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.

Online Giving Days Survey Infographic

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.