Wabash Expands Culture of Philanthropy with Online Ambassadors

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

Online ambassadors lead to big fundraising results when their efforts are applied to short duration online giving events (a.k.a. “money bombs”). This was certainly true for Wabash College during the school’s inaugural “Day of Giving” online fundraising campaign, when 2,200 donors joined forces to raise $465,000 in just 24 hours. The thing is, those big numbers for little Wabash aren’t the main reason why school leaders are so excited about their first giving day. It’s all the attention and enthusiasm around fundraising that has Wabash officials celebrating well into the new fiscal year.

“That’s what I think’s been talked about more than anything after the day, beyond the numbers, is this sense of excitement and the fun that was happening that day surrounding giving back to the institution,” said Wabash Associate Dean for College Advancment, Joe Klen. “We had our reunion weekend in June and many people were still congratulating the president of the College on a great day of giving.”

Klen said Wabash’s Day of Giving had the feel of an extremely well-attended online reunion. As mentioned above, online ambassadors had a LOT to do with the success of Day of Giving. To learn more about Wabash’s Day of Giving, check out the video below…

Want to hear a lot more of the details from Joe Klen himself? We’ve included the full length interview on the BWF YouTube channel. You can link to the longer interview by clicking here.

Justin Ware helps organizations and institutions build peer-to-peer fundraising programs that lead to real, quantifiable success. 

BWF_social to Tour West Coast with FREE Online Fundraising Workshop

BWF presents a FREE half-day workshop to help your nonprofit raise more money online.

BWF presents a FREE half-day workshop to help your nonprofit raise more money online.

Oh, the things we now know about online fundraising. For example, did you know that…

  • Online acquired donors give twice as much to your organization as those acquired off line via channels like direct mail? (Blackbaud/Convio study)
  • Donors who give online have much higher household incomes than those who don’t give online? (Blackbaud/Convio study)
  • Social media is the #1 way most Americans now learn or a new cause to support? (Georgetown/Waggener Edstrom study)

Online and social media isn’t a luxury add on to your nonprofit organization’s communication strategy anymore – it’s a necessity for the future survival of your organization that will also raise big money and acquire lots of new donors RIGHT NOW. And now is when you want to get started on a strategy that helps you connect with donors on this ever-expanding medium.

On July 21, 22, and 23, BWF_social’s lead consultant Justin Ware will join Bentz Whaley Flessner principal Josh Birkholz for a three-city road show focused on building your online and social media presence for fundraising. In each city, Justin and Josh will deliver a three-hour morning workshop that will consist of two sessions and wrap up before lunch (because we know how busy you are). Best of all, it’s free!

To register for the Monday, 7/21 Los Angeles event, click here.

To register for the Tuesday, 7/22 San Francisco event, click here.

To register for the Wednesday, 7/23 Seattle event, click here.

Looking forward to seeing you soon on the West Coast!

Facebook for Development Pros – Get Personal

Last month, we wrote on tips to help fundraising professionals get in the game on LinkedIn. In that post, we suggested (implored) gift officers – or anyone with a donor facing role – establish a strong presence on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn is the bare minimum, there are other social networks that can open your fundraising work up to new and highly-capable-of-giving audiences.

Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. According to a recent Pew study, a whopping 71 percent of Americans have a Facebook account. And while this social network is highly personal for some – for others, it’s yet another platform to share their lives with the world. In fact, millionaires are disproportionately more active on Facebook than the general public at large.

So, if you really want to expand your reach as a gift officer, alumni relations pro, grateful patient manager, or annual giving director, you might want to consider putting a professional effort toward Facebook. Here are some tips…


Facebook friend lists allow you to organize your professional and personal friends. A benefit for you and them.

Create lists to separate your personal connections from professional. (Click here for a link with instructions for creating lists of your friends) This will allow you to communicate with your professional friends while not driving your personal friends nuts. It will also keep silly pictures of your dog and kids from clogging your professional friends’ News Feeds.

Connect your personal Facebook content strategy with your organization’s content strategy. (Your organization does have a content strategy, right?) Content marketing is best through a multi-channel approach. This means a great YouTube video gets the most traction when it is shared on Facebook, through email, on Twitter, at events, and through the personal social networks of your staff. Just as is the case with online ambassadors, sharing via the personal accounts of your staff greatly increases the reach of the powerful content you put so much effort into producing to tell your organization’s story.

