Creating Targeted Direct (Digital) Marketing for Major Gift Donors

According to Google, 57 percent of those who watch a video go on to make a gift to the org featured in that video. Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Direct response is key for donors at all levels. That notion was recently reinforced in this blog post that suggests you keep your biggest givers in the mass marketing program unless they specifically ask to be removed.

But that doesn’t mean your major gift donors and prospects should be receiving the same email and print pieces your annual fund donors receive. Major gift donors deserve the resources necessary for highly targeted direct marketing based on how they support your organization and which components of your work matter most to them.

Fortunately, this targeted approach is easier than ever to accomplish, thanks both to better technology and a better understanding of how to deliver personalized stewardship and solicitation experiences to our donors. As you embark on a more targeted content marketing strategy for your biggest donors, here are a few things to consider:

  • First, know your audience. Create content profiles. A content profile is a donor file that is focused on what content the donor shares and interacts with online. It’s a record of the emails they responded to, the Facebook posts they liked, the blog posts they shared — anything that helps you understand what matters to them. As a development operation, you can either track this manually by recording data as you come across it, or work with any number of software programs, such as EverTrue, that capture and organize information from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. But all the data doesn’t have to come from technology, either. Like most things, the best content profiles are combination of new tech and traditional development work. A content profile can also be informed by the gift officer’s knowledge based on their relationship with the donor. In the end, a content profile is just a richer set of attributes recorded in your donor database.
  • Next, dedicate resources to creating beautiful content. 57 percent of people who watch a video eventually go on to make a gift to the nonprofit featured in that video (click here for more stats and the study). Let’s read that again: MORE THAN HALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO WATCH YOUR NONPROFIT’S VIDEO WILL MAKE A GIFT TO YOUR NONPROFIT. Based on that statistic from the very reputable Google, it might make sense that you drop all other expenses until you’ve adequately resourced a video content program. Especially for your major gift donors and prospects. Just imagine, what if you had one tool that would likely lead to half of them making a gift? Video appears to be that tool. Whether thanking, asking, or showing impact, great content is important at all levels of the fundraising game. But especially for your major gift program where one donor can change everything for your organization.
  • Train your MGOs to use social media! For a major gift officer, not being active on at least LinkedIn and Twitter is no longer excusable. From Bill Gates, to Elon Musk, to your average millionaire down the street, the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are active on social media. And that trend is only gaining steam. If you’re a major gift officer, ignoring social media is like ignoring the telephone …maybe worse.

It seems that just about every new year in the past half decade has ushered in a new trend in online fundraising. Ambassador programs, online giving days, crowdfunding …in 2015, let’s make it the year nonprofits started using digital communication — and specifically direct marketing through great, targeted content — to engage, cultivate, and steward major gift donors and prospects.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner’s BWF_social practice where he helps clients build online and social media strategies for fundraising.

 

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

 

4 Components to Big Online Giving Days

Columbia Giving Day 2014 TotalsWell, they did it again. Columbia University just wrapped up their third annual online giving day. And once again, it looks to be a record breaker, bringing in more than $11 million from more than 10,000 gifts.

As we’ve written about in the past, successful online giving days like Columbia’s annual efforts are rarely a happy accident. The best (million dollar+) efforts are the result of careful planning around four main areas:

  1. Top of the line online infrastructure (your giving day homepage, apps, related widgets, email programs, etc)
  2. A smart, well-communicated online and social media content marketing strategy.
  3. Online ambassadors.
  4. Major donor involvement for challenge and matching gifts.

Do all of those things well, and you will reach your goals. That’s been true of every single BWF_social client we’ve helped plan an online giving day. Cut corners on any on the above and you go from planning for success to banking on luck.

As our soon-to-be-released survey tells us, most of you are planning on conducting a giving day in 2015. And you want to make a serious investment in your giving day, because giving days are about more than the sudden and often massive influx of dollars and donors they add to your organization.

Wabash's giving day created so much digital buzz around the College that they were a trending item on Twitter for a short period of time.

Thanks to all the digital buzz around their giving day, Wabash College was trending on Twitter during their event.

First of all, online campaigns are tremendously social, well-publicized events. They often lead to higher rates of engagement than traditional, on-campus alumni reunions. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to Wabash College’s Joe Klen talk about his school’s amazing online giving day/buzz building event by clicking here.

Second, major gift donors love online campaigns. They love to see the schools and organizations they support take innovative approaches to fundraising. They love telling their friends about the huge influx of dollars and donors. They love to be involved. That’s right – asking big donors to be involved by offering up large challenge and matching gifts is more stewardship than it is cultivation. And finally, major donors love seeing all the new donors online giving days accumulate (especially if they helped make it happnen through a challenge gift).

Third, online giving days are the most effective donor acquisition tool available. A recent BWF_social study found that 40 percent of the donors who give during online ambassador-led giving days are new donors. And not just any new donors – multiple studies show us that online-acquired donors have more wealth, give bigger gifts, and give more over their lifetimes than donors acquired via direct mail. So if you’d like to acquire more major donors, online is your best bet.

And finally, a bonus fourth point. We now have evidence that tells us online-acquired donors have higher retention rates than any other channel. Yes, you read that right. (More on those stats coming soon)

Knowing all of the above, if you’re not investing at last as much in your online and social media approach as you are direct mail, the phone program, or any other direct response or communication channel, you’re doing it wrong. The good news is, you have a chance to get it right, starting with your first well-resourced giving day in 2015.

Justin Ware is Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients plan six- and seven-figure online giving days.

HOW TO Manufacture Viral Fundraising Campaigns on Social Media

A few weeks back, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to record a podcast for Iris Creative. The subject? Using online ambassadors to bring about the viral spread of your organization’s message and fundraising asks.

During the roughly 40-minute podcast we touch on a number of items, including:

  • Ambassador Podcast GraphicWhy online ambassadors are so successful in driving campaigns to become viral.
  • How can you create a dynamic online ambassador program for your organization?
  • Tools you can use to gauge influence on social media and enhance it.
  • How can you cater to multichannel donors?
  • What types of content are people excited about sharing?
  • How do you deliver content to your ambassadors in a way that makes it easy to share?
  • What are the benefits of having a toolkit with prewritten social media posts and images that users can share on their networks? What are the consequences?
  • Is it worth it to advertise on Facebook?

Sound interesting? Click here to listen to the podcast in its entirety.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients build online ambassador programs that drive fundraising and communication results.

Include “Trending Topics” in Your Facebook Posts for Bigger Audiences

A little while back, I blogged about the importance of meshing your social media content with pop culture and current events. As it turns out, that’s not just a communications strategy – it’s a technical approach to boosting your FNFO (Facebook Newsfeed optimization …patent pending on that acronym).

Facebook now rewards posts with Newsfeed prominence when those posts include a trending topic.

Facebook Trending ListTrending topics are those topics listed on the right hand column of your Facebook profile. They’re often predictable and, for those organizations with a news savvy social media manager, are items you can leverage to help get more eyeballs on your content by mixing those topics into your content. Not just because people like seeing content that gels with the news of the day, but because Facebook’s algorithms are searching for content that connects with current events.

So how do you make the most of Facebook’s leaning toward the popular posts of the day? Below are a few suggestions:

  • Building current events into your content marketing will boost your FNFO (Facebook NewsFeed Optimization).

    Building current events into your content marketing will boost your FNFO (Facebook NewsFeed Optimization).

    Hire well. Whenever we’ve been involved in the hiring process for a social media manager, I always recommend placing former journalists’ resumes on the top of the pile. Journalists do everything you need a social media manager to do – they think quickly, produce massive amounts of content at rapid speeds, and they understand the news cycle and what an audience wants. With a former journo leading your social media charge, you’ve taken a big step towards establishing a timely and relevant content marketing strategy.

  • Budget time to react nimbly to breaking news. Everyone should have a content calendar that extends at least 12 months out to cover the big events and campaigns. But sometimes, your audience (or, more accurately, the news cycle) doesn’t care about your calendar. You need to plan for the unexpeted and be ready to jump on the news of the day so that you can integrate it with your organization’s message when appropriate.
  • Consider Facebook Ads. Let’s face it, Facebook wins – they’ve forced us to pay for exposure on their social network. Which, in the general history of how advertising works, makes perfect sense. For this and all your Facebook content, consider paying for Ads and promoted posts to get the greatest exposure.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build online and social media strategies for fundraising.

Online = Big Donors: Why Your Major Gift Program Needs Social Media

Business Man LaptopOnline donors…

We know online fundraising is a strong tool for the annual fund. New donor acquisition, especially during ambasssador-led giving days, is staggering when the campaign is done right. But for all that online fundraising does for your annual fund, digital philanthropy is even more effective in your major gift program.

Check out this guest post I recently wrote for EverTrue. In the piece, I provide recommendations for using online and social media to find, engage, and steward major gift donors.

Short story short, don’t pigeonhole online and social media as a small gifts only tool. Just this past week, a single $143,000 gift came in during one of our higher ed client’s giving day. A well-run, well-resourced online strategy can do more for your  major gift program than you ever thought possible.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at BWF_social where he helps clients plan six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns.

Best Nonprofit Websites – Children’s National Health System

Children's National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

Children’s National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

The Children’s National Health System website is one of the best I’ve seen. In any nonprofit vertical.

The main homepage and Foundation homepage were redesigned last fall with a focus on simplicity and content. The design is clean and user-friendly, the content is fresh (thanks to being directly fed from institutional blogs), and the online giving form is flawless. Whether you’re in the healthcare, higher education, environmental, social services, arts, community foundation …really just about any type of nonprofit organization, this design and design process (more on that process in the video below) is one worth emulating.

But it’s not just pretty. This online pageant queen would also win most spelling bees. The smart design behind the new Children’s National website has delivered results. Since making the shift from the older design in November 2013, the Children’s National Foundation has seen three times as many online gifts made and the average size of an online gift double to roughly $275 per gift.

So you want to know how to design a website that triples your donor participation and doubles the size of gifts? Then check out the video below featuring Children’s National Foundation AVP for Communications, Mark Miller and Associate Director of Interactive Communications, Jon Thompson.

Justin Ware is director of interactive communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build a digital presence that leads to real fundraising results.

2 Keys to Giving Day Success – a Great Theme and a Major Donor

A lot goes into planning a giving day for higher education. There’s the online giving page, the ambassadors, communicating with colleagues across many different units and departments – all of it crucially important.

Two specific tactics that have been attached to many of the success stories are based on big donors and big events:

  • Connecting an online giving day to a well-known, excitement-inducing event in pop culture.
  • Working with the major gift program to provide challenge grant opportunities from major gift donors.
Ohio Wesleyan University connected pop culture with their alumni base for online giving day success.

Ohio Wesleyan University connected pop culture with their alumni base for online giving day success.

Ohio Wesleyan University, a relatively small school, enjoyed big success thanks to those two factors.

In May 2013, Ohio Wesleyan was looking for a campaign to boost alumni donor participation. Around the same time, “42,” a film based on the Jackie Robinson story, was set to hit theaters.

If you’re not familiar, Jackie Robinson was the first major league baseball player to break the racial barrier and play in the big leagues. Robinson’s rise to MLB was due, in large part, to Branch Rickey – the innovative MLB executive who pushed to bring Robinson into baseball’s top level. Rickey – and subsequently several of his family members – was an Ohio Wesleyan alumnus.

And there’s the hook – a huge, international pop culture event with a prominent alumnus at the center of the story.

So the campaign was set for May 17 and the goal was to reach 360 donors. To help guarantee that would happen, Ohio Wesleyan’s development team worked with a major gift donor who would offer up $25,000 if they could reach the 360 donor goal. This major gift donor often gives a large amount every year and is interested in doing whatever she can to help Ohio Wesleyan increase donor participation. The 42 giving day campaign was used to ensure that donor would make her annual big gift. At the same time, the tactic created an incentive for alumni to give in order to “secure” the big gift in a challenge environment.

In the end, over the course of 42 hours (a time frame set to correspond with the film theme) 377 donors made a gift for a total of $112,965 given during Ohio Wesleyan’s first-time effort toward conducting an online giving day.

