Giving Days Done Right with Major Donors – UCSB

When asked “which giving day do you think had the best planning and preparation?” the University of California Santa Barbara is always at the top of my short list of examples. From the theme, to messaging, to online ambassadors, to email, UC Santa Barbara does giving day as well as any institution.

give day logo
One of the most impressive aspects of UCSB’s first giving day was in the realm of major gifts – an area that is not traditionally associated with donor participation events like giving days …but then again, times are changing in philanthropy.

UCSB raised approximately $1.5 million before their April 8, 2016 #UCSBGiveDay event. This helped secure an enormous $3.72 million overall. Here is the breakdown:

  • $800,000+ was raised for a smart, balanced match and challenge plan. This allowed major donors to see themselves deeply connected to a grassroots campaign as sponsors of matches and challenges. The gamification provided by the matches and challenges also led to UCSB’s best single annual giving day in the school’s history as it was one of many drivers of donor activity throughout the day.
  • $600,000+ was raised for large “seed” gifts. These are simply large gifts donors preferred to give prior to the day offline as opposed to making an online gift during the event.
  • In addition to the money raised from major donors before the campaign, another donor gave a $1.6 million real estate gift during the event. Because of the large gift protocol UCSB had in place, they were able to use the giving day as additional leverage for locking down and promoting this large gift during the event.

Big giving from major donors during a giving day doesn’t happen by accident. UCSB had success with their large gift donors, because development department leadership made the giving day a priority. The enthusiasm that started at the top with Associate Vice Chancellor Beverly Colgate trickled down through the entire department and energized gift officers to use the giving day as another tactic for engaging and re-engaging their donors and prospects. The results speak for themselves: more money for giving day and major donors who were excited to be part of an exhilarating event.

Major donors were thrilled to be part of such the highly visible, successful #UCSBGiveDay fundraising event.

Major donors were thrilled to be part the highly visible, successful #UCSBGiveDay fundraising event.

Just as a reminder, here is why you want to get the major gifts program involved well before you launch your giving day.

  • Because major donors love digital and we want them to be happy:
    • 85 percent of all millionaires use social media, text messaging, and smart phone apps (Fidelity Investments)
    • 55 percent of affluent individuals use mobile pay. That’s compared to 40 percent of the general population and 52 percent for Millennials. (Accenture) That’s right – major donors as a group are more likely than Millennials to pay for a cup of coffee with their iPhone.
  • Giving days are a HUGE celebration of an institution and philanthropy. When major donors are at the center of such a vibrant event, they feel good. (That’s why we say giving days offer major donor stewardship opportunities)
  • Matches and challenges drive small gift giving. According to The Why Axis, by Uri Gneezy and John List, donors are 20 percent more likely to give when a match is in play.

Majors donors love online giving … big gifts drive small gift activity … digital campaigns offer another point of engagement, cultivation, and solicitation for major donors … the reasons for building major donors into your next giving day are many. Be sure you major gifts team is ready to seize this opportunity.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder – a Ruffalo Noel Levitz platform. Justin can be reached via email at justin.ware@scalefunder.com or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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Building a 4-stage Online Ambassador Program — Stage 3: Deployment

This is part 3 in a four-part series that details ScaleFunder’s four-stage online ambassador program building process process. Before continuing, be sure you’ve read part 1 by clicking here and part 2 by clicking here.

OK – the hard part is over. You’ve found potential ambassadors, engaged them and solidified their support of your peer-to-peer program – now it’s time work with them for marketing and fundraising purposes.

Deploying ambassadors for marketing and fundraising success

Software shows sophistication.

Budgets are tight, we understand, but as we explained in part 1 of this series, online ambassadors can bring about a significant return on investment. So, make a bigger investment for a bigger return, right? Moreover, your ambassadors are often important supporters, such as board members or celebrity alumni – it’s important you provide them with elegant tools that are enjoyable as opposed to maddenly frustrating when it comes to user experience. To that end, there are different platforms for different purposes and investing in at least one will greatly help your chances of success through online ambassadors.

If broader marketing (not necessarily fundraising) is your top objective, consider platforms like SocialToaster and ReadyPulse. Those are just two examples of software services that engage your ambassadors and deploy them through easy-to-use content distribution mechanisms across most social media platforms. Each platform is different, but generally speaking, tools like SocialToaster and ReadyPulse allow you to directly send and/or receive content from online ambassadors to be shared with their communities of faithful followers. Ordinarily, these tools require the ambassador to authorize through at least one social media network, which allows your organization to interface with the ambassador’s accounts and profiles and share content directly via those ambassador accounts. It’s a great way to expand your message to new communities in an authentic-feeling way, because the posts appear to come directly from the ambassador, as opposed to an institutional account.