Be responsive and engaged. It should be obvious, but when people comment on or share something you post to Facebook, respond to them! Thank them, answer their questions, provide more information …use Facebook as a virtual coffee shop to meet your donors.

Ask your Facebook friends questions. While images are hugely important for getting your content noticed on Facebook, sometimes the highest engagement comes from a question. It could be something fun – “Who is your favorite actor to play Batman?” for example. Or, you could ask something about your work – “Which childhood disease would you most want to see cured in the next 10 years?” Either way, a simple question that sparks conversation goes a long way toward building online relationships with your supporters, which ultimately leads to stronger relationships overall that leads to gifts.

I know, I know …for some people Facebook is a deeply personal space that you absolutely wouldn’t want to share with the world. That’s more than fine. Unlike LinkedIn and to a lesser degree blogs and Twitter, Facebook – in part due to its highly personal nature – is far from mandatory. That doesn’t mean it’s not also an enormous opportunity for those willing to jump in professionally. Consider this – do you want a personal relationship with some of your organization’s biggest donors? If you answered yes, then you should consider using Facebook to engage them.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social and helps clients build online and social media strategies that lead to fundraising success.

LinkedIn for Development Pros – Get Personal

Would you rather keep your Facebook profile private? So would most people.

How about Twitter …not your bag? No big deal! Not a fan of photography? (Yours or other people’s?) Then Instagram probably isn’t the place for you.

But if you’re a gift officer, work in alumni relations, have contact with grateful patients, or have any other role in fundraising that involves connecting with donors, then you must have a personal LinkedIn profile. If not, you’re short changing your organization and missing out on significant and impactful connection opportunities with supporters. Seriously, it’s the equivalent of not having a telephone (and we all know telephones are still crucially important).

So what do you do with your LinkedIn profile? First, update it. Make sure you have:

  • A recent and professional profile picture.
  • A succinct summary that speaks clearly about your role in your organization.
  • An updated work history (at least the relevant stuff to your current role).
  • Your volunteer work listed (especially that related to your org, because it will help prospective donors find you in their searches).

Next, post information that matters to your community. It could be networking opportunities, fundraising events, big gift news …really, whatever matters to your donors.


Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Use LinkedIn to find new donors and learn more about current donors. Where they work, if they just got promoted, what volunteer work they’ve completed, which additional social networks are they active on …all of this is information you can find on most people’s public LinkedIn profiles. It’s a treasure trove, it’s free, and it’s as simple as a Google search.

Finally, use LinkedIn to connect with your supporters and donors. In a lot of cases, LinkedIn’s message system will connect you with a donor more effectively than the email address you have on file.

Our donors are more segmented than ever before when it comes to the communication channels they use. For some, the phone is still king. For others, print matters most. For many, face to face interaction is the necessary ingredient to seal the deal. But online is now just as crucial as all those aforementioned channels (with the possible exception of face to face). Don’t believe me? Did you know that 74 percent of ALL consumers now use social media to make purchase decisions? (Klout, 2014 Study) How about that 71 percent of American adults are on Facebook? (Pew, 2014 study) Social media is too ubiquitous in our daily lives to be ignored and LinkedIn is the professional network where many people expect other accomplished professionals to be active. Don’t disappoint this segment of your supporters. Beef up your LinkedIn presence today.

Justin Ware is the author of this post and Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social. To learn more about Justin’s work, click here.

For Social Media Fundraising Success, Make Your Donors Feel Something

In fundraising, the ultimate metric is donors acquired or retained and dollars raised. The question is, how do we get there? What steps do we need to take in order to secure that final conversion or gift from a donor?

One option is sharing a bundle of statistics that numerically demonstrate the impact your organization has on the world. While that pie-chart packed annual report is important for the CFO types in the crowd, the vast majority of donors (including those CFO types) make a gift, not because of numbers, but because they feel moved to support your cause. Something about the work you do touches a nerve deep inside the donor to the point where they can’t stand the problem you’re addressing and will give everything they can, including money, to end that problem.

In other words, if you want to expand support for your organization, you need to create content that makes people feel something.

