"At the 100,000-foot level, I think he's onto something that is pretty special," Harvath said.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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