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How Elon University turned Giving Days into a success

Giving Days

Elon University have become experts in Giving Days, raising $955,099 on their last giving day, whilst also tripling the number of gifts received in the last three years. This post looks at the success of their giving days, along with a few tips from John Barnhill, Assistant Vice President for University Advancement at Elon University, on how to implement or improve a Giving Day at your own university.

Year One

Launched in 2014, Elon University created their Giving Day with the aim of further engaging their alumni community, while at the same time also creating a culture of philanthropy with its current students. They wanted it to be a day that everyone could be involved with. It was from here that #ElonDay was created.

The theme was rather simple, yet effective: “wear a gear, spread the word, make a gift”.

This campaign resulted in:

  • 1,013 donors
  • $116,867 in total donations
  • 2,241 tweets including #ElonDay
  • 879 Instagram posts

For a year one Giving Day programme, the results were a huge success for Elon.

How Elon University turned giving days into a success - year 1

Year Two

The second year of Elon’s Giving Day was even more successful, involving more alumni and a larger community participating in the appeal. Along with doubling the number of donors and increasing their total donations by more than six times that of year one, #ElonDay also appeared in the top 6 trending topics nationwide on social media.

The campaign resulted in:

  • 2,703 total gifts
  • $702,428 in total donations
  • 765 #ElonDay alumni ambassadors
  • 4000+ #ElonDay mentions across all social platforms

Elon also introduced the role of ambassadors into their second Giving Day – creating an opportunity for alumni to become further engaged and to be a champion of giving days amongst their peers.

There was an impressive level of growth year-on-year, which can be attributed to the consistency in Elon’s approach – creating a growing interest in the day and a passionately engaged community.

How Elon University turned giving days into a success - year 2

Year Three

Their third Giving Day saw a steady growth, both in the number of gifts, but also in the total amount of donations.

Alumni participation reached 60%, and the hashtag #ElonDay was mentioned more than 4500 times on social media.

The campaign resulted in:

  • 3,749 gifts
  • $955,099 raised
  • 60% from alumni
  • 21% from parents
  • 4500 #ElonDay mentions across SM platforms
  • 42 events and 3325 attendees on campus and around the world

In year two Elon had introduced the role of ambassadors, and in year three parents giving on the day accounted for 21% of the donations. Elon grew its donor participation and income raised year-on-year by slowly diversifying their audience, creating a chain of success along the way.

How Elon University turned giving days into a success - year 3

Elon’s tips for a successful Giving Day

According to John Barnhill, Assistant Vice President for University Advancement of Elon University, here are his top two tips to keep in mind when planning a successful giving day:

  1. Build a cross-campus team of staff to implement your Giving Day. “At Elon, we have representatives from Communications, Technology, Student Life, Annual Giving, Alumni Engagement, Parent Engagement and Donor Relations. Each has sub-committees that involve other offices and external constituents as well.”
  2. Engage “Champions” for your Giving Day. “Having a strong, well-trained, engaged volunteer team to help leverage your day of giving is essential. Each Champion should know what their role is as the day progresses and have specific goals and tools to be successful.”

Tereza Litsa

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