If fundraising is your top concern, you will want a platform that tracks and quantifies this data. Surprisingly, such a feature set has been missing in the nonprofit space – that is until we at ScaleFunder launched our Giving Day module [link] earlier this month. Through the platform, we provide ambassadors with personal URLs that quantify the impact of an ambassador’s sharing activity by tracking the number of individual gifts and total dollars given through a specific share link. This is important, because it allows you to understand the true fundraising ROI of your ambassador program and make adjustments to enhance the program based on real fundraising returns.

Produce great content.

It might be tempting to get lazy with content, especially if you have online ambassadors who initially appear willing to share anything you send them. But resist this temptation. Spend time creating worthwhile videos, eye-caching graphics, and rich written content. Not only will your ambassadors more enthusiastically share this content, but their followers will more aggressively consume and act on good content.

Track and learn from your ambassador data.

Which online ambassadors raise the most? Which appear to have wealthy networks? Who are the most active online ambassadors? Just as is the case with offline volunteer programs, you’ll want to quantify the return on this activity for the following reasons:

  • Rewarding ambassadors – Gamification is a key driver of online activity and that behavior seems to be especially true among highly active ambassadors. Encourage your ambassadors to share frequently and sincerely by rewarding them for their sharing activity. More on this in Part 4 of this series.
  • Adjusting content strategy – Which posts led to the most sharing? What tone and format of content brought in the most donors and/or dollars? Data driven content strategy is easy – do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. The key is having software that clearly tells you what messaging is effective and what isn’t.
  • Adjusting your ambassador program to fit your most influential and effective online ambassadors – The most popular content might not necessarily be the best content. This is why it’s important to look at both marketing and fundraising metrics. In the end, most of us will ultimately be judged by the performance of our development program. So find your top performing ambassadors, determine what they want out of a program by reading the data surrounding their activity, and adjust the ambassador program based on the behavior or your top performing ambassadors.

To learn more about technology to support ambassador programs, contact me, ScaleFunder’s VP of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware, at justin.ware@scalefunder.com.

Building a 4-stage Online Ambassador Program — Stage 2: Engagement

Before reading this post, be sure to check out Stage 1 in this four-part series on identifying potential ambassadors by clicking here.

All caught up? Great! Now let’s talk about engaging and on-boarding your potential online ambassadors.

At this point, you’ve developed a list of your online supporters who have a good degree of influence over online communities, be it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) or email. Next up is the crucial step of inviting them into the program and having them accept their responsibilities as online ambassadors for your institution or organization.

Today’s topic – engaging potential online ambassadors

Pick up the phone!

Sometimes new-school tactics require old-school approaches. This is certainly true of engaging your soon-to-be online ambassadors. While email and web login are mandatory aspects of most ambassador programs, some of the best performing peer-to-peer programs are built around person-to-person invitations. Often this one-on-one engagement takes place over the phone.

One great example of going one-on-one over the phone to invite ambassadors comes from Wabash College in Indiana. Before Wabash’s first giving day in 2014, Wabash Associate Dean for College Advancment, Joe Klen picked up the phone more than 180 times to recruit 175 online ambassadors who were instrumental in the day’s success. Not only did more than 2,200 donors give nearly $500,000 to the tiny school, but the ambassadors were so active that “Wabash” was trending on Twitter along other slightly more well known names like “Netflix” and “Charles Barkley.” Not bad for a school with fewer than 20,000 emailable alumni. (To read more about and watch a video on Wabash’s ambassador effort, click here.)

Tweet them!

To engage ambassadors on social media, first warm up the relationship by conversing with the potential ambassadors on their social network(s) of choice.

To engage ambassadors on social media, first warm up the relationship by conversing with the potential ambassadors on their social network(s) of choice.

If someone is active and supporting your organization on a social network, then it makes sense that you would use that network to engage them. This is especially useful if you don’t have an email or phone number for this supporter.

But be careful – you don’t want to use social media to spam or uncomfortably surprise someone. Before asking your active social media supporter to be an ambassador, warm up the conversation by retweeting them, commenting on their blog posts, or sharing their Facebook photos. Get to know the potential ambassador before using social media to ask for their support as an ambassador.