As is often the case, we have plenty of examples of this emotional content marketing from the for-profit world. From Steve Jobs to Dove, the best marketers – specifically content marketers – have been pulling money out of our wallets for decades, not by appealing to our heads, but to our hearts. Take, for example, the most recent viral content marketing hit distributed by Dove:

The sense of  yearning to love your kid endlessly that comes with being a parent; the want to be a unique, cutting edge individual that Apple so deftly communicated while Jobs was at the helm; the drive to compete and win that shoemakers like Nike have conveyed; those aren’t appeals that require a calculator to ingest – they go straight to the heart and they make people do things a million times faster than any logic-based approach.

Tugging at the heart strings opens the purse strings. It's true in the consumer and nonprofit worlds.

Tugging at the heart strings opens the purse strings. It’s true in the consumer and nonprofit worlds.

Of course, for fundraisers, this should be easy. Your work changes the world and you have countless stories to tell as a result. And now, thanks to social media, you have unprecedented access directly to enormous audiences. When you create amazing content, people take notice and you raise a LOT of money. The key is:

  • Having a smart, data-driven content marketing strategy.
  • Dedicating or reallocating resources to produce amazing written, photographic, and (especially) video content.
  • Hiring creative content producers to create posts that simply can’t be ignored.

The third item is the most crucial and the most difficult to come by. Creative content geniuses are not easy to find, but if you have them, give them the resources they need. Allow them creative license to produce amazing, heart-wrenching, and awe-inspring content. Doing that (with a strategic vision in mind) is one of the quickest and most effective paths you can take to reaching that ultimate metric of more donors and dollars raised.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner and an Emmy-winning content creator who has produced several viral YouTube videos. To learn more about how Justin can help you take content marketing to the next level, click here.

How to have a $1 million+ online giving day at your school

Seems like every week… shoot, almost every DAY now we’re hearing about another $1 million+ online fundraising campaign or giving day in higher education. From Arizona State to Boston University, these seven-figure giving days are becoming the norm rather than anomalies.

But how, right? What is it these schools are doing differently or better than other institutions who are having mixed results?

To get to the bottom of planning a successful giving day, we asked Washington and Lee’s Annual Giving Director, Skylar Beaver, what’s the secret sauce? By answering three short questions in the video below on W&L’s $1.4 million “Give Day” on April 24, Skylar provides an overview for how you might go about planning your giving day in 2015:

A few things jump out from the Washington and Lee Give Day that are common among many successful giving days:

  • Like most successful giving days, Washington and Lee enjoyed significant participation success along with a big fundraising total.
    Like most successful giving days, Washington and Lee enjoyed significant participation success along with a big fundraising total.

    Significant lead or challenge gifts to encourage participation and boost overall giving.

  • A strong strategy led by a interdepartmental team.
  • Social media.

We’d also add good, easy-to-use online infrastructure (in other words, a campaign page and giving form that more donors describe as “fun” rather than “maddening”) and a robust online ambassador program. Really, when you do that combined with the above items, it’s tough to fail.

Are you ready to start the planning for your giving day in 2015? BWF_social has a package to help our higher education partners succeed with online giving days. To find out more, contact our Director of Interactive Communication, Justin Ware, by clicking here or here.


Higher Ed Online Fundraising and the Rise of “Money Bombs”

Arizona State: $3.059 million in 36 hours … Columbia University: $7.8 million in 24 hours (after raising $6.8 million just one year earlier) … Santa Clara University: 2,600+ donors in 24 hours – by far their biggest day for donor participation ever.

Thanks, in part, to a strong social media strategy, Santa Clara University saw record-breaking donor participation during their first ever "money bomb" online campaign.

Thanks, in part, to a strong social media strategy, Santa Clara University saw record-breaking donor participation during their first ever “money bomb” online campaign.

Short duration, online fundraising campaigns or “money bombs” are taking over higher education. But it’s not as easy as sending out an email and posting a few things on Facebook. The institutions that have had success have invested tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in three main areas to prepare for these online events:

  • Well-designed, donor-centric online infrastructure (campaign landing pages, giving forms, mobile sites, etc).
  • A long-term online and social media strategy (not just for the campaign, but throughout the year).
  • Peer-to-peer or online ambassador programs.

If you’re interested in learning much more about the above suggestions, check out the following web chat from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (full-length chat posted below). In it, I’m joined by Georgetown’s Joannah Pickett (chief architect and strategist behind GU’s perfectly executed City Challenge online campaigns), Ohio State’s Chad Warren (one of the best online campaign planners in the business who has both Florida State’s Great Give and Dayton’s I Love UD campaigns under his belt), and the Chronicle’s Cody Switzer:


Are you ready to plan an online fundraising campaign for your institution? We have plenty of experience helping our clients achieve online fundraising success during these money bomb efforts. Click here for my BWF contact info or here for my LinkedIn to connect with me (Justin Ware) and learn more about how we might work together.


