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


10 of the Best Higher Ed Online Giving Days

In case you haven’t noticed, online giving days have become kind of a big deal in higher ed. The million dollar+ day is no longer the miracle campaign only the best and most prestigious schools can accomplish. Nope, seven-figure online campaigns are becoming common place. Assuming, of course, the organization planning the campaign knows what they’re doing.

We’ve said on this blog many times – to have a successful online giving day, you need three things:

  1. Good online infrastructure (campaign landing page and giving forms).
  2. A solid, established, and consistent online and social media strategy driven by good content.
  3. A coordinated online ambassador effort.

Below are 10 of the best campaigns of the past three years. Seven of them had a version of an ambassador program, nine of them had elaborate and long-running social media strategies behind them (the only one that didn’t have a long-running strategy did have a powerful ambassador effort), and every single one had excellent online infrastructure. So without further adieu, 10 higher ed online giving days or fundraising campaigns to model your efforts after… (And I’d love to know which campaigns you think I missed. Please let me know in the comments)

Georgetown City Challenge – 2013

Purpose: Scholarship support and regional alumni engagement.

Duration: 27 hours.

  • Donors: 1,514
  • Dollars: $529,000
Gamification was the driving force behind Georgetown's successful City Challenge campaigns.

Gamification was the driving force behind Georgetown’s successful City Challenge campaigns.

Notre Dame Day – 2014

Purpose: Scholarship support.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 4,049
  • Dollars: $918,518

UMass Amherst’s UMassGives – 2013

Purpose: Increase student giving and the overall culture of philanthropy in support of UMass Amherst.

Duration 36 hours.

  • Donors: 1,588
    • 626 students gave over the 36 hours.
      • In the entire year prior, 529 students gave.
  • Dollars: $84,000

For a blog post recap of UMassGives, click here.

Washington and Lee’s Give Day — 2014

Purpose: Online giving event.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 4,300+
  • Dollars: $1.4 million.
Major gift donors played a huge role in Washington and Lee's Give Day's success by giving $650,000 in challenge grants to drive participation.

Major gift donors played a huge role in Washington and Lee’s Give Day’s success by giving $650,000 in challenge grants to drive participation.

For a blog post recap of Give Day, click here.

University of Texas at Austin 40 for Forty – 2014

Purpose: Student engagement and annual giving.

Duration: 40 hours.

  • Donors: 2,104
  • Dollars: $128,000

Boston University Giving Day – 2014

Purpose: Annual giving online campaign.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 2,872
  • Dollars: $1.11 million

Arizona State University – 2014

Purpose: Donor engagement and annual giving.

Duration: 36 hours.

  • Donors: 908
  • Dollars: $3.059 million

For a blog post recap of ASU’s campaign, click here.

Colgate’s WRCU Radio campaign – 2013

Purpose: Raise money for the school’s communication program.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors: 5,683
  • Dollars: $5.1 million

For a blog post recap of Colgate’s campaign, click here.

Columbia University’s Giving Day – 2012 and 2013

Purpose: Online fundraising campaign for annual and major giving programs.

Duration: 24 hours.

  • Donors:
    • 2012: 4,940
    • 2013: 9,700
  • Dollars:
    • 2012: $6.8 million
    • 2013: $7.8 million

For a blog post recap of Columbia’s 2012 campaign, click here.

Average numbers for all schools:

Average donor number: 3,423

Average dollars raised: $2.69 million

Average duration: 29.5 hours

Are you ready to celebrate a successful online giving day? At BWF_social, we have experience building giving days and a consulting package to ensure success for your school. Learn more by clicking here.

57% of Those Who Watch Nonprofit Videos Go On to Make a Donation

YouTube_LogoA recent survey from Google found that 57 percent of everyone who watches a nonprofit’s video will go on to make a donation to that nonprofit.

57 percent.

So, what is your nonprofit’s video strategy? As recently as 10 years ago, that question was ludicrous for a large number of cash-strapped organizations. But video is far more affordable than it used to be. High-quality cameras that provide HD video can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars. Editing software is either free or low-cost …most of us even carry phones that shoot decent video!