Be clear!

It’s likely you want something specific from your ambassadors – perhaps it’s supporting a giving day, expanding awareness of your mission, driving an email campaign – whatever it might be, make it clear to your ambassadors what you’ll be asking of them in the near and long-term. Give them an idea of how many emails you’ll be sending them, make them aware of any software they’ll be using, and reinforce their importance by clearly stating how impactful online ambassador activity can be in accomplishing your mission.

Additionally, it’s wise to have some rules for the ambassador game. Do you require ambassadors to state they are digital advocates of your organization in their profiles? Better let them know. Is there a minimum amount of posting activity to remain in the program? If so, your ambassadors show know what that threshold is and what happens if they don’t maintain that level. Along with basic rules for decent online decorum, give your ambassador guidelines that will help both your organization and the ambassadors themselves.

Give them a job!

Once an ambassador has agreed to be part of your program, give them something to do as soon as possible. This will help cement the program in their mind as part of their normal, daily digital routine. If too much time lapses between engagement and deployment (more on deployment in a later post) ambassadors might forget their purpose and not perform the desired sharing activity.

To learn more about technology to support ambassador programs, contact me, ScaleFunder’s VP of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware, at justin.ware@scalefunder.com.

Building a 4-stage Online Ambassador Program — Stage 1: Identification

A lot has been revealed in recent years about the power of friends asking friends to support their favorite nonprofits online. In higher education in particular, we at ScaleFunder have experienced massive online giving success when this peer-to-peer or “online ambassador” activity has been deployed in support of digital efforts such as giving days.

40 percent of donors who give during online giving days are new. Source: BWF.com

For example, did you know that according to a Bentz Whaley Flessner study, during online ambassador-led giving day efforts, 40 percent of the donors who gave were new? (New = either first time or long-lapsed donors to the institutions) Or how about the fact that for younger donors, a peer recommendation is one of the most important factors in making a gift? (Multiple studies) Or how, according to a 2013 Georgetown University/Waggener Edstrom study, the large majority of Internet users first learn of a new cause to support through their online friends’ activity?

So yeah, peer-to-peer or online ambassador activity is important. Fortunately, we at ScaleFunder have developed a four-stage process for building a robust online ambassador program. This blog is the first of four that highlights each of the steps.

Today’s topic — identification of potential ambassadors.

For those with a big enough budget, there is software that can be leveraged to scan your email database and return data on which of those emails are connected to social media accounts. And if you have the extra budget, this is a wise move. But new software is not absolutely necessary — especially in the early stages of building your ambassador program. At a minimum, ScaleFunder recommends you start your ambassador program with a list of about two dozen sure-fire heavy digital hitters. Think of this as your board of ambassadors. (But that doesn’t mean they need to be board members!)

To arrive at your list of top-line ambassadors, we suggest the following three-step approach:

Select those you assume might be ambassadors…

This group is made up of the young board member who is VP at their digital agency and is always online. Or the baby boomer who got hooked on Facebook to follow their grand kids, but then realized they could have a high school reunion every day on the platform. The personas are varied, but you can probably think of a few off the top of your head. And you know these potential ambassadors are always using social media, because you follow them on twitter and LinkedIn. (Because, of course, at least someone who engages with donors is heavily active in social media …right?)

Some of the easiest to engage early ambassadors are those who you can safely assume use digital media to engage about your cause or institution. In many cases, you might have had conversations with them about their digital support of your mission. This group should be instrumental in populating your first list of potential online ambassadors.

Select those you observe who appear to be ambassadors…

The person who likes AND comments on every. Single. Post. You know who these social media users are, because you can’t not know. Their constant following and engaging with your social media is unavoidable and out there for everyone to see. And this is a good thing, because by observing their digital behavior you have identified some potential online ambassadors. Add them to the list.

Finding ambassadors through ambassadors…

After you’ve engaged and onboarded the first group of ambassadors who you identified through assumption and observation, then work with this small, but growing group to expand the program. Online ambassadors often know others who would make good ambassadors. Ask them to recruit their connections to grow your program.

Using the above tactics, any organization of any size should be able to develop a strong core unit about about 15 to 25 online ambassadors. That is more than enough to get started and the only investment is your staff’s time.