And this is just one of many examples of smart, successful online giving days. It’s to the point of being formulaic. From finding an theme that connects with your alumni base, to engaging major gift donors, to all the other aspects of planning an effective event – giving days have gone from guesswork to science. If you’re planning a giving day in the near future, study what works and/or partner with someone with experience in planning giving days that work. You, your annual fund, AND your major gift program will be glad you did!

Justin Ware is Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he leads online giving day planning for clients.

3 Thoughts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and “Slacktivism”

Ice Bucket Challenge

One of the many thousands willing to douse themselves in ice water for the ALS Association.

You’ve probably seen it at least once in your Facebook News Feed – one of your friends dumping a bucket of water on themselves and asking that you either do the same OR make a gift to the ALS Association.

It’s called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” and from a pure fundraising standpoint,  it’s been wildly successful. The campaign kicked off in late July and has, so far, directly led to $2.3 million in fundraising. More over, from July 29 to August 12, the ALS Association says they’ve raised more than $4 million. During the same time last year, the Association raised $1.12 million. So, the #IceBucketChallenge is working both from the fundraising and awareness perspectives.

But the campaign has its fair share of detractors who say the #IceBucketChallenge is classic “slacktivism” (though the initial numbers suggest that’s far from true).

So is the effort worthwhile? Are the 70,000+ donors who participated (so far) going to become long-time supporters of the ALS Association? Or does the #IceBucketChallenge provide an easy out for supporters who would give financially but instead take a video of themselves and post it on Facebook (that’s slacktivism, in case you were wondering).

Well, first off, it’s not really slacktivism if the effort leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that slacktivism, if it leads to 7-figure fundraising hauls, is far from a bad thing.

But the ALS Association still has the “problem” of retaining all these new donors.

Fortunately, that’s the easy part. Most successful online campaigns include a rush of new donors. To retain those donors and move them up the pipeline, consider the following:

  • Deploy a strong, well-resourced content marketing strategy. These new donors gave to you because they saw a post online, right? Then focus your stewardship efforts on that channel. Invest in great video, photography, and infographics. Repeatedly show the impact of giving through mission-related stories posted online. Remind the new donors of how close you are to a cure and/or what it will take to reach that cure. Use digital content delievered via email, social networks, and online ambassadors (the so-called “slacktivists” in this case) to reinforce giving and prime donors for the next ask.
  • Thank them profusely. Surprisingly, many organizations still drop the ball when it comes to effectively showing their gratitude for a donor’s gift. After the donor makes a gift, have two emails ready to go – one to thank current donors for their continued support and another to welcome new donors to your cause. In each case, detail the impact of their gift. For new donors, it’s about education and retention. Focus this effort on how their gift is changing the world and helping them understand the crux of your organization’s mission. For repeat donors, it’s an update on campaign progress, a call to action that asks them to share the news of their gift online and via social media, and something that highlights the impact of this specific gift.
  • Don’t forget about mail! Especially for your new donors, send them a beautiful new donor package in the mail that thanks them for their support and tells the story of your organization. Then track both their response to mail and digital outreach. If they continue to engage online, but not via mail, think about moving more resources to your online programs to support your donors’ desired form of connectivity to your organization. But first, start with a good mail piece.

From what this author knows about them, the ALS Association is a smart organization that is five steps ahead of the tips in this blog post. Which means the ALS Association is probably prepared to enjoy long relationships with their new donors from the #IceBucketChallenge. And your organization can enjoy the same retention success with online donors, if you follow their gifts with a multi-channel, content-driven engagement and stewardship strategy.

Justin Ware is Director Interactive Communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build world-leading online fundraising programs.

Wabash Expands Culture of Philanthropy with Online Ambassadors

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

The Wabash College Day of Giving was a big win in donors and dollars AND in raising the culture of philanthropy to support the school.

Online ambassadors lead to big fundraising results when their efforts are applied to short duration online giving events (a.k.a. “money bombs”). This was certainly true for Wabash College during the school’s inaugural “Day of Giving” online fundraising campaign, when 2,200 donors joined forces to raise $465,000 in just 24 hours. The thing is, those big numbers for little Wabash aren’t the main reason why school leaders are so excited about their first giving day. It’s all the attention and enthusiasm around fundraising that has Wabash officials celebrating well into the new fiscal year.

“That’s what I think’s been talked about more than anything after the day, beyond the numbers, is this sense of excitement and the fun that was happening that day surrounding giving back to the institution,” said Wabash Associate Dean for College Advancment, Joe Klen. “We had our reunion weekend in June and many people were still congratulating the president of the College on a great day of giving.”

Klen said Wabash’s Day of Giving had the feel of an extremely well-attended online reunion. As mentioned above, online ambassadors had a LOT to do with the success of Day of Giving. To learn more about Wabash’s Day of Giving, check out the video below…

Want to hear a lot more of the details from Joe Klen himself? We’ve included the full length interview on the BWF YouTube channel. You can link to the longer interview by clicking here.

Justin Ware helps organizations and institutions build peer-to-peer fundraising programs that lead to real, quantifiable success. Want to learn more about how Justin can help your organization? Click here.

Facebook for Development Pros – Get Personal

Last month, we wrote on tips to help fundraising professionals get in the game on LinkedIn. In that post, we suggested (implored) gift officers – or anyone with a donor facing role – establish a strong presence on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn is the bare minimum, there are other social networks that can open your fundraising work up to new and highly-capable-of-giving audiences.

Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. According to a recent Pew study, a whopping 71 percent of Americans have a Facebook account. And while this social network is highly personal for some – for others, it’s yet another platform to share their lives with the world. In fact, millionaires are disproportionately more active on Facebook than the general public at large.

So, if you really want to expand your reach as a gift officer, alumni relations pro, grateful patient manager, or annual giving director, you might want to consider putting a professional effort toward Facebook. Here are some tips…

FacebookGroups

Facebook friend lists allow you to organize your professional and personal friends. A benefit for you and them.

Create lists to separate your personal connections from professional. (Click here for a link with instructions for creating lists of your friends) This will allow you to communicate with your professional friends while not driving your personal friends nuts. It will also keep silly pictures of your dog and kids from clogging your professional friends’ News Feeds.

Connect your personal Facebook content strategy with your organization’s content strategy. (Your organization does have a content strategy, right?) Content marketing is best through a multi-channel approach. This means a great YouTube video gets the most traction when it is shared on Facebook, through email, on Twitter, at events, and through the personal social networks of your staff. Just as is the case with online ambassadors, sharing via the personal accounts of your staff greatly increases the reach of the powerful content you put so much effort into producing to tell your organization’s story.

Be responsive and engaged. It should be obvious, but when people comment on or share something you post to Facebook, respond to them! Thank them, answer their questions, provide more information …use Facebook as a virtual coffee shop to meet your donors.

Ask your Facebook friends questions. While images are hugely important for getting your content noticed on Facebook, sometimes the highest engagement comes from a question. It could be something fun – “Who is your favorite actor to play Batman?” for example. Or, you could ask something about your work – “Which childhood disease would you most want to see cured in the next 10 years?” Either way, a simple question that sparks conversation goes a long way toward building online relationships with your supporters, which ultimately leads to stronger relationships overall that leads to gifts.

I know, I know …for some people Facebook is a deeply personal space that you absolutely wouldn’t want to share with the world. That’s more than fine. Unlike LinkedIn and to a lesser degree blogs and Twitter, Facebook – in part due to its highly personal nature – is far from mandatory. That doesn’t mean it’s not also an enormous opportunity for those willing to jump in professionally. Consider this – do you want a personal relationship with some of your organization’s biggest donors? If you answered yes, then you should consider using Facebook to engage them.

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

LinkedIn for Development Pros – Get Personal

Would you rather keep your Facebook profile private? So would most people.

How about Twitter …not your bag? No big deal! Not a fan of photography? (Yours or other people’s?) Then Instagram probably isn’t the place for you.

But if you’re a gift officer, work in alumni relations, have contact with grateful patients, or have any other role in fundraising that involves connecting with donors, then you must have a personal LinkedIn profile. If not, you’re short changing your organization and missing out on significant and impactful connection opportunities with supporters. Seriously, it’s the equivalent of not having a telephone (and we all know telephones are still crucially important).

So what do you do with your LinkedIn profile? First, update it. Make sure you have:

  • A recent and professional profile picture.
  • A succinct summary that speaks clearly about your role in your organization.
  • An updated work history (at least the relevant stuff to your current role).
  • Your volunteer work listed (especially that related to your org, because it will help prospective donors find you in their searches).

Next, post information that matters to your community. It could be networking opportunities, fundraising events, big gift news …really, whatever matters to your donors.

 

Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Help keep your supporters and donor community in the loop with timely LinkedIn updates.

Use LinkedIn to find new donors and learn more about current donors. Where they work, if they just got promoted, what volunteer work they’ve completed, which additional social networks are they active on …all of this is information you can find on most people’s public LinkedIn profiles. It’s a treasure trove, it’s free, and it’s as simple as a Google search.

Finally, use LinkedIn to connect with your supporters and donors. In a lot of cases, LinkedIn’s message system will connect you with a donor more effectively than the email address you have on file.

Our donors are more segmented than ever before when it comes to the communication channels they use. For some, the phone is still king. For others, print matters most. For many, face to face interaction is the necessary ingredient to seal the deal. But online is now just as crucial as all those aforementioned channels (with the possible exception of face to face). Don’t believe me? Did you know that 74 percent of ALL consumers now use social media to make purchase decisions? (Klout, 2014 Study) How about that 71 percent of American adults are on Facebook? (Pew, 2014 study) Social media is too ubiquitous in our daily lives to be ignored and LinkedIn is the professional network where many people expect other accomplished professionals to be active. Don’t disappoint this segment of your supporters. Beef up your LinkedIn presence today.

Justin Ware is the author of this post and Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social. To learn more about Justin’s work, click here.

For Social Media Fundraising Success, Make Your Donors Feel Something

In fundraising, the ultimate metric is donors acquired or retained and dollars raised. The question is, how do we get there? What steps do we need to take in order to secure that final conversion or gift from a donor?

One option is sharing a bundle of statistics that numerically demonstrate the impact your organization has on the world. While that pie-chart packed annual report is important for the CFO types in the crowd, the vast majority of donors (including those CFO types) make a gift, not because of numbers, but because they feel moved to support your cause. Something about the work you do touches a nerve deep inside the donor to the point where they can’t stand the problem you’re addressing and will give everything they can, including money, to end that problem.

In other words, if you want to expand support for your organization, you need to create content that makes people feel something.

As is often the case, we have plenty of examples of this emotional content marketing from the for-profit world. From Steve Jobs to Dove, the best marketers – specifically content marketers – have been pulling money out of our wallets for decades, not by appealing to our heads, but to our hearts. Take, for example, the most recent viral content marketing hit distributed by Dove:

The sense of  yearning to love your kid endlessly that comes with being a parent; the want to be a unique, cutting edge individual that Apple so deftly communicated while Jobs was at the helm; the drive to compete and win that shoemakers like Nike have conveyed; those aren’t appeals that require a calculator to ingest – they go straight to the heart and they make people do things a million times faster than any logic-based approach.

Tugging at the heart strings opens the purse strings. It's true in the consumer and nonprofit worlds.

Tugging at the heart strings opens the purse strings. It’s true in the consumer and nonprofit worlds.

Of course, for fundraisers, this should be easy. Your work changes the world and you have countless stories to tell as a result. And now, thanks to social media, you have unprecedented access directly to enormous audiences. When you create amazing content, people take notice and you raise a LOT of money. The key is:

  • Having a smart, data-driven content marketing strategy.
  • Dedicating or reallocating resources to produce amazing written, photographic, and (especially) video content.
  • Hiring creative content producers to create posts that simply can’t be ignored.

The third item is the most crucial and the most difficult to come by. Creative content geniuses are not easy to find, but if you have them, give them the resources they need. Allow them creative license to produce amazing, heart-wrenching, and awe-inspring content. Doing that (with a strategic vision in mind) is one of the quickest and most effective paths you can take to reaching that ultimate metric of more donors and dollars raised.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner and an Emmy-winning content creator who has produced several viral YouTube videos. To learn more about how Justin can help you take content marketing to the next level, click here.

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.