Below is a video from a workshop with tips to help even the most novice photographers shoot quality video that can be uploaded to sites and networks like YouTube and Facebook. It’s likely your organization has someone who could easily become a decent videographer. Think about your staff members who have active Instagram feeds or those who often post cool pictures to Facebook – they could become highly valuable video producers for your nonprofit. Get them started with the tips in the video below…

Now that you know how to shoot, the next question is, what should you shoot? Think about the following when deciding what to produce and/or post:

  • Length: Shorter is always sweeter. Remember, the total running time on YouTube videos is apparent before a person starts to watch. If you’re at your desk taking a short break, which video are you more likely to watch …the 2:00 video or the 20:00 video?
  • Authenticity: Avoid the urge to produce what looks like a traditional TV ad. Instead, deliver the message straight from the mouths of those your organization helps. Simple thank yous, like this one from The Children’s Hospital Foundation, are beyond powerful. [WARNING: grab a tissue before clicking on that Children’s Hospital Foundation video]
  • Produce videos that carry emotion. Whether it’s a deeply moving piece like this one from the Cleveland Clinic or something that makes you laugh like this video for the Rain Forest Alliance, nothing moves a donor to give more quickly that connecting with them on an emotional level.
  • Get creative: From lip dubs, to pink gloves, the viral hits are those that took a chance and did something unique. It’s video …have fun with it! 

Justin Ware is an Emmy-winning YouTube video producer who helps BWF’s clients build online and social media content strategies. To learn more, click here.

Why Investing in Social Media Leads to High ROI

Nowadays, when I’m asked “what’s the ROI on social media for fundraising?” I often respond with my own question – “that depends, what’s your investment?”

Too often, organizations put a low-level employee or intern in charge of managing a Facebook page or Twitter account and claim that they’re active on social media. If that’s the level of investment in social media at your organization, the lack of results from social media shouldn’t come as a surprise. Real results take a real investment in time and money. If your organization is serious about  making that investment, you will see a significant return. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, check out the collection of statistics in the infographic below that show just how valuable online and social media are for your awareness building and fundraising activity.


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

Nielsen Study Shows the Monumental Importance of Online Ambassadors

According to a recent Nielsen study on which types of advertising or promotion people trust most, the top five in North America are:

  1. Recommendations from someone they know.
  2. Consumer opinions posted online.
  3. Editorial content such as newspaper articles.
  4. Emails they signed up for.
  5. Branded websites.
According to Nielsen, having a trusted source recommend you organization is the best form of advertising available.

According to Nielsen, having a trusted source recommend you organization is the best form of advertising available.

In other words, if you want someone to know and trust your organization your best bet is having someone they know post something about your org online. Let that sink in for a second and then ask yourself, “do we have a plan for encouraging our more active online followers to talk about us online?” In other words, do you have an online ambassador program? Components of a good ambassador program include:

  1. Ongoing identification of potential ambassadors for both awareness building and fundraising initiatives.
  2. Stewardship of those potential and approved ambassadors through good content and smart online conversation management.
  3. A plan for contacting potential ambassadors and officially bringing them into the program.
  4. A strategy for leveraging the support of your ambassadors.

We continue to see more examples of this approach leading to fundraising success. Two of our favorite examples are Florida State’s Great Give and Columbia’s more recent Giving Day. Both campaigns had a heavy reliance on some form of an online ambassador program. Simply put, a robust ambassador program could be the most important thing your nonprofit can do from a communications standpoint. So good luck building your program! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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

Social Media for Healthcare Fundraising – a Q & A with Children’s MN

Jesse Stremcha, an e-Philanthropy Strategist with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota (@ChildrensMN), has been leading a comprehensive social-media-for-fundraising strategy for more than three years. Which means, he has a lot of tips, data and best practices to share. The following is a Q and A I sent to Jesse and the answers he returned… 

Q1: What role does social media play in Children’s annual giving campaigns?

I think in general, we use online tools and social media in ways that closely mirror the relationship building that happens in major gift work.  And, we’re able to do it in many-to-many ways.  That is, we can share information in a way that raises awareness, cultivates engagement and drives action in a way that impacts not only our audience directly, but also asks them to participate in sharing our message with their audiences.

To draw a direct comparison, its looks like this:

Online Major Gift
Stage 1 Awareness Discovery
Stage 2 Engagement Cultivation
Stage 3 Action Solicitation

If you take a look at Children’s Facebook page, you’ll see these three things happening all the time.  There’s a continual flow of short bits of information aimed at raising awareness of what happens at Children’s and engaging people in it.  There’s good evidence of engagement in ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ we get.  And, we’re sprinkling in calls to action (solicitation), too.  Those can be event invitations, calls to participate in legislative action and invitations to give.

The analogy also holds in terms of ratios of people at various stages.  You do a lot of discovery to get a few people engaged and it’s a subset of those that will ultimate make gifts.