Product update — ScaleFunder’s Giving Day module (Launching February 29, 2016 with Washington State University’s #CougsGive) includes an online ambassador toolset that tracks the real fundraising ROI of your ambassadors. For the first time, nonprofits now have access to a Giving Day platform that not only deploys ambassadors, but provides data on exactly how much each individual ambassador brings in during the event. To learn more, contact me, VP of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware, at justin.ware@scalefunder.com.

The ROI of Investing in Digital for Fundraising

Why should you invest in digital media for fundraising? In short, because you like seeing lots of new donors, high retention, and engaged major gift donors for your organization. But we did say “invest in digital media.” So what is the cost of achieving those attributes of online and social media fundraising? Read on to see the cost and ROI breakdowns on investments in digital media for fundraising work…

New donor acquisition happens when you have inspiring, infectious online events.

For higher ed, the infectious event is a giving day. For most other nonprofits – especially smaller nonprofits – it might be a regional or national event like #GivingTuesday. And what do these events cost?

  • Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    For small nonprofits who are just looking to make a splash (less than 100 gifts or $10,000 raised), the cost can be next to nothing (excluding staff time, of course). Schedule three to five emails, coordinate those emails with your social media efforts, consider a mail piece to your most engaged donors, connect with your online ambassadors (or start a small online ambassador program) to spread the asks and content online …all of this can be done in the $0 to $5,000 range for nonprofits.

  • For the mid range nonprofits – think regional NPOs, small healthcare organizations, and smaller colleges who are hoping to reach close to 1,000 donors and at least $100,000 during an event – you’re going to want to do most of the same things the small nonprofits do, but on a larger scale. To grab the bigger donor and dollar numbers, you’ll need a more thought out strategy, more well-produced content to share on social media, a bigger and more engaged group of online ambassadors, and more involvement from you major gift program. Between content production, a mail piece, and strategic planning, expect to spend between $25,000 and $50,000 if you’re looking for six figure dollar results and/or four figure donor results.
  • For the giants – think large colleges and universities, large healthcare organizations, international aid organizations, animal welfare groups, and environmental NPOs who look at anything under seven figures as failure – real investment is needed. Without naming names, the university behind one of the most successful higher education giving days in history invested north of $300,000 in technology, outside strategic counsel, and other related costs. And they raised nearly $7 million from approximately 5,000 donors.

High retention happens when you are stuck in the minds of your donors throughout the year.

When your organization’s work is burned into the psyche of your donors, they are ready and willing to act on appeals as they arrive in their inbox or their mailbox. And for a growing majority of Americans, one of the best ways to remain stuck in their minds is through good social media strategy. (Yes, the majority of Americans are now active on social media)

Easier said than done? Not necessarily, as long as you’re willing to invest in good content strategy and production.

To do content marketing well requires at least one full time position dedicated to the planning and production of content. If your digital strategy is a larger, more sophisticated effort, this content producer should be part of a team and under a more senior director-level position tasked with managing the overall digital strategy. So, for smaller organizations, think $50,ooo/year with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for equipment the first year. If yours is a larger organization and you’re not spending at least $100,000 on digital content marketing, you’re probably losing several times that amount in easy-to-grab fundraising opportunities.

Major gift donors are online and at shockingly high rates.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, check out this 2011 Fidelity Investments study that tells us 85 percent of millionaires use social media with the median age of those social media users set at 56. We’ve written about tactics to engage your highest capacity donors online. Read a couple of those posts here and here.

But for the sake of this post, how much should you invest for digital engagement of major gift donors? First, make sure you have a strategy in place. Typically that involves an outside firm (like BWF_social) and runs from about $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the work done. As part of that strategy, you’ll want to be sure your gift officers are properly trained on using digital media, you’ll need good content to share with your major donor community, and you’ll want to appropriately leverage the online communities of willing major donors. (In other words, you’ll want to build a major donor online ambassador program). Many organizations can do this within the aforementioned $15,000 to $50,000 while some of the larger more sophisticated nonprofits will want to invest six figures+ on a digital strategy for major donors. Of course, since it is for major gift work, it shouldn’t take long for your organization to enjoy a significant return on any smart investment in digital strategy.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients build digital media strategies for fundraising success.

HOW TO Add Digital to Your Major Gift Strategy

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Should you use social media to engage your major gift prospects and donors? Absolutely!

During Washington State University’s recent #CougsGive125 36-hour online campaign (WSU is a BWF_social client), 42 donors made gifts between $1,000 and $25,000. And with research showing that wealthy individuals are active on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s important to consider that audience in your online engagement strategies.