How to have a $1 million+ online giving day at your school

Seems like every week… shoot, almost every DAY now we’re hearing about another $1 million+ online fundraising campaign or giving day in higher education. From Arizona State to Boston University, these seven-figure giving days are becoming the norm rather than anomalies.

But how, right? What is it these schools are doing differently or better than other institutions who are having mixed results?

To get to the bottom of planning a successful giving day, we asked Washington and Lee’s Annual Giving Director, Skylar Beaver, what’s the secret sauce? By answering three short questions in the video below on W&L’s $1.4 million “Give Day” on April 24, Skylar provides an overview for how you might go about planning your giving day in 2015:

A few things jump out from the Washington and Lee Give Day that are common among many successful giving days:

  • Like most successful giving days, Washington and Lee enjoyed significant participation success along with a big fundraising total.
    Like most successful giving days, Washington and Lee enjoyed significant participation success along with a big fundraising total.

    Significant lead or challenge gifts to encourage participation and boost overall giving.

  • A strong strategy led by a interdepartmental team.
  • Social media.

We’d also add good, easy-to-use online infrastructure (in other words, a campaign page and giving form that more donors describe as “fun” rather than “maddening”) and a robust online ambassador program. Really, when you do that combined with the above items, it’s tough to fail.

Are you ready to start the planning for your giving day in 2015? BWF_social has a package to help our higher education partners succeed with online giving days. To find out more, contact our Director of Interactive Communication, Justin Ware, by clicking here or here.

 

Higher Ed Online Fundraising and the Rise of “Money Bombs”

Arizona State: $3.059 million in 36 hours … Columbia University: $7.8 million in 24 hours (after raising $6.8 million just one year earlier) … Santa Clara University: 2,600+ donors in 24 hours – by far their biggest day for donor participation ever.

Thanks, in part, to a strong social media strategy, Santa Clara University saw record-breaking donor participation during their first ever "money bomb" online campaign.

Thanks, in part, to a strong social media strategy, Santa Clara University saw record-breaking donor participation during their first ever “money bomb” online campaign.

Short duration, online fundraising campaigns or “money bombs” are taking over higher education. But it’s not as easy as sending out an email and posting a few things on Facebook. The institutions that have had success have invested tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in three main areas to prepare for these online events:

  • Well-designed, donor-centric online infrastructure (campaign landing pages, giving forms, mobile sites, etc).
  • A long-term online and social media strategy (not just for the campaign, but throughout the year).
  • Peer-to-peer or online ambassador programs.

If you’re interested in learning much more about the above suggestions, check out the following web chat from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (full-length chat posted below). In it, I’m joined by Georgetown’s Joannah Pickett (chief architect and strategist behind GU’s perfectly executed City Challenge online campaigns), Ohio State’s Chad Warren (one of the best online campaign planners in the business who has both Florida State’s Great Give and Dayton’s I Love UD campaigns under his belt), and the Chronicle’s Cody Switzer:

 

Are you ready to plan an online fundraising campaign for your institution? We have plenty of experience helping our clients achieve online fundraising success during these money bomb efforts. Click here for my BWF contact info or here for my LinkedIn to connect with me (Justin Ware) and learn more about how we might work together.

 

Donors Sweet on University of Michigan’s Victors Valentines

Michigan themed candy hearts drew new supporters toward Michigan's $4 billion campaign during Valentine's Day.

Michigan themed candy hearts drew new supporters toward Michigan’s $4 billion campaign during Valentine’s Day.

Content, content, content… In some ways, it’s the simplest concept: produce lots of good content and you’ll have more supporters and more goodwill among those supporters (not to mention online hooks that catch new supporters).

The thing is, creating good content – especially on a consistent basis – is anything but simple. You need at least one brilliantly creative mind, plus a firm grasp of what it is that your audience wants. In other words, good content is one part art form (the creative component) and one part science (the data that details your audiences’ preferences). Fortunately, there are some leaders in this space who are showing us the way. One of them is Shannon Riffe, the assistant director of marketing and online engagement at the University of Michigan.

In the video below, Riffe talks about the recently completed Victors Valentine online engagement campaign, and how the campaign introduced nearly 1,000 potential donors to the homepage of Michigan’s current $4 billion campaign:

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin helps clients achieve results through content marketing. To learn more, connect with Justin by clicking here.

How the Dalai Lama Helped Santa Clara University Prove Social Media ROI

When you’re selling shoes, the metric to prove social media ROI is relatively easy. Ultimately, it boils down to …how many shoes you’ve sold. (A lot of quantifiable engagement metrics lead to that end result, but ultimately, shoe sales trump all else).

Using the #DalaiLamaSCU hashtag, Santa Clara's social media team arranged an amazing online event around His Holiness' visit to campus.

Using the #DalaiLamaSCU hashtag, Santa Clara’s social media team arranged an amazing online event around His Holiness’ visit to campus.

For many of us working in the nonprofit world – higher education, in particular – there is no sale-of-shoes metric that easily tells us what’s working and what’s not. Sure, there’s fundraising, event attendance, number of applicants, and other quantifiable objectives, but there’s also the far less tangible goals of improving the reputation of and sentiment toward your institution. At a very high level, those are the goals Santa Clara University’s marketing and communication pros are chasing and – thanks, in part, to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama – SCU (a BWF client) has an excellent case study on how to prove the value of a strong social media strategy.

“Santa Clara University is the Jesuit University in Silicon Valley and the theme of the talk ‘Business, Ethics and Compassion’ played into much of our key messaging,” said Marika Krause, Assistant Director of Media Relations at SCU.

On February 24, the Dalai Lama spoke to about 5,000 people on the Santa Clara campus, providing SCU with a daunting challenge, but also a tremendous opportunity.

Ultimately, SCU’s MarComm team is working to drive home the institution’s strategic priorities which include excellence in Jesuit education, the promotion of global understanding, justice, academic community, and engagement with Silicon Valley (where SCU is located). For nearly two years, Santa Clara’s communication pros have been building and implementing a strong social media strategy and presence. So when the Dalai Lama visit was announced for late winter, the SCU MarComm team knew they had an opportunity to make big things happen online.

“He is one of the biggest names to visit SCU,” said Stephanie Bravo, Assistant Director of Social Media. “His message of peace, compassion, and social justice naturally fit with SCU’s message.”

Bravo says, in addition to the strategic priorities, her team’s goals also include growing SCU’s online and social media communities. Then, using those communities to clearly communicate the message and priorities of the institution.

“Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and BuzzFeed. We also used Storify to pull it all together after the event. The key to tying it all together was one unifying hashtag the we put on all the programs, press releases – even banners outside the event.” said Krause.

SCU's timely and consistent conversation management helped ensure mostly positive online discourse around the Dalai Lama's visit.

SCU’s timely and consistent conversation management helped ensure mostly positive online discourse around the Dalai Lama’s visit.

“The hashtag was the main tool that kept us organized. It kept the public informed before the event and engaged during the event. It worked so well to generate content that we were able to create photo albums from hundreds of people’s photos from the event,” said Bravo. “A team of 5 student interns were instrumental in helping me post live at the event, which led to our trending on Twitter throughout the day.”

SCU's efforts placed their event on the international stage via Twitter's "trending topics" board.

SCU’s efforts placed their event on the international stage via Twitter’s “trending topics” board.

That’s right, the relatively tiny Santa Clara University was sharing space on Twitter’s nationally trending topics list with big hitters such as Netflix and the news of Hollywood comedic legend Harold Ramis’ passing.

Again, a large contributing factor to SCU’s success, was the work put towards strategic planning since mid 2012.

“We had less than two months to pull off more than a year’s worth of logistical planning for the Dalai Lama’s visit. I’m pretty glad we’re all still standing!” said Krause. “I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise that we did so well on social media, because I think we had the groundwork in place for it to happen, but I’m grateful. Social Media is far from an exact science.”

As for advice on managing an event like this? Santa Clara Communications Director Deepa Arora offers the following…

“Be adventurous, try new things, be prepared for the unexpected. On the Live Twitter Feed during the event, some of the tweets were considered inappropriate,” said Arora. “Some students who tweeted the Dalai Lama were inviting him for a drink or asking about rumors, such as if Beyonce was in the audience. We monitored the Twitter feed, but did not delete any tweets. We had to do some hand holding to prepare senior administrators for the tone of the feed, but reminded everyone that SCU is a college campus and sometimes students say silly things. There’s no reason to turn off the Twitter feed for that.”

In the end, Santa Clara’s savviness with regards to managing internal and external forces, led to an amazingly well orchestrated event. And it wasn’t an accident. It’s the product of dedicating staff and resources to creating a sound social media strategy that’s ready for anything or, in this case, anyone.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Justin has been working with Santa Clara University since fall 2012. To learn more about Justin and his work, click here.

What is a social media strategy for fundraising?

When I ask clients “do you have a social media strategy?” they will often point me to a list of guidelines for best practices on using social media. Make no mistake, establishing guidelines for your organization’s use of social media is smart …but it’s far from a strategy.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

A good social media strategy starts with a statement of goals, tactics, tools, and metrics.

An online and social media strategy – a document that helps you effectively manage your presence and accomplish fundraising goals – consists of two parts.

  1. First, on online and social media strategy should be a statement of goals, tactics for accomplishing those goals, resources that will be deployed, and a system for measuring the effectiveness of all that online activity.
  2. Second, should be a timeline that extends out over at least the next 12 months. On this timeline should be all the major events, milestones, campaigns, and other opportunities for fundraising and/or donor engagement. For each event/opportunity on this timeline, there should be a detailed set of tactics that will be deployed for accomplishing the associated goals. And because it’s a timeline, there will likely be items several months in advance that are imperative to the success of each event or opportunity. This second portion of the strategy is key to ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

The two components of your strategy should work together. For example, the first portion (the goals/tactics/resources/metrics piece) should be applied to the timeline to help planners create a cohesive, on-message, and consistent approach for managing homecoming …or for the communication plan around a hospital gala …or the one-day fundraising effort for your small nonprofit around #GivingTuesday.

Why does this matter? Think about your organization’s online activity. Is it a series of one off posts that have no interconnectivity? When you post something on Facebook or Twitter, are you thinking about how that post will impact your audience’s sense of philanthropy around a specific initiative, say a scholarship drive? If you’re planning an online fundraising campaign in support of scholarships in five months, you should be posting content that (however subtly and cleverly) reinforces that audience’s understanding of the importance of supporting scholarship-related fundraising activity over the next five months (among other good content aimed at other strategic goals, of course).

Unfortunately, too many content decisions are made based on “what’s happening right now?” or “what do we need to immediately accomplish?” or “what’s hot in the news?” Not to say those things don’t matter. In fact, a portion of your social media activity needs to be reactive to provide adequate customer service. The best content is audience-focused and timely. But that doesn’t mean strategic messaging can’t be baked into the content. Not to mention, advanced planning actually frees your staff up to be more reactive, because they’ve already completed some of the work needed to reach those long-term goals.

To do the big things requires a long-term strategy that everyone on your team supports and understands. So what does this look like in real life?

In April 2013, a smart charted plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

In April 2013, a smart strategy plotted out over a timeline led to huge donor acquisition numbers for UMass Amherst.

When you plan in advance, produce a timeline, and have a strategy to guide it all, you’re positioning your organization for success. And with how important online communication has become for nonprofits, it’s imperative your organization or institution finds the resources to enact this strategic approach.

Justin Ware is the Director Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. If you’d like to learn more about how Justin helps clients build strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising success, click here.

ASU Raises More Than $3 Million During 2-day Online Campaign

There’s nothing like the feeling after an intense fundraising campaign ends with all the goals met. And of course, it’s great when your organization blows past its goals. But how about when you beat your goals by more than 3,800 percent?

That was the glorious experience Arizona State University development pros enjoyed after ASU recorded an awe-inspiring $3,059,265 during the second annual, two-day, Mark It Day online fundraising campaign. That $3 million haul vastly exceeded the modest goal they had set of $76,611. (ASU had raised roughly $170,000 during the first Mark It Day one year earlier)

So… HOW?!?! Well, to begin with, ASU had solid online infrastructure built on the iModules platform. An attractive landing page for the campaign had a nice mix of fundraising asks, updates, and engaging content…

ASU's Mark It Day started with an attractive, engaging campaign home page.

