I Love UD – Another Online Ambassador Campaign Nets Million Dollar Results

ILoveUDHomepageBannerAnother online ambassador program has resulted in a 7-figure-plus fundraising campaign for a higher education institution. This time, it’s the University of Dayton and their I Love UD campaign. In addition to the spectacular fundraising haul and large number of new donors acquired (27 percent of the 3,016 donors were making their first ever gift to Dayton), this online campaign had a strong focus on donor retention. Chad Warren, the brains behind Florida State’s inaugural Great Give goes into detail about I Love UD’s donor retention plan …a plan that was built into the campaign. For specific tips on retaining new donors during online campaigns, start watching at about the 3-minute mark in the video below. Or, watch the whole thing to learn more about just how awesome the first I Love UD campaign was…

To learn more about building online ambassador programs that lead to successful fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware, by clicking here.

3 Tips to Boost Your Online Fundraising in 2013

Make 2013 the year online giving takes off for your nonprofit.

By now, news of the continued, meteoric rise of online giving as detailed in this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece hardly counts as surprising. According to that piece, in the fourth quarter of 2012, online giving grew between 36 and 38 percent, depending on what you’re measuring. Hopefully, this new set of data combined with several years of data leading up to it – all showing the sharp upward trend in online giving – will convince your organization’s leadership to increase investment in online and social media. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in that situation of extra budget for online engagement, the following are three areas I suggest your bolster first:

Develop an online ambassador program: I’m convinced that you can tweet, post to Facebook, write blog posts, and what ever else until you’re blue in the face. None of those things will drive action as much as having your strongest online supporters share your org’s message with their networks of online friends. From FSU’s Great Give, to Columbia’s $6.8 million 24-hour campaign, the commonality among many successful online campaigns is the organization’s use of online volunteers to spread the news about the campaign. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out this Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report that tells us, among other things, the five most influential forms of advertising or promotion are as follows: 1) Recommendation from a friend, 2) consumer opinions posted online, 3) editorial content such as newspaper articles, 4) branded websites, and 5) emails.

So how can you build a strategy or program around something that seems so uncontrollable – the messages your followers are sharing with their friends? It’s about developing and sticking with an online ambassador program that 1) identifies potential online ambassadors, 2) has a plan in place for soliciting the help of those ambassadors, 3) continually and consistently stewards those ambassadors through good content and exclusive access to fundraising-focused webinars, and 4) includes those ambassadors in campaign communication plans.

Trust me. We’ve done this with clients and heard other orgs talk about similar projects. It works better than anything else we’ve seen when it comes to boosting online giving.

Redo your online giving infrastructure: Most organizations have room to improve when it comes to their online giving infrastructure, a.k.a. your online giving websites and forms. First and foremost, ease of use is critical in this area. Do you have any idea what your Giving Completion Rate or GCR is? Have you heard of a GCR before? If not, you might want to talk with my colleauge, Heather Greig, but I digress…

There’s a fine line between what makes for a good online giving form and a not-so good form, but I would suggest your first concern should be ease of use, both for new donors and returning donors. We work with a lot of higher ed and healthcare clients, but I believe many of the best examples exist outside of these industries. If you work in higher ed or healthcare, you might consider stepping away from your peers and looking at nonprofit industry leaders like charity: water for the best examples in online giving pages. After all, you’re competing against other nonprofits like charity: water for your donors’ dollars – not other higher ed or healthcare organizations, in most cases.


Regardless of the nonprofit sector you work in, you’re competing for your donors’ dollars with organizations like charity: water. So you better have an online giving presence that’s competitive with those organizations.

Invest in a Social Media Manager: After you’ve built an online ambassador program, you’re going to need someone to manage and engage all those peer-to-peer fundraisers working on behalf of your organization. And when you have a seven-figure increase in your online giving, you should have no problem justifying a $60,000 per year salary + benefits, right? This is part of a change in mentality when it comes to online giving and social media – IT IS NOT FREE JUST BECAUSE A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT IS FREE. Just like most things, investments are needed in staff and online infrastructure if you’re serious about increasing fundraising – both online and off – for your nonprofit.

