Multi-channel Fundraising Strategies for Huge EOY Results

“Crowdfunding?! Are you crazy?! Donors have their plans set for how they give at EOY! We’d only get new donors that don’t renew!”

Nonprofit fundraisers have a love/hate relationship with crowdfunding. But let’s take a step back and look at crowdfunding as a component to a robust, multi-channel, end-of-calendar-year campaign.

In this post we’ll break down a multi-channel EOY strategy that includes:

  • Solicitations built on a crowdfunding backbone to appeal to unique donor interests while still filling the general fund coffers
  • Targeted email strategy to get donors to click
  • Peer-to-peer or “online ambassadors”
  • Facebook Ads to expand your EOY campaign’s reach to new audiences

Create multiple crowdfunding pages that align with your end of year priorities.

Crowdfunding projects are specific & targeted, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be unrestricted. Dig into what your unrestricted funds do. Say there are 3 main priorities of the fund – create a page for each one! Tell stories of how those priorities have impacted lives of those you serve. Then you get the specificity and transparency of crowdfunding, and an opportunity for your donors to show you the unique reasons they give and why they care.

Once you’ve created those pages…how do you get donors there? We can rely on digital channels for the execution as well.

Create a segmented email plan directing donors to crowdfunding pages.

Donors prefer short emails. Email is no longer the place to tell your story, but a place to incite an action. So how do we convince the donor to give? Those crowdfunding pages you just created!

This page set up give you the room to tell your story in an easy to consume, visual manner. With your unique stories broken out in different pages, you already have the content needed for email. Use the most compelling information in the email in order to inspire the click to the page to learn more. Then segment your donor list and send the individuals to just one of the pages you’ve created.

Identify ambassadors.

Today’s fundraising will always be stronger with a peer-to-peer component. Although EOCY projects are more institutional, make sure you have real people champion this project. Consider using really active donors or volunteers. If you have the budget – use a social listening tool to find people who really care about your mission! The best ambassador is one who has supported you in the past and has strong online influence – via social media or good email contacts. Email from the ambassadors is a critical channel alongside your institutional email.

Be active on social media! But don’t rely on organic reach.

Your donors (and potential donors) are on social. Hopefully many of them follow you! But even those who follow you may not see all your posts, depending on their history of engagement with your page. Facebook ads will ensure more people see your posts. At a minimum, consider ads that go out to those who you are already emailing. The ads will act as a marketing reminder to those who have already received your email. If you’re looking to expand your networks, consider Custom Audiences.

Crowdfunding is more than the reactive campaigns, the restricted campaigns, the campaigns that only bring in mom, dad, and grandma donors of the project teams; it is a structure of giving that provides the story behind the gift that today’s donors demand.

We’re at a point where there are multiple digital channels for your fundraising office can leverage. For your EOY campaigns, make sure you’re taking full advantage of all of the digital channels at your fingertips!

Interested in a targeted multi-digital-channel strategy for your EOCY or other upcoming campaigns? Click here and fill out our contact form to schedule a strategy session.

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End of Year Fundraising with Online Ambassadors

Emails sent from online ambassadors perform 312 times better than the exact same email that is sent with the institution as the sender.

Seriously, this 2015 Blackbaud study found ambassador-sent emails convert 25 percent of the time, while the same email sent from the institution converts .08 percent of the time. It almost makes you wonder if we should bother sending e-solicitations from anyone but online ambassadors?

With that in mind, below are three tips for incorporating ambassadors, influencers, and advocates to close out the 2017 calendar year

Set up ambassadors with personal online campaigns

First things first, you need to identify and engage a strong group of online ambassadors. (Online ambassadors are your digitally-focused, social media-active volunteer advocates). Use technology to do this. The cost is almost always $10,000 or less (donor list size dependent) and the return is typically many factors of X above the investment. Our clients are finding Attentive.ly is an effective platform for this work.

You also need an engagement plan for getting the ambassadors on board and energized.

Use video, email, webinars, and live boot camps to fire up this core base of online supporters. Then, connect them to targeted online fundraising campaigns and task them with raising awareness. Either do this en masse or individually, depending on the ambassador (specifics coming up in the next section)

Make it easy to donate a holiday gift list

BirthdayFundraiserCrop2

Donating a person’s birthday is quickly catching on as a hot trend in online fundraising. And Facebook is one of those platforms leading the charge.

The concept is worth considering near the holiday season. “For this Christmas season, please donate to my favorite charity in lieu of gifts…” or “With the new year approaching, I want to be sure this important cause has the funds to advance our goals in 2018, so I’m giving my gift before December 31st.”

Just like with any fundraising walk or run, be sure you have good technology that allows each donor to easily create their own personal, donation-driving giving pages.

And be sure you include major donors in this strategy. Finding online ambassadors with major gift potential can lead to campaigns like this one from Marquette: (click here for the story) This is a highly individualized approach to online ambassador fundraising and will be your most lucrative peer-to-peer campaigns when done right.

Overlay social listening on your donor database to learn more about what drives you most capable donors online. Then build a cultivation and solicitation strategy with this new, digitally-acquired information at the forefront. For those major donor prospects whose online behavior profiles suggest a December campaign might be of extra significance to them, consider working with them to offer up a match or challenge that will lead to big gifts at every level to close out the year.

Thanksgiving hashtag drives

#Tweetsgiving still reigns as one of the best examples of a hashtag-based fundraising campaign. In 2008, Epic Change got its start as an organization through a brilliant hashtag campaign. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the nascent Epic Change team asked supporters to post tweets stating why the Twitter user is thankful, using the hashtag “#Tweetsgiving.”

TweetsgivingHashtagThe campaign went viral with many thousands of Twitter users jumping in on the action. Periodically, a group of ambassadors and Epic Change members would insert tweets with a link to their fundraising page to build a school in Tanzania. Within a few short days, the group raised more than $10,000, had enough to build the school, and laid the groundwork for the Epic Change organization.

As this holiday season approaches, consider creating a hashtag to unite your followers in conversation. Or, “hijack” an existing hashtag related to your mission. Using the #GivingTuesday tag, is a widely-known example, although finding something more directly related to your cause, such as “#CleanEnergy,” “#EndGunViolence,” or “#AdoptaPet” can add thousands of new viewers to your message and donors to your database.

Would you like to learn more about building online ambassador programs to boost fundraising? Send us your name and email below and we’ll get back to you shortly. Thanks!

Getting Noticed on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a powerful swell of support for philanthropy across the world. With over 1.5 million gifts given last year, it’s clear donors are paying attention. Make sure your content helps your mission stand out on Giving Tuesday!

Check out our video below for three tips for outstanding #GivingTuesday content, even with the smallest of budgets.

Do you need help planning your biggest #GivingTuesday yet? …or launching your first? No one has planned and launched more online giving days that Groundwork Digital. Fill out your contact info below and we’ll get back to you with a free, 30-minute #GivingTuesday consultation.

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.

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.