ASU’s Mark It Day started with an attractive, engaging campaign home page.

 

The campaign page also had clever, interactive content to add to the notion of this campaign being a major event.

The campaign page also had clever, interactive content to add to the notion of this campaign being a major event.

Markie - the Mark It Day mascot

Markie – the Mark It Day mascot

Beyond the basics, Arizona State’s annual giving and interactive marketing teams got together to assemble a strategy built around smart, fun, engaging content. The very idea of the campaign is both cute and engaging. Markie – essentially a map pin mascot – encourages ASU alumni to mark their place on the map with a gift. It’s the type of campaign where donors contribute almost involuntarily, because taking part is so much fun thanks to the technology.

Another key to ASU’s success were the efforts at bringing the entire campus community on board with the campaign.

“Mark It Day 2014 had increased partner participation with colleges, programs, faculty, staff, and students all helping spread our message and encouraging people to support ASU,” said Stacy Holmstedt, Senior Director of Internet Marketing.

Holmstedt and fellow campaign planner, Senior Director of Annual Giving Shad Hanselman, worked diligently to get their colleagues on board by providing them with the resources they needed to successfully contribute to the effort.

“We created a lot of custom prepared social media messaging and art for each of the colleges so they could just plug it in and go,” said Holmstedt. “We’ve found that the easier you make it for your colleagues, the higher amount of success you’ll have in getting your message out to a wide audience.”

Markie Day Graphic

Markie Day Graphic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASU also didn’t let the enthusiasm from the first Mark It Day in 2013 die after the campaign closed. Instead, they used Markie to keep the idea of philanthropy alive and thriving throughout the year.

“Markie has his own social media presence and thousands of followers, and he kept them engaged throughout the year, not just in the weeks building up to the campaign,” said Holmstedt. “He did some fun things like leading a Fight Song Sing-Along video and constantly posted shout-outs to students who were being philanthropic, even if they weren’t giving directly to ASU. Building a culture of philanthropy has been of great importance here.”

As for advice, Holmstedt and Hanselman say “start planning early” and learn what it is about your audience that will motivate them to give during the campaign.

“Ours like seeing their names appear on a map in real-time; both the individual recognition and the instant gratification are motivational to our audience,” said Holmstedt.

But perhaps most important, don’t go it alone.

“Getting buy-in from the whole university is also key. This can’t just be a foundation effort, it has to be ‘everyone in.'”

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients produce six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. To contact Justin, click here.

 

 

Stop Telling Nonprofits They Can’t Raise Money Using Social Media

A message to social media managers, consultants, gurus, experts, etc – STOP TELLING NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS YOU CAN’T RAISE MONEY ON SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s cliche and it’s not true. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

In October 2012, Columbia University launched their inaugural Giving Day. By all accounts, Giving Day 2012 was a monstrous success raising more than $6.8 million from 4,940 donors. How did so many thousands of donors decide to jump on board? Primarily, because those donors learned of the campaign via social media and made their gifts directly after seeing a post on social media. 55 percent of all referral traffic to Columbia’s online giving page during the campaign came via social media. In other words, social media led directly to a lot of giving activity during Columbia’s Giving Day.

Facebook_Logo

Yes, you can raise money using Facebook. It takes a smart strategy and it’s not free, but it can be enormously effective.

Still not convinced? Think about the online ambassador programs that we at BWF have helped multiple clients build. During ambassador-led fundraising campaigns, on average, those institutions saw 40 percent of all giving come from new donors. 40 percent. That flurry of new donor activity happened because dozens, in some cases hundreds, of passionate supporters were sharing the message of the campaign with their friends via social media networks. Again, this peer-to-peer social media activity was a direct driver of fundraising activity.

I get it – when someone says “you can’t raise money on social media” they’re referring to the approach of an organization or institution sending out bland fundraising asks via their official Facebook or Twitter accounts. It’s true that approach rarely works. The carpet-bombing-your-audience-with-posts-begging-for-money method is an unimaginative approach that applies old marketing principals (push messaging) to new channels (social media networks). But we know better than that now. We know how to strategically engage influential social media users and work with them to build wildly successful six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns.

So yes, you can use social media to raise money online. In fact, when the following three things are done and done well, I don’t know of a single organization that has fallen short of its online fundraising goals:

  • Build good online infrastructure (campaign landing page, apps, widgets, mobile responsiveness, etc)
  • Develop a robust online ambassador program
  • Implement a smart content marketing strategy to drive buzz

Doing the above is not free. It’s takes significant staff time and probably an investment in outside counsel and a tech vendor (Columbia had both). But when the investment is made, you absolutely can use social media to raise (a lot of) money.

Bentz Whaley Flessner’s Justin Ware helps clients build online ambassador programs that lead to successful online fundraising campaigns. If you’d like to have online fundraising success, connect with Justin by clicking here.

 

3 Things to Guarantee Your New Platform Leads to Online Fundraising Success

Finally, you get the green light to purchase that fundraising or crowdfunding platform that gives you all the tools you need to start raising real money online.

  • Personal fundraising pages for your biggest advocates? Check.
  • Seamless integration with your database? Check.
  • Beautiful, content-rich campaign landing pages? Check.

Maybe you’ve had these online platforms in place for a few months or years now. And if you’re like many nonprofits, you’re not having the fundraising success you envisioned when signing the dotted line to purchase that shiny new software.

A good online giving or crowdfunding is only 1/3 of what you  need for online fundraising success.

A good online giving or crowdfunding platform is only 1/3 of what you need for online fundraising success. Without online ambassadors and a smart strategy, it’s not likely you’ll meet your goals.

What happened? Why is it that your fundraising campaigns continue to fall short of their goals? Chances are, it’s not the platform’s fault (and you probably know that).

Without a single exception, every online fundraising campaign this author can think of was successful when the organization did the following three things (and did them well):

  1. Invested in attractive, user-friendly online giving infrastructure (that’s the shiny new platform your org just purchased).
  2. A robust online ambassador program.
  3. A content strategy led by smart staff.

When the above three things are done well, the organization running the campaign has always met or exceeded its goals. Every. Single. Time. When the organization cuts corners on strategy or doesn’t have an online ambassador program, the success rate drops significantly.

So, when investing in a good online giving or crowdfunding platform (and you should, campaigns are rarely successful without good infrastructure) make sure you’re saving budget to build a strategy that includes online ambassadors and content production so those ambassadors have something to share.

Justin Ware helps nonprofit clients build online and social media fundraising strategies that lead to six- and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. On Thursday, March 20, he’ll be hosting a FREE webinar on the topic. To register, click here.

Smartphones are Powerful Major Gift Donor Engagement Tools

Facebook Mobile

Facebook Mobile

Attention major gift crowd: what’s your mobile strategy? According to this BBC World News study, you need one.

The BBC World News and BBC.com study surveyed 6,000 smartphone owners from the US, Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and Sweden and found that:

  • 39 percent of affluent individuals access their smartphone at least once per hour (18 percent higher than the general population).
  • Affluent smartphone users are 18 percent more likely to share their location than the general population.
  • Affluent smartphone users are 4 times more influenced by mobile ads than they are by desktop ads.

For quite some time, we at BWF_social have been suggesting clients look at online as a major gift tool, in addition to something to strengthen the annual fund. Additional studies tell us that online-acquired donors give larger gifts, give more of their lifetimes, and have greater capacity to give. That established data combined with this most recent smartphone study and it’s clear – no major gift program is as effective as it could be it doesn’t use online and social media for lead generation and stewardship (at a minimum).

And really, this mobile news should come as no surprise. Click here for a 23-year-old Radio Shack ad that shows just how powerful of an all-in-one tool our smartphones have become…

Your smartphone is essentially 80 percent of everything Radio Shack carried in 1991.

Your smartphone is essentially 80 percent of everything Radio Shack carried in 1991.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Now get to work on a strategy that leverages these amazing tools!

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps nonprofit clients build comprehensive online and social media fundraising strategies.

Colgate Raises $5.1 Million in 24 Hours with Online (Radio)

Online fundraising and crowdfunding can do more for your major gift program than it can for your annual fund.

No, really. I’m serious. Here’s my evidence – Colgate University raised $5.1 million – the majority of the dollars coming from major donors – during a campaign that was broadcast via their radio station WRCU …which is streamed online. The bulk of the dollars came in via major donors who wanted to drive up participation during the campaign (The focus of this campaign was a more annual fund-centric, participation-centered goal …but several six and seven figure gifts were the end result, along with a lot of donors).

For the full story, check out the article on Forbes.com. For a brief summary, here’s a few bullets:

  • An anonymous donor pledged a $1 million gift if the campaign could produce gifts from 1,300 donors (13 is a significant number in Colgate’s history)
  • WRCU rolled out a day of programming including prominent alumni such as music producer Bernie Reznick, long-time Boston Red Sox announcer Jim Castiglione, and Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy.
  • Word of the campaign grew (because it was online, the whole world had access – not just those within the 25-mile broadcast radius of the radio station) and soon, other prominent alumni we’re adding millions of dollars to up the participation challenge.
  • When all was said and done, $5.1 million was raised from 5,683 donors.
Colgate's WRCU radio station was the online hub for an impressive fundraising effort.

Colgate’s WRCU radio station was the online hub for an impressive fundraising effort.

OK …so what’s the takeaway and how does this relate to online fundraising and/or crowdfunding? There are multiple ways…

  • Online campaigns have massive reach (this would not have happened if WRCU was not broadcast over the Internet) and create an enormous amount of buzz when done right. This leads to high donor acquisition numbers, including major gift donors.
  • Because of all that buzz, getting involved in this campaign was a way for major gift donors to:
    • Receive instant recognition for their gifts which were announced in a very public manner as part of the campaign.
    • See the impact of their gifts by all the donors who gave to reach the new and increasing participation goals.
  • The best campaigns – online or off – are intimately connected to what makes your institution special. In this case, that’s a strong communications program with many prominent alumni who care about and still listen to Colgate’s radio station.

Crowdfunding is a social event that creates buzz. If you have a major gift donor who likes the spotlight, consider inviting them to participate by offering a similar challenge. It’s the naming rights concept translated to the digital space.

Of course, while we’re at it, why restrict this approach to just major gift donors? Corporate and foundation support is increasingly important in the philanthropic space. Given the exposure a solid crowdfunding or online fundraising campaign offers, corporate partners would likely be champing at the bit to get involved with an effort like this and all the related marketing appeal.

The potential for connecting your online and crowdfunding efforts to your major gift and corporate development programs are immense. So what are you waiting for? Multi-million dollar fundraising efforts that bring about impressive donor acquisition at all levels are there to be had for those who can build a smart strategy.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. On February 27, Justin will be in Washington, DC leading a full-day crowdfunding workshop. To register, click here

Building a Strategy for Crowdfunding [DC BOOT CAMP]

Build a crowdfunding strategy for your organization at the BWF boot camp in Washington, D.C.

Build a crowdfunding strategy for your organization at the BWF boot camp in Washington, D.C.

Crowdfunding is a great for small gifts and donor acquisition. It’s also a powerful tool for major donor prospecting and corporate foundation relations. Don’t believe us? Well then, you’ll just have to attend our Crowdfunding Boot Camp in Washington, D.C. on February 27th! We’ll share examples that prove those points. Then, we’ll help your organization develop a strategy to achieve those results through a successful online and social media strategy.

Having an advanced online fundraising and/or crowdfunding strategy is one of the best things your organization can do to raise money and (especially) acquire more new donors in 2014. We say this because…

So join us on the Georgetown campus on Thursday, February 27th from 9am to 4:30pm for this full-day event. Along with sharing lots of online fundraising success stories, we’ll show you how to set up a successful program for your nonprofit organization or institution.

Click here to sign up now and we’ll see you next month in the Nation’s Capital!

The BWF Crowdfunding Boot Camp will be led by BWF’s Director of Communication, Justin Ware. Feel free to send any questions Justin’s way by clicking here for his contact info or by connecting with Justin here on LinkedIn.