With the right mindset and an increased investment in online and social media constituent engagement, 2013 could be your best year yet. Good luck!

Justin Ware is a fundraising consultant who specializes in online and social media engagement at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To contact Justin, click here.

Facebook for Fundraising Done Right

A recent Africa-focused charity just completed a Facebook campaign that should serve as the blueprint for how to run a successful online campaign. Childfund International ran a contest that increased the transparency of its operation, energized donors and supporters, drove up social network activity, and – perhaps most important – created online ambassadors for their mission.

In short, Childfund ran a campaign that allowed its Facebook fans a vote to send one of five finalists to Africa to witness firsthand the work being done there. The winner was David Levis – a California school teacher and Childfund sponsor since 1999 (info from this Chronicle of Philanthropy article). This online voting and recognition campaign is a brilliant way to engage and use your Facebook fans in your overall communication, stewardshop, and acquisition strategies. Here’s why…

A Window into Your Organization

Online media is a great way to pull back the shades and open your organization up to supporters and donors. Videos, photos, blog posts, and other digital media can deliver news and information about your org quickly and effectively. This helps your constituents feel more connected to your mission. The following quotes from the Chronicle story show just how effective this campaign was at opening a window for Childfund’s supporters to peer through:

“The nicest thing about it was to really see how the system worked,” Mr. Levis says. “It seems like this small, little amount of money focusing on one child, and the reality of how they have it set up is so much bigger than that.”

While Mr. Levis traveled the country, he shared his experiences through blog posts and Facebook messages to “bring all of the other sponsors, in a sense, with us.”

It’s Authentic

Here are Mr. Levis’ words on the communication he sent back while in Africa:

The trip was to “put as much communication out there as much as possible to tell the stories as real and impassioned as possible each and every time.”

There’s nothing over the top or fake about a donor telling the story of an organization in their own words. Childfund also sprang for a well-produced video to help tell that story, but the entire time the voice was Mr. Levis. Being and feeling “real” is priceless in modern communications – having a donor tell the story in their words contributes to that feeling of realness.

Creating Online Ambassadors

The success of your online efforts depend, more than any other single factor, upon the size and enthusiasm of your volunteer online ambassadors. This is the army of people who support you and are vocal about their support of your organization both online and off. The Childfund Facebook campaign created an ambassador out of Mr. Levis…

Mr. Levis said his family hadn’t been public about its charitable donations in the past, but the trip gave him a chance to talk about ChildFund with his friends, family, students, and others.

Since he returned from the trip, five of his friends have signed up to sponsor needy children…

Consider your fans and followers in social media. If even 5 percent of them brought another five supporters into your organization, what would that do to your donor acquisition numbers? Maybe that’s why we keep  hearing so much about the potential of online when it comes to acquiring new donors.

For more information on how an online strategy can boost your fundraising programs, visit BWF.com.

LinkedIn for Nonprofits

Guest post by Cheryl Black

As of February 9, 2012, LinkedIn has more than 150 million members, including executives from all the 2011 Fortune 500 companies. According to a report in SocialTimes, about half (49%) of LinkedIn members have a household income more than $100,000. In a nutshell, the site’s users are both influential and affluent.

Smart nonprofits know this and understand the potential: through LinkedIn they can build relationships with affluent donors, influential board members, and skilled volunteers. When you consider that it’s a fairly easy site to manage from a social marketing stance, the ROI is not just significant, it’s staggering.

