10 of the Best Higher Ed Online Giving Days

In case you haven’t noticed, online giving days have become kind of a big deal in higher ed. The million dollar+ day is no longer the miracle campaign only the best and most prestigious schools can accomplish. Nope, seven-figure online campaigns are becoming common place. Assuming, of course, the organization planning the campaign knows what they’re doing.

We’ve said on this blog many times – to have a successful online giving day, you need three things:

  1. Good online infrastructure (campaign landing page and giving forms).
  2. A solid, established, and consistent online and social media strategy driven by good content.
  3. A coordinated online ambassador effort.

Below are 10 of the best campaigns of the past three years. Seven of them had a version of an ambassador program, nine of them had elaborate and long-running social media strategies behind them (the only one that didn’t have a long-running strategy did have a powerful ambassador effort), and every single one had excellent online infrastructure. So without further adieu, 10 higher ed online giving days or fundraising campaigns to model your efforts after… (And I’d love to know which campaigns you think I missed. Please let me know in the comments)

Georgetown City Challenge – 2013

Purpose: Scholarship support and regional alumni engagement.

Duration: 27 hours.

  • Donors: 1,514
  • Dollars: $529,000
Gamification was the driving force behind Georgetown's successful City Challenge campaigns.

Gamification was the driving force behind Georgetown’s successful City Challenge campaigns.

Notre Dame Day – 2014

Purpose: Scholarship support.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 4,049
  • Dollars: $918,518

UMass Amherst’s UMassGives – 2013

Purpose: Increase student giving and the overall culture of philanthropy in support of UMass Amherst.

Duration 36 hours.

  • Donors: 1,588
    • 626 students gave over the 36 hours.
      • In the entire year prior, 529 students gave.
  • Dollars: $84,000

For a blog post recap of UMassGives, click here.

Washington and Lee’s Give Day — 2014

Purpose: Online giving event.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 4,300+
  • Dollars: $1.4 million.
Major gift donors played a huge role in Washington and Lee's Give Day's success by giving $650,000 in challenge grants to drive participation.

Major gift donors played a huge role in Washington and Lee’s Give Day’s success by giving $650,000 in challenge grants to drive participation.

For a blog post recap of Give Day, click here.

University of Texas at Austin 40 for Forty – 2014

Purpose: Student engagement and annual giving.

Duration: 40 hours.

  • Donors: 2,104
  • Dollars: $128,000

Boston University Giving Day – 2014

Purpose: Annual giving online campaign.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 2,872
  • Dollars: $1.11 million

Arizona State University – 2014

Purpose: Donor engagement and annual giving.

Duration: 36 hours.

  • Donors: 908
  • Dollars: $3.059 million

For a blog post recap of ASU’s campaign, click here.

Colgate’s WRCU Radio campaign – 2013

Purpose: Raise money for the school’s communication program.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 5,683
  • Dollars: $5.1 million

For a blog post recap of Colgate’s campaign, click here.

Columbia University’s Giving Day – 2012 and 2013

Purpose: Online fundraising campaign for annual and major giving programs.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors:
    • 2012: 4,940
    • 2013: 9,700
  • Dollars:
    • 2012: $6.8 million
    • 2013: $7.8 million

For a blog post recap of Columbia’s 2012 campaign, click here.

Average numbers for all schools:

Average donor number: 3,423

Average dollars raised: $2.69 million

Average duration: 29.5 hours

Are you ready to celebrate a successful online giving day? At BWF_social, we have experience building giving days and a consulting package to ensure success for your school. Learn more by clicking here.

Creating Donor Centric Content Through Segmenting and HyperTargeting

Facebook ads, email, targeted content marketing …with the help of technology, we practically have the ability to know our donors better than themselves. Smart nonprofits will (responsibly and tactfully) use that information to create a personalized donor experience that delivers exactly what our supporters are looking for when they’re online. This leads to more satisfied donors which in turn creates a more dedicated base of support for your organization. The key is segmenting and hypertargeting your messaging based on those segments. The webinar below has tips to help your organization leverage these trends:

Rather not watch the video? Download the slides from the webinar by clicking here.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin helps clients create six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns through peer-to-peer online activity.

3 Things to Guarantee Your New Platform Leads to Online Fundraising Success

Finally, you get the green light to purchase that fundraising or crowdfunding platform that gives you all the tools you need to start raising real money online.

  • Personal fundraising pages for your biggest advocates? Check.
  • Seamless integration with your database? Check.
  • Beautiful, content-rich campaign landing pages? Check.

Maybe you’ve had these online platforms in place for a few months or years now. And if you’re like many nonprofits, you’re not having the fundraising success you envisioned when signing the dotted line to purchase that shiny new software.