Raising a Blizzard of Money Using Twitter

Hijacking a Blizzard for Twitter Fundraising Success

Hijacking a Blizzard for Twitter Fundraising Success

Wanna raise a blizzard of money online? Well then, tie your online fundraising in with a snowstorm!

That’s exactly what a single online ambassador did for Indiana nonprofit Wheeler Mission Ministries. The result? $41,000 raised through Twitter. That’s right – using ONLY Twitter, a single online ambassador raised more than $40,000 during one single snowstorm. For more on that story, check out the full post from SocialMedia Today by clicking here.

Hijacking Current Events = Fundraising Success

The snowstorm Twitter surge mentioned above happened when a smart supporter of Wheeler Mission decided he’d ask his connections to pledge a dollar amount for each inch of snow that fell during the storm. The end total was $3,700 per inch, which led to the $41,000 total for the 11+ inch storm.

The strategy above is known as “hijacking” a current event. Super Bowls, weather events, the Oscars, holidays …all can be leveraged to boost online fundraising in a big way. For another example, look at the first Tweetsgiving.

The up-and-coming-at-the-time Epic Change organization wanted to fund a school in Tanzania. To do so, they needed $10,000.

TweetsgivingDuring Thanksgiving 2009, the fledgling Epic Change group started sending out tweets with the hashtag #Tweetsgiving. Using that hashtag, Epic Change tweeters starting posting about what they were thankful for during the season of thanks. The hashtag caught on and soon thousands of people were tweeting their thanks using the hashtag #tweetsgiving.

Periodically, the Epic Change team would include a link to the online fundraising page in a tweet using the #Tweetsgiving tag. After just 48 hours, the buzz around the campaign led to the easy fulfillment of their goal, with more than $11,000 being raised. Epic change reached their funding goal by “hijacking” the Thanksgiving holiday by adding a clever twist in hashtag form.

What current events can your organization hijack for similar success?

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build online engagement and fundraising strategies.

Double Your Fundraising By Asking Donors NOT to Give [STUDY]

Make 2013 the year online giving takes off for your nonprofit.Want to double your online giving results? Simple …just make it easy for your donors not to give.

As counterintuitive as that sounds, a recent study highlighted in this John Haydon blog post tells us that giving donors an option to give and NOT to give actually doubles the likelihood they will donate.

It’s called the “But You Are Free” approach to a giving ask. In other words, along with saying “Please donate by clicking here” you would also want an adjacent button that says “You are free not to give by clicking here.” (The approach worked best face-to-face, but also worked well when done via email)

So NOW what??

From an online giving standpoint, the next logical question is …if someone clicks on the “But you are free not to give” option, where does that link take them? Do you ask them to instead share some content via a social network or email? Ask them to ask their friends to support the cause? …redirect the to a homepage? …or end of story, do nothing at all? I think this makes for a great conversation, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or online at Twitter or LinkedIn.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner where he helps clients build online engagement and fundraising strategies.

Content Marketing for Universities Using Hashtags

User generated content – it’s the holy grail of content marketing. But as many who have tried can tell you, it’s not as simple as asking your audience to “submit your favorite photos of (fill in the blank).”

Hashtag.usfca.edu LogoFirst, it needs to be easy on the user. I mean, REALLY easy …like including a simple hashtag in a post is all they should need to do. Which is the case for students, alumni, and supporters of the University of San Francisco, thanks to the institution’s use of Scoop.it – an online application that builds audiences through publishing by curation.

Scoop.it helps the University of San Francisco’s e-communications team track content tagged with the #USFCA hashtag on leading social networks such as Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. After a post using the #usfca hashtag is discovered, that content is then reviewed. If it passes muster, the USF e-comm team features that content on the Hashtag.usfca.edu website. The result is a conglomeration of photos, videos, and stories about life at and around the University of San Francisco.

The University of San Francisco's content marketing hub, hashtag.usfca.edu.

The University of San Francisco’s content marketing hub, hashtag.usfca.edu.

“Hashtag.usfca.edu fits perfectly into how we work towards the strategic goals,” said Thomas Listerman, Director of E-Communications at USF. “We curate content as a part of our regular monitoring – morning, noon, and afternoon.”

And it’s working. The Hashtag.usfca.edu project has led to a spike in visitors to USF’s web presence.

“We launched in March 2013 and after 9 months, we have now reached 130,000 views and 960 unique contributing sources,” said Listerman.

The Scoop.it page has also led to extensive use of the #usfca hashtag.

“We also measure (through radian6) the social media footprint in terms of social media conversations that mention the university name, and specifically conversations that include #USFCA,” said Listerman. “Compared to the same month last year, we have seen an average 168% increase in USF-relevant conversations overall and a 573% increase for the use of #USFCA.”

Like most universities, the University of San Francisco has few staff resources assigned to social media.

“Three full-time staff manage both email marketing and social media for the university, so we have to use our time efficiently,” said Listerman. “The monitoring and review process of #USFCA has been a way for us to generate more social media content, and more engagement with our content, with much less effort compared to creating the social media content ourselves.”

The Hashtag.usfca.edu Scoop.it site is authentic while also remaining on brand, thanks to the review process. Since it’s easy to use, there’s no shortage of user-generated submissions. And, because it’s user-generated, it’s helping USF understand what matters to its constituents, which shapes overall content marketing.

“The data from Hashtag.usfca.edu is playing an increasingly important role for our content marketing strategy,” said Listerman. “We use metrics from hashtag.usfca.edu and our other social media venues as a live ‘Litmus test’ for which stories to develop further through other channels.”

Interested in conducting your own content marketing campaign similar to what the University of San Francisco has done using Scoop.it? Listerman has the following list of tips to offer:

  • Consistently monitor your content – Look at what your community is already talking about and how your curation can make a difference. Respond daily to questions and comments that deserve response.
  • Get students involved with developing the concept for the project, either as student workers or as a focus group.
  • Give the community one common hashtag to identify themselves when they refer to the university in their social media conversations.
  • Use your brand messaging platform to create curation standards for your team.
  • Make sure that your platform of choice…
    • Links back each curated piece to the original item.
    • Gives each curated content item a URL of its own.
    • Allows for sharing through other social media channels.
    • Allows for metrics both on a site-wide and item-specific level.
  • Implement a procedure for circling back with every contributor you curate and publish, to let them know you’ve published their content.
  • Swag doesn’t hurt. USF used postcards and stickers for the back of laptops or smart phones to create extra attention in the student population.
  • Re-launch your project every semester with a focus on incoming students, in order to get them into the habit of using the right hashtag when they discover the university and throughout their student experience.

Justin Ware helps higher ed institutions, healthcare organizations, environmental organizations, and other nonprofits develop content marketing strategies. To connect with Justin to learn more, click here.

Facebook Ads Strategy for 2014

Facebook Ads LogoOnline communicators tend to harbor love/hate relationships with Facebook Ads. On one hand, no other form of online advertising – quite possibly no other form of advertising, period – allows a marketer to hyper target their message to the precise audience they’re looking to reach for such a small investment. In other words, Facebook Ads are efficient.

On the other hand, Facebook has changed its News Feed algorithm so that posts you make from your page that aren’t “promoted” (read: Ads you pay for) have very little chance of being seen by your fans. In other words, if you don’t have cash to spend, Facebook may no longer be a worthwhile investment of resources.

The latter, more negative, “hate” view of Facebook brought about by its recent focus on selling Ads is a gut reaction by many of us. But to ignore Facebook and its more than 1 billion users is a recipe for disaster. If you want to grow your nonprofit base while staying connected with your current supporters, Facebook is a must. So, knowing that, here are two things you can do in 2014 to make the most of the world’s leading social network:

Unlike this Facebook News Feed Ad, your Ads should be image driven and look like content a person's friend would ordinarily share.

Unlike this Facebook News Feed Ad, your Ads should be image driven and look like content a person’s friend would ordinarily share.

Content is (still) King: Facebook Ads are most effective when they’re set up to appear in a user’s News Feed. To optimize clicks and impressions, you should create content that looks like it belongs in the News Feed…

  • Images and/or video are a must.
  • Something that hooks into pop culture and the news of the day is very helpful.
  • Donor-centric is always best.

Really, all the rules that apply to good content also apply to Facebook Ads, because Facebook Ads are set up to look like content people share on a daily basis.

Leverage Online Ambassadors: As we’ve written about in the past, there is a way around Facebook’s increasingly restrictive algorithms – don’t rely solely on your page to share content about your organization. Instead, work with your online ambassadors to deliver content to their networks. Content means more when it comes from a trusted peer …which online ambassadors are to a large number of people. More importantly, Facebook’s page algorithms don’t apply to individuals. So, when online ambassadors share your content, far more people will see it. Use ambassadors to either directly post content from their profiles or share content posted on your org’s page.

Facebook is too intertwined in the daily lives of your donors to be ignored and Facebook Ads too effective to forego. Be sure when you’re making the investment in Ads, you’re doing so in a strategic, content-driven fashion to help ensure your dollars are well spent.

Justin Ware helps nonprofits develop online and social media strategies for fundraising. To connect with Justin, click here.

The Brilliance of SCU’s BuzzFeed Content Marketing

BuzzFeed is the embodiment of the move toward visual that has consumed social media in recent months. You’ve probably seen a few yourself – BuzzFeeds are those lists of images and gifs such as “21 Reasons Why Exercising is a Terrible Idea” and “The 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013.” They’re funny, heart-warming, and the safest bet of just about any content to go viral.

So it makes sense that Santa Clara University (a BWF client) decided to leverage BuzzFeed for their online and social media engagement and content marketing activity.

“The idea to use BuzzFeed really came from vigilant monitoring of social media,” said Marika Krause, Assistant Director of Media Relations at Santa Clara. “I noticed how many people were liking and sharing BuzzFeed links in my newsfeed.”

Krause is part of social media team at Santa Clara led by Assistant Director of Social Media Stephanie Bravo and Communications Director Deepa Arora. Bravo and Arora have been focused on using online and social media to connect with SCU alumni and supporters who might not otherwise be connected to the institution (in addition to serving those with a high degree of connection already). BuzzFeed, the team found, fits that need perfectly.

“It is vital to have a strong presence on multiple social media platforms, because the communities are in constant transition – anyone remember Friendster or when MySpace was the biggest player?” said Krause. “As social networks evolve, each site serves a different purpose, with different levels of popularity, and means different things to the unique population using them.”

The result is a series of BuzzFeeds – some created by students and alumni, others by the Office of Marketing and Communication at Santa Clara – that capture what it means to be a student at Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley. All the while, keeping a strategic message there for everyone to see in the best, least-intrusive way possible.

“The content is engaging with subtle nods to Santa Clara University,” said Krause. “We’re not banging people over the head with a message, but instead inviting them to enjoy some easily digestible content with a little Santa Clara flavor.”

Maybe the best example is this BuzzFeed – Top 7 Reasons You’re Addicted to BuzzFeed. In the visually-driven spirit of BuzzFeed, here’s a breakdown of why this particular Feed is such an awesome example of content marketing…

Top 4 Reasons Why SCU’s BuzzFeed Rocks Content Marketing’s Socks

  1. The “Top 7 Reasons You’re Addicted to BuzzFeed” post is about BuzzFeed (social media loves talking about itself).SCU BuzzFeed Title
  2. SCU’s own Instagram and Facebook posts are featured in the Feed. Strategic content placement, anyone?Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 10.46.41 PM
  3. It’s about the psychology of BuzzFeed and why we like the silly things we like. Who doesn’t love learning about that?SCU BuzzFeed Item - Content Marketing
  4. The information in this post comes from an SCU expert. Strategic placement of an expert in engaging social media content, anyone?SCU BuzzFeed Expert

For more on content marketing and how it helps your achieve online fundraising success, connect with BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

3 Tips for AFTER #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday Logo 2013It’s the day after #GivingTuesday and your organization is flush with first-time donors. You had a strategy to boost participation and acquire new donors. That strategy worked great, but now what? After a big online fundraising rush comes the real work of retaining those new donors. The following are a few tips to help you turn someone’s online impulse to give into a lifetime of support for your mission.