Even with limited resources, your nonprofit organization can take advantage of LinkedIn’s resource and talent rich membership. Here’s how:

  • Claim your company page. Pages are automatically created by LinkedIn when a member lists it as their place of employment so you may already have a page. However, you need to claim it to take advantage of the other features.
  • Complete the basic information. Once you claim your page, you can update your contact info, logo, social media properties, and products/services page in about an hour, if not less.
  • Go beyond the basics. By pulling from videos, images and other information you probably already have accessible, you can give your LinkedIn company page significantly more pizzazz.
  • Update your company status. Company status updates are a new feature with few established best practices. From personal experience, I recommend updating once or twice a week and trending toward content that supports human resources needs.
  • Engage your executives. Help your executives identify a couple relevant LinkedIn Groups and give them the ongoing task to participate. Also remind them to connect with board members and other influential constituents on LinkedIn.
  • Engage your constituents. LinkedIn recently added the ability for members to insert volunteer roles the same way they list jobs. Not only does this help your volunteers leverage their experiences with you professionally, but it creates awareness of your organization with their peers.

Finally one of the many ways you can track your success on LinkedIn is through Google Analytics. Track referral traffic to your site from LinkedIn and compare it your organization’s level of activity on the site.

What other tips for using LinkedIn or tracking your success can you share?

Cheryl Black is the social media marketing specialist for Convio, a leading provider of constituent engagement solutions for nonprofits. She is a frequent speaker on fundraising, social media and marketing for nonprofits and is an active volunteer in her adopted hometown of Austin. You can read more blog posts by Cheryl and the whole Convio team on Connection Café

How Social Media Can Help Alumni Relations

Social media and nonprofit work are a pretty good fit. It’s often said that “fundraising is about relationships” and so is social media. Boom. Perfect match.

But why? What about social media makes it the Joanne Woodward to the nonprofit world’s Paul Newman?  More importantly, how do you use social media to advance your organization’s goals? There may be no better example of this match made in heaven, than how social media can be integrated into stewardship. To illustrate what is possible when social media meets good donor stewardship, let’s first read this brief story from Jeffrey Schoenherr, Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Harvard Law School, on what he points to as a recent example of good stewardship during a rough economy. (Taken from this May 2009 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education)

A colleague traveled to New York City to visit a donor who had recently lost his job in the financial industry. As a follow-up to their visit, my colleague contacted several other alumni in the industry and asked if they would be willing to talk with this alumnus about career opportunities and offer advice. My colleague also sent the donor information about alumni gatherings in the city so he could attend and build his network. That assistance has led the donor to tell my colleague that when he finds his next position, he won’t forget about how his alma mater helped. Who knows, maybe we just helped to put him on the fast track with a company.

How might we apply social media to that story to make the effort even more effective?

LinkedIn: We’ll start with the obvious. LinkedIn is about making professional connections and not much else (generally speaking). The colleague working in alumni relations could start with a simple search identifying fellow alumni who are in a related field to the displaced worker. Next, they could search the companies where those fellow alumni are employed (via LinkedIn and other resources, such as company websites) to see if there are any current openings. When an alumnus is found with an opening at their shop, reach out and make the e-introduction between them and the displaced alum. It’s nothing more than good old fashioned networking with a technological twist. And it could make all the difference for that displaced alumnus, which would, in turn, reinforce their support for the institution they’ve already given to.

Twitter: Have you ever heard the phrase “Tweet up”? It’s a meeting of Twitter friends IRL (that’s “In Real Life”) who share common interests and/or professional pursuits. In a city as diverse as New York, you can probably find a different “Tweet Up” taking place practically every hour. What are the displaced alum’s interests beyond work? Is there a volunteer mission they feel strongly about? A hobby that might connect them with others? If the displaced alum is already on Twitter, connect them with a group(s) of people who might – either directly or indirectly – help them land their next job. If they’re not on Twitter (or any social media), read the next and final tip…

Teach them to use social media: Michigan State University’s Alumni Association does a lot of nice work using social media. One great example of that work are the social media training sessions they conduct for alumni. Not only are they providing alumni a valuable resource in teaching them the basics about social media, but they’re introducing them to the tools through their own networks. It’s a great way to instantly grow your base of social media fans and followers who, thanks to the workshop, will find value in their institution through a social media connection. Especially if they’re able to use the tools and techniques learned during the workshop to advance their careers. If that’s the case, then one of those well-attended workshops could accomplish what could otherwise take months or years through basic, social media conversation management.

