Colgate Raises $5.1 Million in 24 Hours with Online (Radio)

Online fundraising and crowdfunding can do more for your major gift program than it can for your annual fund.

No, really. I’m serious. Here’s my evidence – Colgate University raised $5.1 million – the majority of the dollars coming from major donors – during a campaign that was broadcast via their radio station WRCU …which is streamed online. The bulk of the dollars came in via major donors who wanted to drive up participation during the campaign (The focus of this campaign was a more annual fund-centric, participation-centered goal …but several six and seven figure gifts were the end result, along with a lot of donors).

For the full story, check out the article on For a brief summary, here’s a few bullets:

  • An anonymous donor pledged a $1 million gift if the campaign could produce gifts from 1,300 donors (13 is a significant number in Colgate’s history)
  • WRCU rolled out a day of programming including prominent alumni such as music producer Bernie Reznick, long-time Boston Red Sox announcer Jim Castiglione, and Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy.
  • Word of the campaign grew (because it was online, the whole world had access – not just those within the 25-mile broadcast radius of the radio station) and soon, other prominent alumni we’re adding millions of dollars to up the participation challenge.
  • When all was said and done, $5.1 million was raised from 5,683 donors.
Colgate's WRCU radio station was the online hub for an impressive fundraising effort.

Colgate’s WRCU radio station was the online hub for an impressive fundraising effort.

OK …so what’s the takeaway and how does this relate to online fundraising and/or crowdfunding? There are multiple ways…

  • Online campaigns have massive reach (this would not have happened if WRCU was not broadcast over the Internet) and create an enormous amount of buzz when done right. This leads to high donor acquisition numbers, including major gift donors.
  • Because of all that buzz, getting involved in this campaign was a way for major gift donors to:
    • Receive instant recognition for their gifts which were announced in a very public manner as part of the campaign.
    • See the impact of their gifts by all the donors who gave to reach the new and increasing participation goals.
  • The best campaigns – online or off – are intimately connected to what makes your institution special. In this case, that’s a strong communications program with many prominent alumni who care about and still listen to Colgate’s radio station.

Crowdfunding is a social event that creates buzz. If you have a major gift donor who likes the spotlight, consider inviting them to participate by offering a similar challenge. It’s the naming rights concept translated to the digital space.

Of course, while we’re at it, why restrict this approach to just major gift donors? Corporate and foundation support is increasingly important in the philanthropic space. Given the exposure a solid crowdfunding or online fundraising campaign offers, corporate partners would likely be champing at the bit to get involved with an effort like this and all the related marketing appeal.

The potential for connecting your online and crowdfunding efforts to your major gift and corporate development programs are immense. So what are you waiting for? Multi-million dollar fundraising efforts that bring about impressive donor acquisition at all levels are there to be had for those who can build a smart strategy.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. On February 27, Justin will be in Washington, DC leading a full-day crowdfunding workshop. To register, click here