Thank first time donors: They’re online donors and so far, that’s the only way they’ve supported your organization. So be sure you thank them in a clever, engaging, and (most importantly) online way. Be ready with a brief, funny or heartwarming, and shareable video that reinforces their gift and makes them want to give more. Produce an infographic you can share with these new donors …a top ten list of why their support is so important …an email from someone who’s benefitted from your mission. Something, anything online that catches their attention and thanks them in a way that leaves them wanting more.

…but don’t forget about mail. Studies tell us dual channel (online and mail) donors give more money per gift and over time. That’s especially true when the donor receives follow up information from the nonprofit via both mail and online. So send them a welcome packet in the mail. Then study their response. Is online the only way they continue to interact? If so, significantly reduce the amount of mail they receive going forward. Then, reallocate those savings from reducing your mail program to add more staff and technology to support your online stewardship. Obviously, you should thank all your donors who give on #GivingTuesday. Be sure to have a unique plan for the first-timers who’ve come to support your organization via the web.

Steward through great content marketing: With all we know about the power of good content and how it moves donors to give more often and acquires new donors, you should have a solid content marketing strategy in place already. With an influx of new donors from #GivingTuesday, it’s especially important you’re producing and/or sharing good content to tell your story and reinforce their intent to support your organization.

This is another component of retention. New online donors will often visit your website, Facebook page, or blog to learn more about what you do. It’s imperative you have a rich set of content ready to greet those new, curious donors and steward them toward becoming more entrenched supporters.

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns.

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns. Use #GivingTuesday to find more of these ambassadors who will support your mission in future online campaigns.

Find new online ambassadors: Chances are, some influential social media users gave to your organization on #GivingTuesday. In your thank you message(s), ask for the donors’ Twitter handles, Facebook profile URL, blog URLs, website links, etc. Then, review their submissions to find social media users with large online followings. There’s a decent chance many of these social media savvy new donors wield influence online and can help you raise more money during upcoming giving days and online campaigns. Identify these potential online ambassadors and build them into your online fundraising and stewardship strategies.

Justin Ware helps nonprofits build successful online fundraising and stewardship programs. To learn more about Justin’s work at Bentz Whaley Flessner, click here.

Three Reasons Why You Want to Do More Online in 2014

It’s never too early to start planning, especially when it comes to next year’s budget. As for that budget, it should include money for online and social media under the communications heading. If it already does include budget for online and social, unless you’re beating all your fundraising goals (online and off line), it should include more money this year.

Why? I’m glad you asked. The following are three, statistically-backed reasons why you want to be doing more online to boost your fundraising in the next 12 months and beyond…

New donor acquisition: Well-run online fundraising campaigns are absolute juggernauts when it comes to acquiring new donors. A recent, informal BWF survey of mostly higher education institutions found that, on average, 40 percent of the donors who give during online ambassador-driven campaigns are new donors. While we haven’t crunched the numbers yet, when it comes to the healthcare examples we know of, that number is even higher.

Online Donors Give Bigger Gifts Than Those Acquired Via Mail

Online Donors Give Bigger Gifts Than Those Acquired Via Mail – Blackbaud, 2011

And here’s the thing – we’re not talking about 22-year-old donors who can barely make ends meet …online-acquired donors have higher household incomes, are more educated, and give larger gifts than donors acquired via mail. And, they’re not just kids. For everyone under age 65, online is now the primary method they use to make their first gift.

Stewardship: A good social media content marketing strategy helps donors understand how their gifts make a difference. The more you share that story online, the more their decision to give and give again is reinforced. That’s true for donors at all levels. Good social media content marketing is a major component of modern donor stewardship.

But what about stewarding major donors? Online and social media are just too impersonal, right? Not if you don’t want it to be. Check out this wonderful thank you video from Cornell to a generous supporter. Not only does content like this recognize the donor it honors, but that donor can easily share this video with their connections – many of whom are potential major donor prospects themselves. Content marketing is just as, if not more powerful in your major donor stewardship programs as it is for the annual fund.

Dayton's "I Love UD" campaign raised $1.7 million from more than 3,000 donors in one month.

Dayton’s “I Love UD” campaign raised $1.7 million from more than 3,000 donors in one month.

You’ll raise money! By now, you’ve probably heard about Columbia University’s back-to-back $6.9 million and $7.8 million 24-hour campaigns. But have you also heard about how the University of Dayton raised $1.7 million in one month through an online ambassador program? …or how Georgetown used gamification to raise more than $500,000 in 27 hours? …or how the University of Massachusetts Amherst exceeded the entire previous year’s worth of student giving in a day and a half? You don’t have to be an Ivy League school to raise big money online. All you need is a smart online and social media strategy that’s connected to a well-planned online fundraising campaign.

Now that you know you should must increase your investment in online and social media for fundraising, where should you allocate that investment? Below are three tips that will help you raise more money now and long-term.

An online ambassador program: Identify, engage, steward, and leverage your most influential online supporters to boost your online fundraising and awareness-building activity. Use smart tech, dedicated personnel to managing the program, and treat your ambassadors like the valuable volunteers they are… ALL YEAR LONG. Not just leading up to a fundraising campaign.

Better online infrastructure: Ease of use is enormous. You must be sure that your online giving process is as attractive, trusthworthy-seeming, and effortless as possible. Give donors the ability to make a gift from where ever they feel comfortable online – from email, on a mobile device, or via social networks like Facebook. Good tech (when coupled with a good communications strategy) is always worth the investment.

Personnel to create and manage an online strategy: You need a detailed social media strategy that delineates how your online and social media is going to help you reach your goals. This is not guesswork anymore. There are experienced professionals (and consultants!) who know what it takes to raise more money online. Hire them and build a strategy to help you increase online and social media fundraising in 2014 and beyond!

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner. Learn more about how he helps clients raise more money online by clicking here.

6 Case Studies on Using Social Media in Fundraising and Alumni Relations

CASE, BWF, and mStoner combined to write a white paper on social media for advancement.

CASE, BWF, and mStoner combined to write a white paper on social media for advancement.

If you’re looking for a step-by-step recounting of how to use social media for advancement, check out this recent white paper assembled by mStoner and CASE. (BWF contributed two of the case studies to this effort)

How did UMass Amherst boost it’s culture of philanthropy by acquiring more than 1,000 new donors in 36 hours (half of them students)?

What allowed Georgetown to pull in more than a half million dollars from donors across the country during its 24-hour City Challenge online campaign?

And how in the world did Columbia University raise $6.8 million from 4,400 donors in just a single day? …most of it online?

Those stories plus three more case studies are included in the white paper “#SocialMedia, Advancement, and Fundraising in Education.” Download it,  have a read, and then apply the lessons learned to your own online fundraising and advancement initiatives. No matter your size or goals, the tactics can be scaled to meet your institution’s needs.

Would you like to learn more about using social media to raise more money? Connect with BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication, and co-author of the aforementioned white paper, Justin Ware by clicking here.

Columbia’s Second Annual Giving Day – Another Huge Online Ambassador Success

GivingDay2013_LogoSmall

Columbia University Giving Day 2013

They did it again. This time, it was even bigger.

On October 23, Columbia University hosted its second annual Giving Day. An almost entirely online, ambassador-driven fundraising campaign that ranks among the most successful in history. In just 24 hours, Columbia raised more than $7.8 million dollars from 9,759 donors. Those who gave represent 53 countries and all 50 states.

Giving Day 2013 was a huge success with nearly 10,000 donors giving $7.8 million over 24 hours.

Giving Day 2013 was a huge success with nearly 10,000 donors giving $7.8 million over 24 hours.

The logical question is, “how?” We’ll get to the specifics on that in a later post, but here’s what we already know about Giving Day 2013 and what made it successful (which are the same things that can make your online fundraising campaigns successful, albeit at scale):

  • A robust online ambassador program: Online ambassadors worked well for Columbia in 2012, so they knew they needed another strong peer-to-peer effort in 2013. With this in mind, Columbia worked hard at identifying, engaging, and coaching a team of online ambassadors who would help them have even more success in 2013. Part of this ambassador effort was the know-how and great work done by Columbia’s staff. Another part was the smart use of software like SocialToaster – all of it came together to double the number of donors from 2012 to 2013.
  • Great infrastructure: Websites, online giving pages, Facebook apps, embeddable widgets – all across the Columbia online ecosystem, donors could find easy-to-use tools that allowed them to participate in Giving Day.
  • Brilliant staff: Columbia knew after 2012 that smart, strategic planning was key to a successful campaign. Internal staff and external vendors combined to make 2012 a hit. A similar mix of talent was assembled to cement 2013’s Giving Day as a tradition.

And that is probably the most impressive thing that we can glean (so far) from Giving Day 2012 – well-run online giving days are not fads. When smart strategy, experienced personnel, innovative tech, and enthusiastic ambassadors come together, online giving days become tradition.

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

Is Your Nonprofit Ready for Crowdfunding?

A lot of smart institutions and organizations have come to BWF in recent months with the following question – “what do we need to do to be ready for a crowdfunding campaign?” That’s a smart question, because it indicates the leaders of that organization know there’s more to crowdfunding than having an online giving page on your website.

So what do you need to be ready for crowdfunding? Allow us to show you via the visually-pleasing approach of the infographic! Below is a flow chart that lays out the prerequisites to hosting a successful, peer-to-peer, online ambassador, or crowdfunding campaign:

Flow chart to help you know whether your nonprofit is ready for crowdfunding.

Flow chart to help you know whether your nonprofit is ready for crowdfunding.

BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware helps clients plan and execute online crowdfunding campaigns. To learn more about BWF’s services, click here.

HOW TO Run a Mini Online Ambassador Campaign

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns.

Online ambassadors help drive interest during crowdfunding campaigns.

Robust online ambassador programs are built around multi-level strategies that include detailed steps for identifying and engaging new ambassadors, stewarding current and potential ambassadors, training and coaching ambassadors to help with fundraising activity, and more. From a strong content marketing strategy to ambassador recognition, a lot goes into successful peer-to-peer marketing programs.

But there are a few, relatively quick and easy things you can do with a small budget and very little staff time. Think of the idea laid out in the video below as a mini online ambassador campaign or, better yet, an online ambassador fundraising test.

Would you rather read than watch? Below are the steps for running a mini online ambassador test campaign:

  • Go to your org’s Facebook page, review the past month’s activity, and identify the people who frequently like, comment on, or (better yet) share your posts.
  • Take the names of those active on your Facebook page to your donor database and see if they’ve made a gift.
    • If they’re in your database, grab their email addresses and create a list for those users.
  • Next, head to your website and create a special page, with GOOD CONTENT (could be a photo gallery or a video) that links to your online giving website.
    • Make sure you have Google Analytics set up for that specific web page.
  • Then, using email, send that specially designed web page to the ambassadors you identified through Facebook.
    • In the email, ask those ambassadors to share that website via their social networks.
  • Using Google Analytics, track the page views, time spent on the page, and the referral source. This data will help you determine the effectiveness of your ambassador effort.

When done right, even a small effort like this could lead to several new donors and a nice boost to fundraising (not to mention the data you’d get to help you understand the potential of a larger ambassador program). Come to think of it, a mini ambassador test would be a GREAT idea for the upcoming year-end campaigns.

Of course, if you’d like to talk more about leveraging ambassadors for your organization’s end-of-calendar-year fundraising campaigns, you can find my contact information by clicking here. In the mean time, good luck with your online crowdfunding efforts!

Michigan State’s Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns

SpartyFansGame

Michigan State leveraged the popularity of its mascot, Sparty, for one successful crowdfunding campaign.

A handful of small projects are the beginning of what Michigan State development staff hope will be a massive change in annual giving work at the University. That change involves a shift of focus toward more donor engagement via crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding allows donors – specifically new and smaller gift donors – to more clearly see the impact of their gifts, because they’re helping to fund a specific project or cause. This demonstration or proof of impact is something annual giving programs have been struggling with for some time. Crowdfunding, or online peer-to-peer giving, is one very effective way of addressing that desire of the donor to see the impact of their gift.

At the same time, crowdfunding is tremendously efficient at acquiring new donors, because …well, it’s all about the crowd! Peer-to-peer or online ambassador-fueled crowdfunding campaigns reach out to new donors by way of friends and family communicating online, specifically, via social networks. On average, 40 percent of the donors who give during ambassador-led online campaigns are new.