Q2: How important is conversation (via social and new media) to cultivating relationships with donors?

It’s a hard thing to quantify.  To lean on my analogy again, how important is cultivation and stewardship to successful major gift work?

I think there’s two pieces of data I’ve seen that support the idea that social media and online tools make a difference:

  • Major donors research charities online
  • Consumers who connect with brand via social media increase loyalty

I think it’s a short leap to conclude that if major donors are making gift choices based on online research – and ‘consumers’ are developing greater brand loyalty because of the connections they make with those brands via social media – that donors are building charitable affinity through an on-going relationship and conversation with charities via social media.

Q3: How do you measure the effectiveness of you social media strategy?

It’s a mix of art and science.  For all the metrics available online and about social media use, it’s pretty hard to know how likely a Facebook fan is to donate, or even if a Facebook fan has donated.

The science

On the social media side, we look at all of the metrics available to us.  From those, we know our fan base on Facebook and following on Twitter continue to grow with consistently high indications of engagement (comments, retweets, likes, comments, etc.).  We also know the quality of comments we get, particularly on Facebook, is very high.

We also know that the quality of traffic that gets referred from social media sites is very high.  That is, visitors coming from our social properties view more pages and spend more time browsing on our site than the average visitor.

And, we know that as we’ve continued to move communication online and make good use of social media channels we’ve seen more event registrations, peer-to-peer fundraising, advocacy and donation online.

I recently read this piece from the Business Insider suggesting a Facebook fan is worth 20 clicks to your website per year. If we’ve got 4500+ Facebook fans, a fan=20 visits/year, and we use $1/referral (based on a modest cost-per-click of online advertising), Facebook generates $90,000 in advertising value alone:

4500 fans x 20 visits x $1/visit = $90,000

I think you could fairly argue our fans are considerably more engaged than those of a ‘top 100 retailer’ and value the CPC higher to increase the dollar value of our Facebook participation.  That could pretty easily double the figure.   So, that’s an interesting statistic and a way to put a dollar value on it.

The art

…or intuition?  Leap of faith?  We know all about people’s use of social media and that they are engaged people from the data.  We also know that we’re bringing in more money and having more action online.  We can’t conclusively draw a straight line, though, to say that an individual action by us on social media will drive a specific dollar amount of response.

To use my earlier analogy, this same ambiguity exists in other fundraising.  While we have a pretty good idea more discovery calls will generate more cultivation prospects and ultimately gifts, there’s no formula that works every time.

I firmly believe we’re doing the right stuff to raise awareness, engage our social media audience and ultimately drive people to advocacy, event attendance and making gifts.

Q4: Have you noticed any results in fundraising you think are linked to Children’s social media efforts?

We’ve continued to make better websites, use social media to engage our audience and ask people to make gifts or attend events.  As we’ve done that, we continued to see great results in online revenue.  In 2009, we increased giving online by over 100%.  We saw a 34% increase from 2009 to 2010.  And, we’re on pace to increase over 30% again in 2011.  All of that is happening in an environment where overall fundraising is falling or basically flat.

Q5: When it comes to identifying the value of social media in fundraising, what do you think is the biggest challenge?

I’ll give two:

We’ve got to invent the future.  There isn’t much of a roadmap.  Most days, that’s exciting for me.  It means I get to try new things, experiment, learn and get better over time.  Still, sometimes it would be nice to say: do x, y, and z just like so-and-so and we can expect xx% of donors to give with an average gift between $xxx-xxxx.  That ain’t gonna happen.  So, I have a post-it note on my desk that asks “What is the next thing?”  It’s a fun challenge, but it’s a challenge nonetheless.

The other is related to better measurement.  I’m fortunate because our results have been pretty good, and there’s a strong commitment from our leadership and organization to being excellent online.  Still, I can’t firmly say 15% of our Facebook fans give with an average gift of $225.  We measure what we can and make a good case for what we’re doing online.  Nonetheless, more data is better.  So, I’m continually trying to solve the measurement challenge to refine and improve how we demonstrate the effectiveness of social media.

Q6: What kind of effort does it take to be successful fundraising online?

It takes long-term, sustained effort to maintain a good social media program.  You can’t do it overnight and you can’t do it do it in fits and starts.  You have to produce good, engaging content every day over the long-term.  You’ve got to think about each channel and customize.  That’s hard.

I’m not saying that every non-profit needs one or more full-time people managing their online effort.  I do think it means that as more and more people conduct more and more of their lives online, all nonprofits need to think about what resources they can commit and focus some sustained effort to improving their online properties.