Below is a short video with 3 ways your organization can integrate digital with your major gift strategy:

Want to learn more? Connect with BWF_social’s Justin Ware by visiting BWFsocial.com.

Why You Want to Ask Major Donors for Online Challenge Gifts

A common phrase we hear while planning online giving days and discussing major donor involvement for challenges is “We don’t want to ask major donors about giving days, because it will interrupt our solicitation process…”

Fair enough. It makes sense you wouldn’t want to jeopardize a months or years-long solicitation process for a 7-figure gift by asking someone to put up $50,000 for a matching campaign.

Many of your major donors are online and they want to hear about online fundraising camaigns.

Many of your major donors are online and they want to hear about online fundraising camaigns.

But asking for a major donor’s participation in an online celebration of fundraising — which is what good giving days are — shouldn’t be in conflict with the major gift solicitation process. It should be part of the solicitation process. And it can be part of the solicitation process if your development operation has a truly comprehensive digital strategy that guides ALL the work you do (major gifts included).

Before we get to tips for integrating major gift work with online, let’s examine a few reasons why your major gift program probably needs to start leveraging online and social media as soon as possible:

  • 85 percent of all millionaires use social media. (Source: 2011 Fidelity Investments study)
  • Online donors have higher household incomes than donors who only give offline. (2011 Blackbaud/Convio study)
  • Online-acquire donors give twice the size of gifts compared to donors acquired via mail. (Blackbaud/Convio study)

Just this week, BWF_social enjoyed watching a real world example of how big gift donors love great online fundraising. Washington State University (a BWF_social client) launched its #CougsGive125 event on March 26-27. The 36-hour event was an enormous success with more than $300,000 raised, entirely online. Part of that $300,000 came via approximately 30 gifts of $1,000+. These large, $1,000+ gifts were not directly solicited — they simply came in through the #CougsGive125 website. Fortunately, part of the WSU giving day strategy included a “large gift protocol” that involved connecting with the $1,000+ donors by alerting their assigned gift officers to the big online gifts (when applicable) so they could thank the donors and learn more about their gift. This reactive strategy to big donors who love online giving worked, as many of the donors reached were thrilled to have the immediate response.

In addition to the sheer number of big gifts, we were also amazed by:

  • The number of donors giving big online gifts who graduated before 1960.
  • The number of donors giving big online gifts who never gave to WSU prior to the giving day. (In other words, the #CougsGive125 campaign led to new major donors)

As you can see from the stats and story above, major gift donors — even those in the Baby Boomer generation and older — love online fundraising. So instead of leaving them out of the giving day process to avoid interrupting a process, here are four tips to involve your biggest donors in your big online giving day:

At a minimum, let major donors know the giving day is coming up.

Work with your gift officers and relationship reps so they clearly understand the goals of the giving day. Be sure gift officers are able to answer simple questions such as “how do I make an online gift?” Ask gift officers to share news of the day with their donors and prospects well in advance. Your major gift donors should be the first to know about and clearly understand the goals for the giving day.

Mention challenge opportunities and ask if the donors would be interested in giving a large challenge gift.

This shouldn’t interfere with other asks — it should help gift officers make an ask. Develop challenge opportunities that connect with the donor’s goals. Are you looking for a $1 million gift for a new performance arts building? Do you have a donor who wants to see that building become a reality? Let your donor know you’ll use their $1 million gift to acquire 100 new donors for the performance arts program. This approach should help you secure the gift, not jeopardize it.

Develop a “large gift protocol” for big, unexpected gifts during the giving day.

Establish what amount constitutes a “large gift.” Then develop a coordinated plan for contacting and thanking the donors who give those large gifts. This is something that should take place throughout the year, not just during a giving day. An approach to recognizing large gift online donors will help you steward current major donors and find new major donors. (It did both several times over during WSU’s #CougsGive125)

Perhaps the most important tip? Don’t wait for the giving day to involve your biggest donors online.

Be sure your gift officers are online and social media savvy. This should now be a requirement for the role of gift officer. If they’re not up to speed, provide training. (It’s not hard, it just takes willingness) Build digital events into your major gift program and build a major gift program with a strong digital element. If you’re not using online to engage current and prospective major gift donors, you are leaving a significant number of donors out of your fundraising efforts. With the increasingly competitive major giving environment we now work in, that’s a risk you shouldn’t be willing to take.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social. To learn more about how he helps organizations produce digital fundraising plans that include major gift elements, click here.