University of Toronto

A highly-customized appeal raises response rates.

The University of Toronto (U of T) is Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation and one of the world’s top research-intensive universities. More than 90,000 students from 163 countries attend the University annually.

U of T has 31 distinct Faculties, which makes developing an annual giving appeal very challenging. To understand each Faculty’s fundraising goals and to get to the root of why alumni and other supporters donate to each Faculty, we conducted 31 interviews. We soon realized – no singular message would work for all Faculties and donors. We made the bold recommendation to create 31 different appeals, requiring 31 individually written and designed letters and envelopes.

Plus we created an engaging Z-Card™ format brochure that opened up like a map and effortlessly folded down to the size of a credit card. All integrated into U of T’s “Boundless” brand.

Boundless complexity.
One huge success.

Thanks to our highly-customized approach, the response rate surged by almost 70% versus the previous year. Net return per piece increased by a whopping 59%.

Based on our successful execution of this extremely complex direct mail program, ST continues to develop U of T’s annual fall appeal for 28 divisions, as well as the follow-up mailers and emails — all tailored to each Faculty. The amount of customization has also grown to include targeted messaging for leadership donors and lapsed donors. The pledge form alone has some 40+ variables recognizing donors’ giving history. Now that’s DM cum laude.

“The University of Toronto annual giving program is a complex, multifaceted campaign that supports every area of the University. From segmentation and concept design to production and execution, it is great to work with the team at Stephen Thomas to help support our students, faculty and researchers.”
– Laura Clark, Director, Annual Giving

ST Services Provided

Brand Insights
& Data Analytics

  • Alumni are more apt to give to their Faculty than to a general appeal


  • Create customized appeals for each Faculty
  • Establish an overarching theme for brand consistency
  • Develop concepts that work in all channels: Direct mail, email, TeleFund, digital

Creative & Execution

  • 28 distinct letters with 28 different stories and signatories
  • 28 different data files and lasering – requiring rigorous laser live approvals
  • 28 customized emails
  • 28 reminder letters
  • 28 reminder emails
  • 28 digitally-printed final-reminder brochures
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