Donors Sweet on University of Michigan’s Victors Valentines

Michigan themed candy hearts drew new supporters toward Michigan's $4 billion campaign during Valentine's Day.

Michigan themed candy hearts drew new supporters toward Michigan’s $4 billion campaign during Valentine’s Day.

Content, content, content… In some ways, it’s the simplest concept: produce lots of good content and you’ll have more supporters and more goodwill among those supporters (not to mention online hooks that catch new supporters).

The thing is, creating good content – especially on a consistent basis – is anything but simple. You need at least one brilliantly creative mind, plus a firm grasp of what it is that your audience wants. In other words, good content is one part art form (the creative component) and one part science (the data that details your audiences’ preferences). Fortunately, there are some leaders in this space who are showing us the way. One of them is Shannon Riffe, the assistant director of marketing and online engagement at the University of Michigan.

In the video below, Riffe talks about the recently completed Victors Valentine online engagement campaign, and how the campaign introduced nearly 1,000 potential donors to the homepage of Michigan’s current $4 billion campaign:

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin helps clients achieve results through content marketing. To learn more, connect with Justin by clicking here.

How the Dalai Lama Helped Santa Clara University Prove Social Media ROI

When you’re selling shoes, the metric to prove social media ROI is relatively easy. Ultimately, it boils down to …how many shoes you’ve sold. (A lot of quantifiable engagement metrics lead to that end result, but ultimately, shoe sales trump all else).

Using the #DalaiLamaSCU hashtag, Santa Clara's social media team arranged an amazing online event around His Holiness' visit to campus.

Using the #DalaiLamaSCU hashtag, Santa Clara’s social media team arranged an amazing online event around His Holiness’ visit to campus.

For many of us working in the nonprofit world – higher education, in particular – there is no sale-of-shoes metric that easily tells us what’s working and what’s not. Sure, there’s fundraising, event attendance, number of applicants, and other quantifiable objectives, but there’s also the far less tangible goals of improving the reputation of and sentiment toward your institution. At a very high level, those are the goals Santa Clara University’s marketing and communication pros are chasing and – thanks, in part, to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama – SCU (a BWF client) has an excellent case study on how to prove the value of a strong social media strategy.

“Santa Clara University is the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley and the theme of the talk ‘Business, Ethics and Compassion’ played into much of our key messaging,” said Marika Krause, Assistant Director of Media Relations at SCU.

On February 24, the Dalai Lama spoke to about 5,000 people on the Santa Clara campus, providing SCU with a daunting challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.

Ultimately, SCU’s MarComm team is working to drive home the institution’s strategic priorities which include excellence in Jesuit education, the promotion of global understanding, justice, academic community, and engagement with Silicon Valley (where SCU is located). For nearly two years, Santa Clara’s communication pros have been building and implementing a strong social media strategy and presence. So when the Dalai Lama visit was announced for late winter, the SCU MarComm team knew they had an opportunity to make big things happen online.

“He is one of the biggest names to visit SCU,” said Stephanie Bravo, Assistant Director of Social Media. “His message of peace, compassion, and social justice naturally fit with SCU’s message.”

Bravo says, in addition to the strategic priorities, her team’s goals also include growing SCU’s online and social media communities. Then, using those communities to clearly communicate the message and priorities of the institution.

“Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and BuzzFeed. We also used Storify to pull it all together after the event. The key to tying it all together was one unifying hashtag the we put on all the programs, press releases – even banners outside the event.” said Krause.

SCU's timely and consistent conversation management helped ensure mostly positive online discourse around the Dalai Lama's visit.

SCU’s timely and consistent conversation management helped ensure mostly positive online discourse around the Dalai Lama’s visit.

“The hashtag was the main tool that kept us organized. It kept the public informed before the event and engaged during the event. It worked so well to generate content that we were able to create photo albums from hundreds of people’s photos from the event,” said Bravo. “A team of 5 student interns were instrumental in helping me post live at the event, which led to our trending on Twitter throughout the day.”

