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.

AmbassadorsStickPeeps

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.

HOW TO Build a Digital Major Gifts Program

I love it when anecdotes plus statistics lead to predictions, which then become real life case studies and finally evidential proof.

In 2012, we first witnessed major donors taking notice of online campaigns when a dozen major gift prospects made their first gifts ever to Florida State University during the school’s inaugural “Great Give.” These were prospects who had never made a gift of any size or type, but felt compelled to do so for the first time during the online giving day micro campaign. (Most gifts were made online in the $500 to $5,000 range with one coming in offline as a $100,000 pledge)

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder's crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Major gift donors and prospects often give four- and five-figure gifts through ScaleFunder’s crowdfunding and giving day modules without being specifically solicited.

Flash forward to the nearly 900 crowdfunding projects and online giving days ScaleFunder’s team has helped to launch and the refrain is similar in many cases – big gifts come from major donors and prospects, often unsolicited.

But those big gift donors should have been solicited, because we know:

  • 85 percent of millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone applications. (Fidelity Investments study of millionaire investors)
  • Online donors have higher household incomes than those who only give offline. (2012 Convio study)
  • Online-acquired donors give twice the average size of gift compared with donors acquired via mail. (2012 Blackbaud study)

The statistics tell us the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are engaged online and via social media. Past experience tells us big donors are excited by innovative online giving efforts. For these reasons, digital is quickly becoming a staple of the best major gift programs. With that in mind, here are a few tips for injecting digital energy into your traditional major gifts program:

Train gift officers to be active in the digital space

This is not a mandate that every single gift officer opens and maintains Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for engaging donors. Instead, find those gift officers who are already active online as well as those who have an interest in increasing their digital footprint for fundraising. Build a training program for the willing gift officers that helps the novices get started and the pros polish their online appearance.

The same goes for your institution’s leadership. For the right donor, having a president or chancellor comment on that donor’s Facebook photo of their granddaughter’s graduation could be monumentally effective at strengthening that donor’s affinity for the institution. Again – provide training for your administration so those opportunities can be identified and leveraged.

Provide digital opportunities for major gift donors

From offering innovative matching and challenge opportunities to branding a giving day theme in the name of a specific donor’s family, online giving campaigns can serve as virtual naming rights for your digitally active major donors and prospects. Whether it’s a giving day theme or a crowdfunding perk, think about how you might build your biggest donors into your online campaigns in visible and meaningful ways.

Create a subgroup of major donor online ambassadors

We’ve seen major donors set up crowdfunding campaigns that have brought in $60,000 in a matter of days. More importantly, those major-donor-led crowdfunding campaigns have identified new major donor prospects through the networks of the major donor ambassadors who launched the campaigns. Which makes perfect sense – major donors often have major donor prospects in their networks (online and offline). Leveraging a major donor’s support as both a donor and recruiter can more than double their impact.

Major donors are proving to us they want to be involved during online campaigns through their actions during those campaigns. On Wednesday January 20, RNL/ScaleFunder’s Vice President of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware (that’s me), led a webinar with tips and tactics for building digital into your major gifts program. Click here for the recording, slides, and infographic of that webinar.

Last Minute Tips for #GivingTuesday

I know, I know …we should have started our #GivingTuesday planning many months ago. And most of you have. But there are still a few last-second items you should consider to give your fundraising on December 1 an extra boost.

GivingTuesday Logo

The following are some quick, easy-to-implement tactics for getting the most out of #GivingTuesday:

Map out a strong email schedule

Oh, the dreaded unsubscribe. While it’s true that we don’t want to spam our donors on any channel, let alone email, too many of us are actually sending far too few emails for fear of our donors unsubscribing. But from experience, we’ve seen some of the top performing email programs sending donors, on average, one solicitation per week.

