The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Impact on ALS Association’s Year-end Giving

Millions of user-generated videos generated a buzz storm of awareness for the ALS Association in 2014 during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Millions of videos generated a buzz storm of awareness for the ALS Association in 2014 during the Ice Bucket Challenge.

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” led to a $115 million infusion of fundraising support for the ALS Association in late summer 2014. And those robust fundraising numbers are only part of the story.

According to the a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, end-of-year fundraising for the ALS Association is up three fold over the numbers from the year prior. In December 2013, the ALS Association processed 9,618 gifts for $1.6 million. In December 2014, those numbers jumped to approximately 44,000 gifts for $4.8 million.

Volunteer and event fundraising was also up in a big way. According to the same article, revenue from the charity’s fundraising walks brought in $32 million in 2014, up from $22 million in 2013.

According to the ALS Association, the reason for the big numbers beyond those raised during the Ice Bucket Challenge, is the buzz and awareness generated for the Association by the Challenge. Also from the Chronicle of Philanthropy article, here is what Lance Slaughter, chief chapter relations and development officer at the ALS Association had to say about communications success driven by the Ice Bucket Challenge…

“No ad campaign, no public relations push, no news coverage, no celebrity endorsement – nothing could have raised the specter of the ALS Association more dramatically than the Ice Bucket Challenge. And the result is much wider, energized, and healthy base of donor support.”

And that is why nearly every nonprofit organization needs a strong digital strategy coupled with well-promoted digital events. Sure, online fundraising events raise a lot of gifts from new donors (that should be reason enough to invest in digital strategy).  But more importantly, online is often the most powerful communication tool a nonprofit has at its disposal. Which is why now is time to invest in this channel appropriately – not just for your annual fund, but for the long-term survival of your organization. Here’s how:

Draft and implement a digital strategy

Email, social media posts, content on your website, location based activity during live events – all of this activity should be purposeful. When a strategy is produced and implemented, when everyone knows why you’re doing social media, it leads to significant boosts in several measurable categories. Dollars raised and donor acquisition are just the tip of the iceberg when a strong and coherent digital strategy is guiding the effort.

Develop an online ambassador program

It’s not just about leveraging your biggest online supporters as volunteer fundraisers – online ambassador programs are at their best when helping to communicate your organization’s message throughout the year. Stories of impact, thank you messages, information about new programs and initiatives – just like a fundraising ask, all of this content reaches a larger audience and is more effective when it is being distributed virally by online ambassadors. Remember, the Ice Bucket Challenge happened because of an unofficial online ambassador’s concept for supporting ALS research.

Invest in the best technology you can afford

Your website is your organization’s most visible (digital) facade … Your online giving form’s ease of use (or lack there of) is often the first impression your organization makes on new donors … Your digital content captures the interest of the world and tells your story to new audiences … Good online infrastructure and technology is not cheap, but can pay for itself quickly. Investment in this area is often something a major gift donor would gladly support (because the companies they own are already having success with digital). Donors expect functional, attractive online properties – don’t disappoint them.

Do the above three things. Do them now and do them well. If you’re not sure where to start, find a partner with experience (there are a growing number of us out there) and make 2015 the year you transformed your organization’s digital presence and positioned it for success in the decades ahead.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social, where he helps clients implement digital strategies that lead to successful online fundraising.

 

 

Top 5 Stories of 2014

It’s that time of year! …when bloggers seize the opportunity to be lazy and write a post that is nothing more than a list of the first five items on the analytics report.

Of course, posts make a top five list for a reason – readers just like you see value in the posts and often share those posts with their communities. So, in case you missed some of these items, here are the top five posts you and your colleagues read the most from 2014 on the Social Side of Giving blog:

  1. 10 of the Best Higher Ed Online Giving Days – An overview of 10 of the most successful giving days in higher education with notes and descriptions for many of the events.
  2. ASU Raises more than $3 Million During 2-day Online Campaign – A more detailed look at one of those leading online giving days.
  3. How to Have a $1 Million+ Giving Day at Your School – Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, giving days are a big deal. Not just because of the new dollars and donors earned through the effort, but also because online giving days are very public celebrations of philanthropy for you institution. In fact, an argument could be made that there is no better communication tool for your development program than a giving day.
  4. Colgate Raises $5.1 Million in 24 Hours with Online (Radio) – The Colgate case might be the best example of what can happen when major gift donors are included in a giving day.
  5. 3 Thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge and Slacktivism – Hey, a non higher ed story! Which makes sense, because the Ice Bucket Challenge was probably the biggest New Year Calendarstory in all of fundraising during 2014.

The success of 2014 in online fundraising has generated a TON of excitement here at BWF_social. It’s invigorating working in an industry where most of our clients and potential clients have barely scratched the surface on what is possible using digital to engage, cultivate, and steward donors at all levels. If you’ve not yet invested significantly in online development at your organization, great news – it’s a new year and you can still make up for lost time! So make 2015 the year where you transform your operation into a modern shop that enjoys immediate and significant success. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a little help along the way.

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

BWF_social’s 2014 Higher Education Giving Day Survey Results

  • Columbia’s Giving Days raised $6.8 million from 4,940 donors in 2012, $7.8 million from nearly 9,700 donors in 2013, and $11 million+ from 10,400 donors in 2014.
  • The University of Sydney’s September 2014 “Pave the Way” Campaign raised $932,000 from more than 1,000 donors.
  • Santa Clara University’s April 2014 “Power of One Day” raised $795,000 from almost 3,000 donors.

The numbers are clear—when planned well, online giving days can be enormous fundraising tools. In higher education, colleges and universities are leveraging giving days to acquire new donors, meet fundraising goals, and engage major gift supporters. But you don’t have to take our word for it…

BWF_social recently concluded a survey of 45 higher education institutions. The respondents included schools of all size and scope—from public universities to liberal arts colleges. Much like the schools, the scale of the giving days varied, but the numbers are clear—giving days equal big fundraising for nearly every school that put resources toward the effort.

To view a summary of the survey’s highlights, click on the infographic below. For the full results of the survey, click here. Wanna join the list of institutions that have conducted leading giving days? Click here to learn more about how BWF_social can help ensure a big online fundraising event for your school.

2014 BWF_social Online Giving Day Survey

 

How to Have a Successful Online Giving Day

Few people know more about creating a successful online giving day than CloEve Demmer, one of the primary architects behind both of Columbia’s massively effective Giving Days, which raised $6.9 million and $7.8 million respectively. In a recent Advancement Live webcast (embedded below), CloEve talks about how Columbia constructed their inaugural Giving Day effort in October 2012.

Higher Ed Live LogoI was also fortunate enough to take part in the Advancement Live webcast where I shared tips on creating an online giving day for your institution. From starting an ambassador program, to building affinity through content marketing, CloEve and I cover all the basics about online fundraising in this hour-long webcast. If you have the time, check it out! (Special thanks to Cornell’s Andrew Gossen for coordinating the hosting the webcast)

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. To learn more about BWF’s work in planning online fundraising campaigns, visit BWF.com.