SCU's efforts placed their event on the international stage via Twitter's "trending topics" board.

SCU’s efforts placed their event on the international stage via Twitter’s “trending topics” board.

That’s right, the relatively tiny Santa Clara University was sharing space on Twitter’s nationally trending topics list with big hitters such as Netflix and the news of Hollywood comedic legend Harold Ramis’ passing.

Again, a large contributing factor to SCU’s success, was the work put towards strategic planning since mid 2012.

“We had less than two months to pull off more than a year’s worth of logistical planning for the Dalai Lama’s visit. I’m pretty glad we’re all still standing!” said Krause. “I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise that we did so well on social media, because I think we had the groundwork in place for it to happen, but I’m grateful. Social Media is far from an exact science.”

As for advice on managing an event like this? Santa Clara Communications Director Deepa Arora offers the following…

“Be adventurous, try new things, be prepared for the unexpected. On the Live Twitter Feed during the event, some of the tweets were considered inappropriate,” said Arora. “Some students who tweeted the Dalai Lama were inviting him for a drink or asking about rumors, such as if Beyonce was in the audience. We monitored the Twitter feed, but did not delete any tweets. We had to do some hand holding to prepare senior administrators for the tone of the feed, but reminded everyone that SCU is a college campus and sometimes students say silly things. There’s no reason to turn off the Twitter feed for that.”

In the end, Santa Clara’s savviness with regards to managing internal and external forces, led to an amazingly well orchestrated event. And it wasn’t an accident. It’s the product of dedicating staff and resources to creating a sound social media strategy that’s ready for anything or, in this case, anyone.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin has been working with Santa Clara University since fall 2012. To learn more about Justin and his work, click here.

What is a social media strategy for fundraising?

When I ask clients “do you have a social media strategy?” they will often point me to a list of guidelines for best practices on using social media. Make no mistake, establishing guidelines for your organization’s use of social media is smart …but it’s far from a strategy.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

An online and social media strategy – a document that helps you effectively manage your presence and accomplish fundraising goals – consists of two parts.

  1. First, on online and social media strategy should be a statement of goals, tactics for accomplishing those goals, resources that will be deployed, and a system for measuring the effectiveness of all that online activity.
  2. Second, should be a timeline that extends out over at least the next 12 months. On this timeline should be all the major events, milestones, campaigns, and other opportunities for fundraising and/or donor engagement. For each event/opportunity on this timeline, there should be a detailed set of tactics that will be deployed for accomplishing the associated goals. And because it’s a timeline, there will likely be items several months in advance that are imperative to the success of each event or opportunity. This second portion of the strategy is key to ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

The two components of your strategy should work together. For example, the first portion (the goals/tactics/resources/metrics piece) should be applied to the timeline to help planners create a cohesive, on-message, and consistent approach for managing homecoming …or for the communication plan around a hospital gala …or the one-day fundraising effort for your small nonprofit around #GivingTuesday.

Why does this matter? Think about your organization’s online activity. Is it a series of one off posts that have no interconnectivity? When you post something on Facebook or Twitter, are you thinking about how that post will impact your audience’s sense of philanthropy around a specific initiative, say a scholarship drive? If you’re planning an online fundraising campaign in support of scholarships in five months, you should be posting content that (however subtly and cleverly) reinforces that audience’s understanding of the importance of supporting scholarship-related fundraising activity over the next five months (among other good content aimed at other strategic goals, of course).

Unfortunately, too many content decisions are made based on “what’s happening right now?” or “what do we need to immediately accomplish?” or “what’s hot in the news?” Not to say those things don’t matter. In fact, a portion of your social media activity needs to be reactive to provide adequate customer service. The best content is audience-focused and timely. But that doesn’t mean strategic messaging can’t be baked into the content. Not to mention, advanced planning actually frees your staff up to be more reactive, because they’ve already completed some of the work needed to reach those long-term goals.

To do the big things requires a long-term strategy that everyone on your team supports and understands. So what does this look like in real life?

In April 2013, a smart charted plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

In April 2013, a smart strategy plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

When you plan in advance, produce a timeline, and have a strategy to guide it all, you’re positioning your organization for success. And with how important online communication has become for nonprofits, it’s imperative your organization or institution finds the resources to enact this strategic approach.

Justin Ware is the Director Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. If you’d like to learn more about how Justin helps clients build strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising success, click here.