Columbia’s Second Annual Giving Day – Another Huge Online Ambassador Success


Columbia University Giving Day 2013

They did it again. This time, it was even bigger.

On October 23, Columbia University hosted its second annual Giving Day. An almost entirely online, ambassador-driven fundraising campaign that ranks among the most successful in history. In just 24 hours, Columbia raised more than $7.8 million dollars from 9,759 donors. Those who gave represent 53 countries and all 50 states.

Giving Day 2013 was a huge success with nearly 10,000 donors giving $7.8 million over 24 hours.

Giving Day 2013 was a huge success with nearly 10,000 donors giving $7.8 million over 24 hours.

The logical question is, “how?” We’ll get to the specifics on that in a later post, but here’s what we already know about Giving Day 2013 and what made it successful (which are the same things that can make your online fundraising campaigns successful, albeit at scale):

  • A robust online ambassador program: Online ambassadors worked well for Columbia in 2012, so they knew they needed another strong peer-to-peer effort in 2013. With this in mind, Columbia worked hard at identifying, engaging, and coaching a team of online ambassadors who would help them have even more success in 2013. Part of this ambassador effort was the know-how and great work done by Columbia’s staff. Another part was the smart use of software like SocialToaster – all of it came together to double the number of donors from 2012 to 2013.
  • Great infrastructure: Websites, online giving pages, Facebook apps, embeddable widgets – all across the Columbia online ecosystem, donors could find easy-to-use tools that allowed them to participate in Giving Day.
  • Brilliant staff: Columbia knew after 2012 that smart, strategic planning was key to a successful campaign. Internal staff and external vendors combined to make 2012 a hit. A similar mix of talent was assembled to cement 2013’s Giving Day as a tradition.

And that is probably the most impressive thing that we can glean (so far) from Giving Day 2012 – well-run online giving days are not fads. When smart strategy, experienced personnel, innovative tech, and enthusiastic ambassadors come together, online giving days become tradition.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To learn more about BWF’s work in planning online fundraising campaigns, visit


4 thoughts on “Columbia’s Second Annual Giving Day – Another Huge Online Ambassador Success

  1. CONTENT!! It’s important not to overlook the great content that the Columbia Alumni Association posted throughout the day from branded “Columbia Giving Day” images to lectures that could be shared to raise the awareness and engagement of the entire community.

    • You’re absolutely right, Benjamin. Content marketing makes efforts like this possible. You have to have a community before you can attempt an online ambassador campaign. Great content builds enthusiasm within that community which leads to big fundraising results.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Pingback: Three Reasons Why You Want to Do More Online in 2014 | The Social Side of Giving

  3. Pingback: 3 Things to Guarantee Your New Platform Leads to Online Fundraising Success | The Social Side of Giving

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