In the video below, Michigan State’s Director of Online Engagement, Paul Prewitt, uses MSU’s recent Extreme Makeover: Sparty Edition campaign to show how crowdfunding is helping the University identify more new donors and communicate the impact of philanthropy to all donors, big and small.

Consider the following:

In other words, all those new donors the Sparty campaign brought in for MSU are not just college kids and recent grads – they’re middle age and older supporters of the school. Many of them have deeper pockets than you might imagine.

Knowing the above, it’s clear – serious resources should be dedicated to an online and social media strategy for development. And not just resources for crowdfunding in the annual giving department, but for your entire development operation. Millionaires are online disproportionately more than those of lesser means. It’s not just about the annual fund – if you want to have a major gift program ten years from now, you had better start engaging and stewarding those future big gift donors with a smart online and social media strategy today. And you can start by leveraging the crowd.

Justin Ware helps BWF’s clients build online and social media strategies that lead to six and seven-figure online fundraising campaigns. For more on BWF’s social media service offerings, click 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.

Instagram Metrics – Statigram Offers a Quality, Free Option

Measure, measure, measure. No social media strategy is complete without the ability to test your activity. To do so, requires access to useful and meaningful metrics. For Instagram users, a good and affordable (free) option is Statigram.

Tracking content for engagement is key to future content planning. In its simplest form, that means counting the number of likes, comments, and shares something receives. Statigram does that… (Sidenote: my dog is FAR more popular on social media than I am)

Statigram tells you which of your Instagram photos have received the most likes.

Statigram tells you which of your Instagram photos have received the most likes.

If it’s discussion you’re after, Statigram gives you that data, too…

Number of comments signal more engaging content than number of likes.

Number of comments signal more engaging content than number of likes.

Beyond the basics, Statigram digs deeper into the modifications you make to your photos. Filters are one of the reasons Instagram is so popular. Statigram organizes engagement data around your photos to paint an easy-to-read picture of which filters correlate with the most likes…

You might consider using different filters based on which ones garner the most attention.

You might consider using different filters based on which ones garner the most attention.

Similar info is available to help you understand which tags attract the most Instagram eyes…

Statigram tells you which tags are most popular overall and for your specific pictures.

Statigram tells you which tags are most popular overall and for your specific pictures.

You might also want to use Statigram for account maintenance and remove the dead beats who aren’t following you back. No reason to clog up your feed with an Instagrammer who’s not interested in what your posting (unless you REALLY like their stuff, of course)…

See who you follow, but doesn't follow you back and more...

See who you follow, but doesn’t follow you back and more…

Those are some of the most valuable data sets I’ve discovered using Statigram. I’d be curious to know …what do you find most useful in measuring Instagram activity? Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking here.

Learn more about how BWF helps its clients raise more money and acquire more donors by clicking here.

Average New Donor Acquisition During Online Campaigns – 40 Percent

Are you concerned about the future of your nonprofit’s base of fundraising support? Do you like the idea of adding new donors who are wealthy and well-educated? Then you might consider adding a robust online ambassador program and social media strategy, because simply put, nothing adds more new, wealthy donors more quickly than a well-run online ambassador campaign.

BWF did a quick survey of seven very different higher education institutions who recently conducted mostly online or online-only fundraising campaigns. The sample size was small, but diverse – schools included major public research institutions, small liberal arts schools, an Ivy League member, an internationally-renowned private, a small state school, among others. Of those surveyed, the average percentage of new donors during an online campaign was 40 percent. And the outliers were subtle – the lowest school had 27 percent, the highest 58 percent. And we’re not talking about 40 percent of a few dozen donors – most of the schools counted their donors in the thousands during these campaigns. This is especially impressive considering most of the campaigns were 36 hours or shorter.

Online ambassador campaigns lead to a huge influx of new donors.

Online ambassador campaigns lead to a huge influx of new donors.

Who are these newly acquired online donors? On average, they’re far wealthier than their peers who chose to give through traditional means like direct mail. According to a recent Convio study referenced below, those who give both online and off have the highest household incomes, followed by those who give only online. The distant third and least wealthy group are those who only give via mail.

Dual Channel Donors Income

If you want the wealthiest donors, look online.

To create online campaigns that help your organization or institution leverage the above trends, consider increasing your effort and resources in the following three areas:

  1. Develop a robust online ambassador program that identifies, engages, stewards, and leverages your most influential online supporters. Your message will go much further when it travels through this group of savvy Internet supporters.
  2. Invest in infrastructure. Unless you’re the Obama campaign, you can probably improve something about your organization’s online giving experience, Facebook applications, widgets, data recovery and storage, et al. Actually, I’ll bet even the democrats are thinking about how to improve things for 2016.
  3. Invest in personnel. Ultimately, ambassador programs and social media strategies are about managing relationships. To manage relationships, you need people.

To learn more about BWF’s online and social media fundraising consulting services, click here.

UMassGives Online Ambassador Campaign Acquires 1,500+ Donors – Most of them New

The online ambassadors strike again. This time at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (a BWF client) where the annual giving team led the inaugural UMassGives online fundraising campaign. Sarah Sligo, Executive Director of Annual Giving at UMass Amherst, had two goals in mind when the campaign planning started – acquire new donors (specifically young alumni and students) and expand the “culture of philanthropy” around UMass Amherst. The 36-hour UMassGives inarguably accomplished both by bringing more than 800 new donors in to the fold and creating a substantial amount of buzz online by way of UMass Amherst’s growing online ambassador program. UMassGivesTweet1

Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

In the months leading up to UMassGives, Sligo and her colleagues identified more than 200 potential online ambassadors to help promote the campaign. Nearly 150 of those potential ambassadors agreed to use their social networks to share information and build the buzz around UMassGives, creating a viral spread of awareness.

During the campaign, ambassadors received emails asking them to share updates about UMassGives on their social networks. That activity spread across the Internet, helping make news of UMassGives go viral, which ultimately led to the university raising more than $80,000 from 1,588 donors.

For more on the campaign, check out what Sarah has to say in the video below: Need help planning a campaign that acquires new donors? Check out BWF’s social media consulting services by clicking here.

Instagram -ing a Kidney Transplant

Social media can serve as a window into your organization, connecting supporters and donors to your day-to-day operation. Piedmont Healthcare Atlanta took that window concept literally, live posting tweets, photos and more from a kidney transplant operation in December 2012.

The goal of the live posting project, according to a Piedmont Healthcare statement, was “to increase awareness about living donation through the power of social media since half of all kidneys transplanted at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital come from living donors, which allows for better long-term outcomes for our recipients.”

The following are a few examples from the live posting project:

KidneyTransPreppingFrom the prepping of the organs, to the transplant, to the reactions from doctors, family, and the patients themselves, every step of the process was recorded…

KidneyTransplantKidneyTransHappyDoc KidneyTransHappyFamily

KidneyTransRecipient

The live posting of the process drew rave reviews from followers across Twitter and other social networks…

KidneyTransTweets6

In addition to expanding awareness of a cause, a project like this can easily be leveraged for fundraising by occasionally including a link to a giving form in the tweets or building a website to serve as a hub for all the live posting activity with a clearly visible “Donate” or “Give Now” button on the website.

Beyond any practical applications, Piedmont should be commended for taking a chance on a project that puts the patient on display. With privacy laws in place, many healthcare organizations would not consider a project like this, because of the mistaken idea that privacy laws make it nearly impossible to accomplish. Piedmont has shown us otherwise and is likely reaping the benefits of a more connected and dedicated base of followers as a result.

To follow the full day’s activity on Storify, click here.

To learn more about developing strategies like this to connect with your donors and supporters, contact Justin Ware, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication, by clicking here.

HOW TO Use Social Media for Stewardship

Think of online stewardship as customer service via the Internet.

Think of online stewardship as customer service via the Internet.

Good social media strategies often start with the question “how can we use these tools to provide something of value for our constituents?” In other words, how can your organization leverage Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, and whatever else to better serve your supporters? …how can social media be part of your organization’s overall stewardship plan? Turns out, there are plenty of good examples of using online and social media for donor stewardship. In the video below, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware and Annual Giving Consultant Vanessa Chase share some of the best examples of social media stewardship they’ve seen to date:

Interested in building online and social media into your stewardship strategy? Have a look at BWF’s online and social media consulting services by clicking here.

@WorkingOrange – How to Manage a Higher Ed Twitter Account

@WorkingOrangeProfilePicIt’s an age-old (in social media time) and still relevant question – “what do we tweet?” The easy answer is, “something that’s useful, valuable, and fun for your audience.” For a specific example of a Twitter account that covers those three things and more, check out Syracuse University’s @WorkingOrange. The @WorkingOrange Twitter account is run by Syracuse’s Career Services department and is awesome, because…

First, it provides valuable information about a hot topic, especially for younger grads. Those of us who work in higher ed know there’s a lot more to a four-year degree than simply landing a job. That said, it is a big reason why many people attend college. Which means, finding a good and rewarding job is part of the “product” that colleges and universities offer. And successful brands provide adequate stellar customer service around their products. In large part, that’s what this Twitter account amounts to for Syracuse grads – a customer service channel to help fullfil that promise of meaningful work following graduation.

Two, it is highly engaging and interactive – lots of retweets and mentions. It might seem trivial to some, but to your most active and influential social media followers it is not – validation matters online.

When you think about it, we all like to be validated. Some of us at work, others by our families, others still by our friends and social circles. For those of us who spend a lot of time conversing on social networks, we also seek validation in our social media communities. @WorkingOrange provides that validation by truly communicating with the account’s followers. That activity matters, because it builds and strengthens relationships with supporters, which increases the likelihood of them becoming life-long supporters.

Three, it has personality! Most successful Twitter accounts have personality. Just have a look at the following tweets…

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 3.12.04 PM

Some Twitter accounts – @DeptofDefense, for example – need to be a bit more serious, most of the time. (Although even the Department of Defense can find appropriate ways of having fun on Twitter) But for the majority, it’s important to fit the attitude and style of the social network. For Twitter, that’s (hopefully) quick-witted, courteous, upbeat, useful, and timely. @WorkingOrange is all of those things and more.

Wanna talk more about social media for higher ed? Contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

I Love UD – Another Online Ambassador Campaign Nets Million Dollar Results

ILoveUDHomepageBannerAnother online ambassador program has resulted in a 7-figure-plus fundraising campaign for a higher education institution. This time, it’s the University of Dayton and their I Love UD campaign. In addition to the spectacular fundraising haul and large number of new donors acquired (27 percent of the 3,016 donors were making their first ever gift to Dayton), this online campaign had a strong focus on donor retention. Chad Warren, the brains behind Florida State’s inaugural Great Give goes into detail about I Love UD’s donor retention plan …a plan that was built into the campaign. For specific tips on retaining new donors during online campaigns, start watching at about the 3-minute mark in the video below. Or, watch the whole thing to learn more about just how awesome the first I Love UD campaign was…

To learn more about building online ambassador programs that lead to successful fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware, by clicking here.

HOW TO Measure Social Media ROI for Nonprofits

We work in fundraising. So when we think about return on investment or ROI, the “return” part of that acronym usually has something to do an increase in gifts and dollars given. Of course, for those of us whose fundraising experience extends beyond running a bake sale, we know there’s more to a nonprofit’s budget than what comes in via fundraising from donors. There are expenses – not just employee salaries, but phone programs, direct mail resources (from printing costs to the fees associated with actually mailing the items), costs associated with stewardship activity, and more. When we reduce those costs, the savings are no different than an equal amount coming in via fundraising. In fact, it may be even better since revenue generated from savings can often be considered “unrestricted.”

ArrowUpDownAnimatedA well-orchestrated social media strategy can produce significant savings in areas like direct mail, stewardship activity, and phone programs. Which is why savings from a reduction to, for example, a phone program due to a greater reliance on email or social media is one way of measuring the ROI of your social media. For more on different ways of measuring the impact of your social media activity, check out this infographic on the MDG blog. Pay special attention to the four points in “The New Game Plan” section at the bottom of the infographic. One of those points asks if you’re better prepared to react to issues that affect brand reputation (as a result of your social media strategy). Having a greater hold of your brand or reputation is highly valuable and certainly demonstrates a return on investment – even if it can’t be directly quantified in fundraising dollars or new donors acquired.

