Over the last 5 years, Giving Days have become a staple annual event for over 75% of schools in North America. Some institutions have over 5 Giving Days under their belt and make running one look easy, but often they take months of cross-functional planning behind the scenes. So where do you begin when embarking on your first campaign?
In August of 2017, South Dakota State ran their first Giving Day campaign. The SDSU team had no prior experience of running a Giving Day so they decided to join forces with Hubbub to provide the expertise and technology for the day.
We caught up with SDSU’s team to find out how their experience can help others planning their first Giving Day or wanting to improve their next one.
Firstly, let's introduce a few of the team members behind SDSU’s successful day:
Vice President for Strategy and Innovation
Director of Loyalty Giving
It is important to get every team in your Advancement office on-board and clear on the role they are going to play before, during and after your Giving Day. It really is a team effort.
Why Setting a Goal is Important
When you’re running your institution’s first Giving Day you have no benchmark data from previous years so it is hard to know whether your goal is realistic or overly ambitious. Some institutions decide to have no goal for their first Giving Day in order to reduce the risk of perceived failure. However, without a goal, planning messaging and communications can be difficult. In fact, some donors might be turned off and not make a gift at all.
Arian Bunde, Vice President for Strategy and Innovation, explains the importance of having a goal for SDSU, ‘Before we started we were excited but anxious - very anxious! Scott (Digital Fundraising Specialist at Hubbub) used his experience in running giving days to look through our donor data and advise us on a goal of 500 donors. This was instrumental in the success of our day - it gave focus to the day, its messaging, and created urgency.’
Once your goal is set you can begin breaking down how you’re going to reach that goal. SDSU knew from the beginning that matched funding challenges would play a key role in motivating donors to participate. Smartly, they decided to break down their 500 donor goal into smaller challenges.
First, SDSU brainstormed all of the many possible challenges they could set, and then Hubbub ran a workshop to determine which would be the most impactful. Erin Glidden, Director of Loyalty Giving, explained: ‘I think the challenge workshop helped us. We had all these ideas but it helped us identify the priorities by relating it back to what we were trying to achieve’.
Arian added: 'We workshopped our giving themes with Scott and identified our top challenge priorities - including one for every college.
We then arranged donor and dollar matched funding challenges. This engaged our campus partners, drove participation, and inspired first-time donors (32% were first-time donors).
Challenges allowed targeting and segmentation of messaging based on to whom the challenges were relevant, e.g. $5000 was released if we achieved 50 first time donors. Challenges focused our messages - it kept them fresh throughout the day. Our challenges were instrumental to the day’s success.’
Arian explained: 'We knew we wanted to have a cohesive brand to make the various messages and promotions of the day more easily recognizable. Since this was our first ever Giving Day, we wanted to be sure that our donors and alumni knew what the excitement was all about - even if they weren’t even sure yet just what a Giving Day involved!
Our first step was to select a logo, hashtag, and tagline, and then generate the creative design to support it. The key is not to overthink it! Once established, we used that wherever possible - social media, email signatures, campus and community communications, and online messaging - to bring everything together.'
Your Giving Day video is your most effective tool for storytelling. However, video allows so many possibilities that it can feel daunting and difficult to know where to start, especially if you do not have a Hollywood budget.
Erin had this advice: ‘We came up with the storyboard by simply gathering the team around a whiteboard. We decided to only have a few videos so we didn’t marginalize our efforts; you don’t need to have a million videos! You don’t need to have a large production team either - we were able to create them all in-house using some campus footage and a few student volunteers. Our videos had to be both educational, as it was our first Giving Day, and inspirational to motivate participation’.
Jennifer McCloud, Content Strategist, added, ‘Of all the channels, video saw the highest engagement on Social Media.’
You can see their end result here:
Giving Days are a wonderful opportunity to inspire new audiences. However, we have to try new ways to reach them in the first place.
With 1 in 1300 asks that come from an organization converting to donations compared with 1 in 4 from a peer or friend, are Social Ambassadors the next revolution in fundraising?
Jenn talks about the impact Social Ambassadors had on their Giving Day: ‘The concept of social media ambassadors is necessary - they make the difference. Our ambassadors signed up to our Giving Day platform and agreed to share our messages throughout the day. Every time we announced a matched funding challenge, our ambassadors could share the message through our social media integration. Some even came up with their own creative content.
Hubbub helped us identify potential social media ambassadors with high social influence and target our recruitment messaging to match them. 10 days before the event we started to engage potential ambassadors and saw good traction. We had a target of 50, which we passed quickly, then we had 100, and finally 256. In the end, we had thousands of supporters sharing our posts and those of our ambassadors.
With ambassadors on board, we felt better, but still not confident! Doubting was minimized but no part of us thought "we’ve got this".
By the end of the day, 20% of our gifts came directly from ambassador referrals. Our communication strategy was largely digital, so social media and online content were very important.'
The Big Day
Erin describes the excitement of the day: “Our giving day started at midnight. We had 13 donors before going to bed, and in the morning by 10 am we knew this was going to be a good day. It was cool to see the buzz around campus and around the social world. Everybody was attached to their phones all day hitting refresh, refresh, refresh!
By 1 pm we had hit our 500 donor goal. We were delighted. Over the moon! In planning our first Giving Day, we were very anxious, but now we understand why it is so important. It’s hard to put into words, but our giving day was engaging and fun. It allowed our donors and alumni the chance to interact with our university in a new and exciting way. The president described it as a “transformational day on campus”.We feel good about all the work that went into it. We took a risk and it paid off. It was beyond what we could have anticipated or expected, and we’re already planning for next year!
It was helpful having Scott on campus with us during the day - living and breathing it with us. The commitment of time and energy was representative of a true partnership. From the beginning, we felt a connection to Hubbub. Their people are great people!”