Well, they did it again. Columbia University just wrapped up their third annual online giving day. And once again, it looks to be a record breaker, bringing in more than $11 million from more than 10,000 gifts.
As we’ve written about in the past, successful online giving days like Columbia’s annual efforts are rarely a happy accident. The best (million dollar+) efforts are the result of careful planning around four main areas:
- Top of the line online infrastructure (your giving day homepage, apps, related widgets, email programs, etc)
- A smart, well-communicated online and social media content marketing strategy.
- Online ambassadors.
- Major donor involvement for challenge and matching gifts.
Do all of those things well, and you will reach your goals. That’s been true of every single BWF_social client we’ve helped plan an online giving day. Cut corners on any on the above and you go from planning for success to banking on luck.
As our soon-to-be-released survey tells us, most of you are planning on conducting a giving day in 2015. And you want to make a serious investment in your giving day, because giving days are about more than the sudden and often massive influx of dollars and donors they add to your organization.
First of all, online campaigns are tremendously social, well-publicized events. They often lead to higher rates of engagement than traditional, on-campus alumni reunions. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to Wabash College’s Joe Klen talk about his school’s amazing online giving day/buzz building event by clicking here.
Second, major gift donors love online campaigns. They love to see the schools and organizations they support take innovative approaches to fundraising. They love telling their friends about the huge influx of dollars and donors. They love to be involved. That’s right – asking big donors to be involved by offering up large challenge and matching gifts is more stewardship than it is cultivation. And finally, major donors love seeing all the new donors online giving days accumulate (especially if they helped make it happnen through a challenge gift).
Third, online giving days are the most effective donor acquisition tool available. A recent BWF_social study found that 40 percent of the donors who give during online ambassador-led giving days are new donors. And not just any new donors – multiple studies show us that online-acquired donors have more wealth, give bigger gifts, and give more over their lifetimes than donors acquired via direct mail. So if you’d like to acquire more major donors, online is your best bet.
And finally, a bonus fourth point. We now have evidence that tells us online-acquired donors have higher retention rates than any other channel. Yes, you read that right. (More on those stats coming soon)
Knowing all of the above, if you’re not investing at last as much in your online and social media approach as you are direct mail, the phone program, or any other direct response or communication channel, you’re doing it wrong. The good news is, you have a chance to get it right, starting with your first well-resourced giving day in 2015.
Justin Ware is Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients plan six- and seven-figure online giving days.