Some fundraising pros equate good donor stewardship with quality customer service. The above examples offer tips for how to use social media to provide the best customer service experience possible for your donors at all levels.

Like what you’re reading? Find more info on new media and philanthropy at BWF.com.

Social Media Increases Alumni Engagement more than 400%

The Thunderbird School of Global Management enjoyed a 400 percent increase in the number of donors – many of them alumni – to its annual end-of-fiscal-year campaign 2010. Everything they did that year was the same, with one exception – Thunderbird had a small team of social media managers creating and monitoring conversations with the school’s supporters for about a year leading up to the campaign.

“Alumni relations is about forming relationships,” said Thunderbird Alumni Relations Coordinator Katie Mayer. It is, and as her work proves, forming relationships via social media translates into more support for your organization. More in the video below…

For more news and information on philanthropy, visit bwf.com.

A Child’s Right focuses on a Donor’s Right

A Child’s Right, it just so happens, also knows a thing or two about a donor’s right.

If you haven’t yet, check out the new Proving It campaign from A Child’s Right – an organization dedicated to providing children who live in impoverished urban areas with clean water. The focus of “Proving It” is on philanthropic transparency. The organization doesn’t stop at telling donors what their gifts will provide, it continually updates donors on the progress being made by sharing the individual stories from each project in relatively real-time fashion. When it comes to what gets reported, this is truly a no-spin zone — the good and the bad stories all make it to the website. If A Child’s Right makes a mistake or has a problem with one of the projects, that gets reported, too. This is a great idea because…

  1. …it increases believability in the organization.
  2. …transparency like this is usually reserved for staff. Giving your donors as much information as possible is akin to making them honorary board members when it comes to the knowledge they have about the work of the org.
  3. …if the organization is honest about the good and the bad, the case for more support makes itself.
  4. …this is the Internet/social media age. The more interesting, relevant content you can provide your supporters, the stronger a connection they’ll make with your organization.

I’m looking forward to watching A Child’s Right grow with their “Proving It” campaign. If it goes half as well as I suspect it should, this “Child’s Right” campaign could lead to new standards for a donor’s right to know how their money is being used to improve the world.

A Child’s Right “Proving It”

For more news on fundraising and philanthropy, visit BWF.com

Focus on Charitable Deductions is Misplaced

President Obama’s proposed $477 billion jobs bill is making some in the fundraising world a little uneasy. In an effort to pay for the bill, the President is proposing a roll back in the amount a donor can deduct from their charitable giving – from the current 35 percent down to 28 percent for families making more than $250,000. In a Chronicle of Philanthropy article on the issue, several leaders in philanthropy were quoted and none sound too enthusiastic about the proposed legislation…

“Limiting the itemized deduction would certainly lead to a significant decrease in charitable contributions. If charities have less resources, they’ll be forced to choose between laying off employees or cutting needed services,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for Public Policy at the Jewish Federations of North America.

Whether you support President Obama’s proposal, this brings about an important point – is the only reason wealthy donors give to your organization because they want or need a write off? I would guess we all know there’s more to giving than the tax factor alone.

Donors should feel compelled to support your cause, because they believe their gift will help change the world for the better. It’s your organization’s responsibility to communicate to those donors exactly how their gifts will accomplish that change. The best major gift officers will mostly agree that they are able to bring in the big money, because donors want to do something through their organization.

Of course, a cut in the deductible amount of a gift is likely to have an impact on charitable giving. If the legislation should pass as proposed, I would encourage fund raisers to view it as an opportunity to look inward – what can we do to offset this potential negative impact on giving? How can we better communicate our message to make new donors feel compelled to give and encourage current donors to maintain their support? What tools can we use to give our constituents an open window into our operation so that they feel connected to our organization on a consistent basis? The answers lie in the tools made available through social media. Get your strategy together now so that you’re poised to offset any negative impact on fundraising. Be it new legislation, economic factors or something not yet known, when times get tough, you’ll be happy you have the strong relationships with donors you’ve built, in part, through social media. Now is the time to start building those relationships.