A good online giving or crowdfunding is only 1/3 of what you  need for online fundraising success.

A good online giving or crowdfunding platform is only 1/3 of what you need for online fundraising success. Without online ambassadors and a smart strategy, it’s not likely you’ll meet your goals.

What happened? Why is it that your fundraising campaigns continue to fall short of their goals? Chances are, it’s not the platform’s fault (and you probably know that).

Without a single exception, every online fundraising campaign this author can think of was successful when the organization did the following three things (and did them well):

  1. Invested in attractive, user-friendly online giving infrastructure (that’s the shiny new platform your org just purchased).
  2. A robust online ambassador program.
  3. A content strategy led by smart staff.

When the above three things are done well, the organization running the campaign has always met or exceeded its goals. Every. Single. Time. When the organization cuts corners on strategy or doesn’t have an online ambassador program, the success rate drops significantly.

So, when investing in a good online giving or crowdfunding platform (and you should, campaigns are rarely successful without good infrastructure) make sure you’re saving budget to build a strategy that includes online ambassadors and content production so those ambassadors have something to share.

Justin Ware helps nonprofit clients build online and social media fundraising strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. On Thursday, March 20, he’ll be hosting a FREE webinar on the topic. To register, click here.

Alumni Participation Will Continue to Affect US News Best Colleges Rankings

Alumni participation's influence on the US News rankings is something development professionals should be celebrating.

Alumni participation’s influence on the US News rankings is something development professionals should be celebrating.

I have great news for higher education development professionals – alumni participation will be affecting the US News & World Report rankings for quite some time! So stop what you’re doing and start celebrating!!

Why, might you ask, is this such a great thing? Because thanks to online and social media, you now have direct control over boosting your alumni participation. With a smart, ambassador-led or crowdfunding-focused strategy, you can drive a significant uptick (1 percent or more) to your institution’s overall alumni giving participation.

Really. Our clients do it all the time. Here’s how:

Build a Robust Online Ambassador Program:

An strong online ambassador program is the single best thing you can do when it comes to increasing new donor participation. During online ambassador fundraising campaigns BWF has either helped produce or has learned about, on average 40 percent of donors who participate in online campaigns are new donors. And we’re not talking about 40 percent of a few dozen donors. We’re talking several hundred or several thousand new donors. Here’s a quick rundown of successful ambassador-led campaigns:

  • UMass Amherst – UMassGives: 1,588 donors during 36-hour campaign (1,056 new, 626 were students)
  • Florida State’s Great Give #1: 1,100+ donors during the 36-hour campaign (380 new)
  • Columbia’s Giving Day #1: 4,940 donors during the 24-hour campaign (Approx. 2,000 new)

People learn of causes to support via social media:

Generally speaking this is true for all nonprofits, but it holds true in higher ed, too. A recent Georgetown University/Waggener Edstrom study found that social media is – by far – the number one way even marginally active online users learn of new causes to support.

So, knowing that statistic, it makes perfect sense that online ambassador programs are so crucial to acquiring new donors. Using a dedicated group of ambassadors to disperse your fundraising asks online spreads those asks out to new potential donors your school or organization had no way of contacting before the campaign. And because people trust a friend’s recommendation above all other forms of advertising, when those ambassadors ask their peers to give, they do.

Donors you acquire online are more likely to become major gift donors: 

Consider this the double bonus of online-acquired donors – they have higher household incomes, give more over their lifetimes, and give larger gifts when compared to those who make their first gift via mail. So, not only will all those new donors boost your US News & World Report ranking, but they’ll also help you close the gap on your overall dollar goal for major campaigns and everything in between. Which, unlike the US News rankings, it TRULY something worth celebrating. 😉

Justin Ware is the author of this post and Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To learn more about the services Justin provides, click here.

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 Forbes.com. 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

Double Your Fundraising By Asking Donors NOT to Give [STUDY]

Make 2013 the year online giving takes off for your nonprofit.Want to double your online giving results? Simple …just make it easy for your donors not to give.

As counterintuitive as that sounds, a recent study highlighted in this John Haydon blog post tells us that giving donors an option to give and NOT to give actually doubles the likelihood they will donate.

It’s called the “But You Are Free” approach to a giving ask. In other words, along with saying “Please donate by clicking here” you would also want an adjacent button that says “You are free not to give by clicking here.” (The approach worked best face-to-face, but also worked well when done via email)

So NOW what??