Especially on a day like #GivingTuesday, when the leading nonprofits in your region will be carpet bombing your potential donors, it’s imperative that you have a robust email strategy with several touch points across the day. That doesn’t mean you should be sloppy with your email – content still matters. So what does a good email strategy for #GivingTuesday look like? Here are a few tips:

  • Provide meaningful updates. Do you have a challenge? Keep donors apprised of your progress on a regular basis. Are you raising money for something concrete that impacts a specific person (or profile of a certain type of individual)? Send an email from that person’s personal address with a story about how a donor’s gift improves their life. Make your email about more than just the ask …while also being sure to include an ask. (It is #GivingTuesday, after all)
  • Send emails that redirect your donors and constituents to content on blogs and social media.
  • Let them know when a milestone is reached and thank them for their support in the campaign. Use this a reminder to give if they haven’t already or if they have given, remind them to share on social media and via email to encourage their friends to give.
  • Send more email than you’re comfortable sending. If a recipient is going to unsubscribe because of a #GivingTuesday ask, they probably aren’t going to become a donor anyway. Focus on an email strategy that ensures you hit every potential donor and not on the vocal minority who don’t want to see you in their inbox.

Identify at least 10 online ambassadors

If you already have 10, then find 10 more! The more individuals you have spreading buzz about your cause on #GivingTuesday, the more new donors you will connect with. Go to Twitter, search hashtags that relate to your organization’s mission, and find Twitter users who are including those mission-related hashtags in their posts. Then, analyze the Twitter users’ bios to determine if they have online influence beyond Twitter. If the answer is yes, ask them to be an ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Produce a compelling #GivingTuesday video

According to a recent Georgia Tech study on Kickstarter data, crowdfunding projects with a video perform far better than those without a video. Perhaps even more compelling, a recent Google study found that 57 percent of donors who watch a nonprofit’s video will eventually go on to make a gift to that nonprofit. 57 percent. So yeah, make sure you have a coherent and engaging video to host on your website and share via email and social networks on #GivingTuesday.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy at ScaleFunder, where clients use the ScaleFunder Crowdfunding module to launch successful #GivingTuesday campaigns.

 

Email v. Social Media

Email v. Social Media – which deserves more of your time and resources when trying to grow your donor base?

*Quick caveat here: I don’t believe in a one versus the other approach as they’re both crucially important. But in a cash-strapped world where digital content is a must, where should you focus more of your time if you want to expand your reach into segments of new donors? Let’s discuss…

Email versus Social MediaWhen it comes to conversions, email brings in far more fundraising donors and dollars that social media. After all, social media is rarely used as a solicitation channel. Facebook’s “Donate” button has yet to gain significant traction, for example.

But, social media is an incredible awareness tool and the only set of channels where a cause can quickly go viral. That’s probably why, according to this 2013 Georgetown/Waggener Edstrom study, the vast majority of those surveyed said social media is the #1 way they learn of a new cause to support. In fact, social media outpaced email by a rate of about 2 to 1 across all cohorts in the study.

And really, this makes sense when you consider how a person typically interacts with email. It’s two things – either you respond to email, because you have to (for your job) or because you REALLY believe in something. Email is deliberate – the decision to support has already been made in many cases. And according to the aforementioned Georgetown study, it’s likely that decision-making process started as a result of something you viewed on social media.

So, if you’re interested in growing your base, consider beefing up your social media presence by doing the following:

Get active on several major social media networks.

The “must list” of social networks to be active on is somewhat fluid, but Facebook is mandatory. It has, by far, the most users and the most users in the key donor demos of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Plus, despite punditry to the contrary, Millennials are still very active on Facebook, too. You’ll also want to be active on LinkedIn for the prospecting value of the professionally focused social network if nothing else. Instagram is imperative if you want younger donors and students involved.

Train your staff – especially you major gift staff. (Or hire additional staff)

Did you know that 85 percent of all millionaires use social media, text messaging, AND smartphone apps? The more money you have, the more likely it is you’re online and using social media. Be sure you have multiple staff members in every area of focus who can contribute to content production and social media conversation management.

Produce good content on a regular basis.

This doesn’t have to be overly polished content. In fact, some of our crowdfunding data at ScaleFunder suggests a highly-produced piece can actually be detrimental to the success of a fund. (More research needs to be done, but still, interesting to note…) To be effective, content needs to be coherent and connect to the emotions of the audience. Or at a minimum, fulfill a need for the audience. Do that and do it often to provide your donors with a ever-open window into your organization that keeps your mission front and center in their minds, while at the same time, extending your mission to new audiences ready to support your cause.

Justin Ware is the Vice President for Digital Fundraising Strategy with ScaleFunder. In early 2016, Justin will be helping to launch ScaleFunder’s Giving Day module and consulting services to pair with ScaleFunder’s already highly successful Crowdfunding module.