So how might your nonprofit organization or institution measure online and social media activity beyond the easily trackable donors and dollars raised figures? The following are a few suggestions:

Listen to your data and adjust your direct mail program accordingly: How many of your donors give exclusively online? If someone gives online – especially if they give repeatedly online and never give via mail – then you’re likely wasting resources by sending them direct mail pieces. That doesn’t mean you should never mail an online donor. Every new donor should receive a welcome kit via the postal service. But after that, if they never respond via mail, and especially if they continue to give exclusively online, redirect those mail resources to beefing up your online and social media strategy (including email, social networks like Facebook, and your organization’s websites).

Still don’t believe me? Check out the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmarking Report. In that report, you’ll see the average value of a Facebook “like” is $214 in the 12 months following the acquisition of that like. How much did it cost to achieve that like? $3.50. How much does it cost your organization to acquire a new donor via direct mail? For many organizations, that direct mail acquisition cost is ten times the $3.50 it cost to acquire the donor via Facebook.

Still don’t believe me, part 2? Here’s a personal anecdote… My wife recently asked that we stop supporting an environmental nonprofit, because they repeatedly sent us massive packets in the mail. We have never sent a gift to that organization via the mail, but had made multiple online gifts. To recap … an environmental nonprofit sends their online-only donor enormous amounts of PAPER. A wiser approach would cutting mail to families like ours and instead investing those resources in a more robust online stewardship and fundraising strategy. The online approach would likely be less expensive. The savings from that approach should count towards your online and social media ROI.

Stewardship: Nothing allows you to stay in touch with a large number of donors on a daily, even hourly basis, like social media. More and more, we are learning about the value in keeping our supporters appraised of how their fundraising dollars are being spent to improve the world. Use online and social media to tell that story (from a DONOR CENTRIC standpoint) and you will strengthen relationships with current donors, plus attract new donors when your current donors share your stories with their friends and family via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

How do you measure this activity? It’s not always as easy as counting donors and dollars, but there are metrics like awareness and perception. For larger organizations, tools like Radian6 can help with tracking these “soft” metrics. You might also consider donor attrition. If you make a serious investment in online and social media, has your attrition rate improved?

Think about all the metrics that matter to your organization and what you’re trying to accomplish through better stewardship. Then, line those goals up with online and social media activity. Track the two over time and you should be better able to understand the ROI of your online and social media activity as it relates to stewardship.

Tweet banks to replace phone banks: We continue to hear stories of institutions or organizations that are investing more and more in their phone programs only to see the same or lesser results. Why not replace some of those callers with social media conversation monitors? In higher ed – where phonathons are common place – take some of those student callers off the headset and put them in front of a keyboard. Especially during an online campaign, their activity could very well result in more gifts and dollars raised than they would be able to generate over the phone. At the very least, you’d be reaching a different and enormous demographic of people who don’t have or use landlines. Just how enormous is that demographic? More than half of all Americans. No, not just younger Americans …MORE THAN HALF OF ALL AMERICANS ARE UNREACHABLE BY YOUR PHONE PROGRAM EFFORTS.

Cutting back on your phone program in favor or more online and social media activity may produce ROI in the form of savings, but it will also likely lead to a much more easily quantifiable metrics like more money raised and more donors acquired.

For more on measuring the impact of your online and social media activity, connect with Justin Ware, BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication by clicking here.

Long Tail of Giving Follows Short Online Fundraising Campaigns

A new trend is starting to emerge that provides nonprofits with yet another reason to ramp up their online and social media giving efforts – the “long tail” of giving that follows those short-burst online fundraising campaigns. The roughly 24- to 72-hour, mostly-online or online-only campaigns have already proven themselves to be excellent tools for engaging new donors and boosting overall donor participation. Now, we’re starting to see the value in the “buzz” these campaigns create by the number of gifts that come in online AND off in the days and weeks immediately following the short online campaign.

Big Gifts Follow a Big Campaign at Columbia

GivingDayLogoEven without the post-campaign activity, Columbia University’s 2012 Giving Day was a big win for the institution and its alumni. In just 24 hours, Columbia’s supporters gave more than $6.8 million to the University through 4,940 gifts …all but 184 of which were given online. As is typical in short online campaigns, roughly 40 percent of those nearly 5,000 donors were making their first gift and more than half of the gifts originated on social networks (special apps allowed donors to start the giving process from blogs or Facebook pages. They were were then redirected to the main online giving website). But the giving didn’t end at midnight on Giving Day.

In the week following the Giving Day campaign, Columbia saw a significant boost to giving at all levels, with one story standing out. At an on-campus event, a major gift donor stood up in front of a crowd and pledged a seven-figure gift on the spot. The reason the donor gave for the spur-of-the-moment monster gift? They were proud of Columbia for taking such an innovative approach to giving and excited about all the activity around giving to the University they saw taking place online and, specifically, on social media. This is a direct example of social media buzz leading to major fundraising success for a university.

*Sidenote: multiple other institutions tell stories of seven-figure gifts coming in because a wealthy individual learned of the work being done at an institution on Facebook. That work mattered to the wealthy donor, causing them to reach out to the institution and make their first (very big) gift. Lesson? Social media is not just for the annual fund anymore.

UMassGives …and keeps giving

In late April 2013, the University of Massaschuetts Amherst conducted its first ever UMassGives – an entirely online, 36-hour campaign. The goal of UMassGives was twofold:

  1. Acquire new donors to UMass Amherst.
  2. Nurture the growing culture of philanthropy around the institution.

UMass Amherst accomplished all of the above raising nearly $84,000 from more than 1,500 donors. Roughly half of those donors were making their first ever gift to UMass – many of them students. Nothing says “expanding the culture of philanthropy at an institution” quite like engaging hundreds of students and young alumni in a buzz-worthy online fundraising campaign.

UMassGivesTweet1

Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

Twitter was a buzz with activity, helping virally spread the culture of philanthropy at UMass Amherst.

Again, the giving didn’t end with the 36-hour campaign. May 1-8, 2013 – the week immediately following UMassGives – saw twice the number of online gifts given and twice the dollars raised online when compared to May 1-8, 2012. This 100 percent increase to online giving is another example of the long tail following a short campaign.

Ambassadors drive buzz during and after online campaigns

Both Columbia’s Giving Day and UMassGives incorporated a peer-to-peer online communication plan. Or what we call at BWF, an online ambassador program. Ambassadors programs are built around the concept of having your biggest supporters do your communication work for your organization. Ambassadors share content on Facebook, post items to their blogs, tweet messages about your institution – they engage in activity that promotes your organization’s initiatives directly to their online connections. Simply put, ambassador programs are friends encouraging friends to support your philanthropic mission. It’s the age-old “recommendation from a friend” that is and has always been the most trusted form of promotion that leads to the most conversions – in the case of fundraising, that means more gifts given.

For Columbia and UMass, ambassadors were highly active during their online campaigns, igniting buzz in dozens of social media communities and spreading word of the campaigns. That buzz wasn’t extinguished the moment the campaigns ended. It carried throughout the days and weeks following the campaigns, helping to raise more dollars, acquire more new donors, and extend the culture of philanthropy for both institutions. The key is building a volunteer ambassador program for your organization so that you can influence that peer-to-peer activity and enjoy that long tail of giving, long after a short online fundraising campaign.

To learn about how BWF can help your organization build comprehensive online ambassador programs and prepare for online fundraising campaigns, contact BWF’s Director of Interactive Communication Justin Ware by clicking here.

Attacking Social Media “Slacktivists”

UNICEFSwedenantiFBlikes

Courtesy of The Atlantic

UNICEF Sweden is taking shots at its online supporters who “like” activity the organization posts on Facebook. A recent ad campaign from the Sweden branch of UNICEF is rather bluntly telling its supporters that so-called vanity actions on social networks – the likes, shares, pins, retweets, etc. – do nothing to further the mission of the organization. Literally. (Check out the full story in the Atlantic by clicking here) The ads say a like on Facebook will “vaccinate zero children against polio.” (See the bottom of this post for a UNICEF YouTube spot along the same lines)

The objective of the campaign is to help supporters understand that donations are the lifeblood of the nonprofit organization. Which, of course, is true. The trouble is, donations come from a general awareness of a problem that a nonprofit solves. And awareness – as multiple studies now show – comes from activity on social networks.  Perhaps UNICEF Sweden hasn’t seen the recently released joint study from Georgetown University and Waggener Edstrom that shows social media is, by a vast majority, the primary way digitally active supporters and donors learn of new causes – even for those donors who give money offline.

“Likes” = awareness. Awareness = more donors and dollars

Let’s consider the mechanics behind some of these vanity metrics that are, by and large, worthless according to UNICEF Sweden. For example, a Facebook like. When someone “likes” a post on Facebook, that activity is sent to a large number of that person’s network of friends via their newsfeed. Go ahead, take a second to look at your Facebook feed. In the lower left, you’ll see a constantly-updating scroll of activity your friends are liking. Occasionally, that liking activity appears as a major news item in the News Feed. That leads to more exposure which leads to more new donors joining the cause. Knowing that, it would appear that mission awareness is something UNICEF Sweden does not value.

Know Your Data

Beyond the awareness building capacity of social media, there is evidence that suggests “slacktivists” are less slackerish than one might expect. According to another joint Georgetown study – highlighted in this Mashable article – slacktivists are:

  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of a charity’s cause.
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time.
  • Equally as likely to donate as their non-social-media using counterparts (in other words, clicking “like” is not in place of a gift, but in addition to the gift).

All of the above would suggest that Facebook “likes” do, in fact, help organizations vaccinate kids against polio. As a matter of fact, a good argument could be made that a strong Facebook approach could be more effective than the ad campaign against slacktivism that UNICEF Sweden likely paid well into the six figures to create and implement.

To be fair, in the interview with the Atlantic, UNICEF Sweden’s Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant said “We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there. Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”

Trouble with that statement is, if you look at the data, it would seem that Facebook “likes” actually do lead to money for those vaccines.

To be fair part 2, it’s certainly possible that UNICEF Sweden is trying to use the classic “shock value” approach to advertising as a way of drumming up awareness and support. And you could argue by the attention this campaign is getting in well-respected publications like The Atlantic and far less respected publications like this blog, they’re shock and awe campaign is working. Plus, the YouTube video below has been watched more than 38,000 times at the time of this post’s first publication. That is, of course, also awareness. So Maybe UNICEF Sweden is just much sharper than this author. That said, I would advise against any strategy that openly ridicules your slacktivists social champions. As the data tells us, those highly active social media supporters might just be the key to your organization’s future.

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

Emails That Don’t Ask – Online Fundraising Done Right

When producing an email for donors, the following are a couple tips for grabbing your supporters’ attention:

  • Keep it short.
  • Provide engaging content (like a video or an awesome picture).
  • As often as possible, make it about the donor.
  • Avoid making an ask in every email.

As is often the case, the online team at the Humane Society of the United States provides the blueprint for online communications with this email sent to donors who gave to prevent the Canadian seal slaughter:

HSUS_SealThanksEmailIn addition to the above criteria, this email is personalized, opens nicely on mobile devices, connects easily to leading social networks for sharing, and is upbeat. The last point is not always associated with animal welfare organizations, but the HSUS understands the value in providing hope along with the more horrific reasons why a person should give to their organization. Especially when your cause is a tough one to face on a consistent basis – poverty, illness, child abuse prevention – it’s important to remind donors that their contributions are making the world a better place.

The focus on email is crucial. According to this Chronicle of Philanthropy piece on the 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the share of people who made a gift in response to a fundraising email dropped by 21 percent. The article offers a slew of reasons for the decline, none of which suggest email is dead. If anything, the lower numbers are due to a carpet bomb approach and/or a general lack of good data about the donors behind the email addresses. People do read emails and when the message’s content is done right, they respond positively. The key is being personal and offering users something via email. Make it about them, as opposed to always being about your organization, and engagement with your email audience will grow …which leads to gifts when you do make an ask.

OK, now that you’ve made it through my brief tips/rant on nonprofit emails, here’s a video of cute seal pups:

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

InvestinSocialInfographic

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