From an online giving standpoint, the next logical question is …if someone clicks on the “But you are free not to give” option, where does that link take them? Do you ask them to instead share some content via a social network or email? Ask them to ask their friends to support the cause? …redirect the to a homepage? …or end of story, do nothing at all? I think this makes for a great conversation, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or online at Twitter or LinkedIn.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build online engagement and fundraising strategies.

3 Tips for AFTER #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday Logo 2013It’s the day after #GivingTuesday and your organization is flush with first-time donors. You had a strategy to boost participation and acquire new donors. That strategy worked great, but now what? After a big online fundraising rush comes the real work of retaining those new donors. The following are a few tips to help you turn someone’s online impulse to give into a lifetime of support for your mission.

Thank first time donors: They’re online donors and so far, that’s the only way they’ve supported your organization. So be sure you thank them in a clever, engaging, and (most importantly) online way. Be ready with a brief, funny or heartwarming, and shareable video that reinforces their gift and makes them want to give more. Produce an infographic you can share with these new donors …a top ten list of why their support is so important …an email from someone who’s benefitted from your mission. Something, anything online that catches their attention and thanks them in a way that leaves them wanting more.

…but don’t forget about mail. Studies tell us dual channel (online and mail) donors give more money per gift and over time. That’s especially true when the donor receives follow up information from the nonprofit via both mail and online. So send them a welcome packet in the mail. Then study their response. Is online the only way they continue to interact? If so, significantly reduce the amount of mail they receive going forward. Then, reallocate those savings from reducing your mail program to add more staff and technology to support your online stewardship. Obviously, you should thank all your donors who give on #GivingTuesday. Be sure to have a unique plan for the first-timers who’ve come to support your organization via the web.

Steward through great content marketing: With all we know about the power of good content and how it moves donors to give more often and acquires new donors, you should have a solid content marketing strategy in place already. With an influx of new donors from #GivingTuesday, it’s especially important you’re producing and/or sharing good content to tell your story and reinforce their intent to support your organization.

This is another component of retention. New online donors will often visit your website, Facebook page, or blog to learn more about what you do. It’s imperative you have a rich set of content ready to greet those new, curious donors and steward them toward becoming more entrenched supporters.

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns.

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns. Use #GivingTuesday to find more of these ambassadors who will support your mission in future online campaigns.

Find new online ambassadors: Chances are, some influential social media users gave to your organization on #GivingTuesday. In your thank you message(s), ask for the donors’ Twitter handles, Facebook profile URL, blog URLs, website links, etc. Then, review their submissions to find social media users with large online followings. There’s a decent chance many of these social media savvy new donors wield influence online and can help you raise more money during upcoming giving days and online campaigns. Identify these potential online ambassadors and build them into your online fundraising and stewardship strategies.

Justin Ware helps nonprofits build successful online fundraising and stewardship programs. To learn more about Justin’s work at Bentz Whaley Flessner, click here.

Three Reasons Why You Want to Do More Online in 2014

It’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to next year’s budget. As for that budget, it should include money for online and social media under the communications heading. If it already does include budget for online and social, unless you’re beating all your fundraising goals (online and off line), it should include more money this year.

Why? I’m glad you asked. The following are three, statistically-backed reasons why you want to be doing more online to boost your fundraising in the next 12 months and beyond…

New donor acquisition: Well-run online fundraising campaigns are absolute juggernauts when it comes to acquiring new donors. A recent, informal BWF survey of mostly higher education institutions found that, on average, 40 percent of the donors who give during online ambassador-driven campaigns are new donors. While we haven’t crunched the numbers yet, when it comes to the healthcare examples we know of, that number is even higher.

Online Donors Give Bigger Gifts Than Those Acquired Via Mail

Online Donors Give Bigger Gifts Than Those Acquired Via Mail – Blackbaud, 2011

And here’s the thing – we’re not talking about 22-year-old donors who can barely make ends meet …online-acquired donors have higher household incomes, are more educated, and give larger gifts than donors acquired via mail. And, they’re not just kids. For everyone under age 65, online is now the primary method they use to make their first gift.

Stewardship: A good social media content marketing strategy helps donors understand how their gifts make a difference. The more you share that story online, the more their decision to give and give again is reinforced. That’s true for donors at all levels. Good social media content marketing is a major component of modern donor stewardship.

But what about stewarding major donors? Online and social media are just too impersonal, right? Not if you don’t want it to be. Check out this wonderful thank you video from Cornell to a generous supporter. Not only does content like this recognize the donor it honors, but that donor can easily share this video with their connections – many of whom are potential major donor prospects themselves. Content marketing is just as, if not more powerful in your major donor stewardship programs as it is for the annual fund.

Dayton's "I Love UD" campaign raised $1.7 million from more than 3,000 donors in one month.

Dayton’s “I Love UD” campaign raised $1.7 million from more than 3,000 donors in one month.

You’ll raise money! By now, you’ve probably heard about Columbia University’s back-to-back $6.9 million and $7.8 million 24-hour campaigns. But have you also heard about how the University of Dayton raised $1.7 million in one month through an online ambassador program? …or how Georgetown used gamification to raise more than $500,000 in 27 hours? …or how the University of Massachusetts Amherst exceeded the entire previous year’s worth of student giving in a day and a half? You don’t have to be an Ivy League school to raise big money online. All you need is a smart online and social media strategy that’s connected to a well-planned online fundraising campaign.

Now that you know you should must increase your investment in online and social media for fundraising, where should you allocate that investment? Below are three tips that will help you raise more money now and long-term.

An online ambassador program: Identify, engage, steward, and leverage your most influential online supporters to boost your online fundraising and awareness-building activity. Use smart tech, dedicated personnel to managing the program, and treat your ambassadors like the valuable volunteers they are… ALL YEAR LONG. Not just leading up to a fundraising campaign.

Better online infrastructure: Ease of use is enormous. You must be sure that your online giving process is as attractive, trusthworthy-seeming, and effortless as possible. Give donors the ability to make a gift from where ever they feel comfortable online – from email, on a mobile device, or via social networks like Facebook. Good tech (when coupled with a good communications strategy) is always worth the investment.

Personnel to create and manage an online strategy: You need a detailed social media strategy that delineates how your online and social media is going to help you reach your goals. This is not guesswork anymore. There are experienced professionals (and consultants!) who know what it takes to raise more money online. Hire them and build a strategy to help you increase online and social media fundraising in 2014 and beyond!

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Learn more about how he helps clients raise more money online by clicking here.

Integrating Social Media with Traditional Media Relations

Social media works best when it’s integrated with traditional media relations efforts, such as news releases and news conferences. The inverse is also true. Which is why I love this example of social media informing media relations from the University of Toronto.

Instagram News Release from the University of Toronto

Instagram News Release from the University of Toronto

Social media managers need content … Schools and other nonprofit organizations need to connect with their constituencies in new ways … media outlets like TV stations and newspapers appreciate having content that represents their viewers. A strategy that produces news releases like the above example from the U of T accomplishes all of that and more.

Essentially, this is a retroactive user-submitted content campaign. Instead of promoting a contest and hoping that your community will snap pictures or shoot videos for you, the U of T went in after the fact and mined the stream of Instagram photos using the hashtag #UofT. The result was a number of beautiful images that represent campus life which can be used for media relations, student recruitment, donor relations …really, anything that requires a communication element.

Have you had similar success with user-generated content contests? If so, share them in the comments below, on Twitter by tagging @BWF_social, or on the BWF Facebook page.

Interested in developing a content strategy that leads to real online fundraising success? Connect with BWF’s Justin Ware by clicking here.

Instagram Metrics – Statigram Offers a Quality, Free Option

Measure, measure, measure. No social media strategy is complete without the ability to test your activity. To do so, requires access to useful and meaningful metrics. For Instagram users, a good and affordable (free) option is Statigram.

Tracking content for engagement is key to future content planning. In its simplest form, that means counting the number of likes, comments, and shares something receives. Statigram does that… (Sidenote: my dog is FAR more popular on social media than I am)

Statigram tells you which of your Instagram photos have received the most likes.

Statigram tells you which of your Instagram photos have received the most likes.

If it’s discussion you’re after, Statigram gives you that data, too…

Number of comments signal more engaging content than number of likes.

Number of comments signal more engaging content than number of likes.

Beyond the basics, Statigram digs deeper into the modifications you make to your photos. Filters are one of the reasons Instagram is so popular. Statigram organizes engagement data around your photos to paint an easy-to-read picture of which filters correlate with the most likes…

You might consider using different filters based on which ones garner the most attention.

You might consider using different filters based on which ones garner the most attention.

Similar info is available to help you understand which tags attract the most Instagram eyes…

Statigram tells you which tags are most popular overall and for your specific pictures.

Statigram tells you which tags are most popular overall and for your specific pictures.

You might also want to use Statigram for account maintenance and remove the dead beats who aren’t following you back. No reason to clog up your feed with an Instagrammer who’s not interested in what your posting (unless you REALLY like their stuff, of course)…

See who you follow, but doesn't follow you back and more...

See who you follow, but doesn’t follow you back and more…

Those are some of the most valuable data sets I’ve discovered using Statigram. I’d be curious to know …what do you find most useful in measuring Instagram activity? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking here.

Learn more about how BWF helps its clients raise more money and acquire more donors by clicking here.