Where their story begins
Before establishing QUT Giving Day, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) didn’t have a robust and consistent way to attract new donors to the institution. Over the years they attracted small pools of new donors and had been quite pleased with their retention rates, however, they knew that adding a digital channel such as a giving day would help them to attract even more new donors.
The team at QUT was also keen to use their giving day as a catalyst for engagement - bringing a greater understanding of the positive impact giving could have. With a stronger culture in place, the team knew they could more easily focus on building stronger relationships with their alumni and donors, as well as increasing the wider reputation of the institution as a whole.
Ben Nicoll (Development Officer, Annual Giving) shares his thoughts on QUT’s giving day journey, including how adding the campaign to their yearly calendar of activities changed the way they encouraged new donors to give (and to keep giving).
Carrying on traditions
Hubbub: Your first giving day had such strong messaging? Was it important that the messaging and themes carried over into your 2019 giving day?
Ben Nicoll: It was really important that our second giving day continue to promote a more established culture of giving within the QUT community. Launched in 2018, the concept behind the first QUT Giving Day had been to act as a catalyst for several university-wide strategic goals. The most important of which was to create a stronger awareness amongst key giving priorities that we felt alumni, students and staff members would have strong allegiances towards, including research and educational programmes.
Goals in mind
H: What impact did running your giving day have on your donor numbers?
BN: Our first giving day in 2018 attracted over 1,100 first time donors, which was nearly three times more than what we had seen from any appeal in 2017 (see chart below). Not only were we able to attract more new donors in 2018, but we were also able to increase our donor retention rates by more than 50% from the previous year.
With the success of our 2019 giving day, which took place in May, we've already raised more this year than the whole of 2018. Through adding a giving day into our yearly calendar of events, we're now able to attract more donors to support world-changing projects that our supporters are really passionate about.
Raising the internal profile of QUT Giving Day
H: Would you say that the success of your first giving day created more buy-in from internal teams for year two?
BN: Absolutely! So much of the first year that you run a giving day is about education, as much as it is about giving. This is true not only for potential donors but also for internal teams. A giving day may seem very familiar to those in the Advancement Office, however, for other teams throughout the university, a giving day may feel very unknown. To help us combat these feelings, we knew that 2018 had to be an educational opportunity for our internal staff members, which was why it was also important that the initial giving day was seen as a success.
With the success of 2018 fully realised by staff and students alike, participation in the 2019 giving day not only increased but getting teams involved was a much smoother process. We were also very happy to have the enthusiasm of QUT’s Vice-Chancellor to support our giving days. Championing the activity by sending emails to staff and students throughout the day, as well as attending key giving day events.
Finally, due to the success of giving day so far, there is now a greater understanding of Advancement’s role within the wider university community. Internal colleagues, as well as current students and alumni, now see our team as the central hub from which a culture of philanthropy stems from.
A decentralised(ish) approach to giving
H: Your 2019 giving day had quite a few projects involved in the overall day. Could you tell us more about the approach QUT took in terms of the projects which participate in QUT Giving Day?
BN: QUT Giving Day has a slightly different approach in terms of what donors can give towards during giving day. As well as promoting giving for big-ticket institutional priorities, such as scholarships and world-changing research, we also open up giving day to the wider university community to encourage academic departments to get involved with giving day.
In 2019 we had 22 projects that donors could give towards. By expanding the areas represented within giving day, we were able to give our potential and recurring, donors greater choice to support a project that they themselves were passionate about - whether that be scholarships, a waste-free world, saving Australia’s wombat population or further research into various types of cancers.
A superior donor experience
H: For your first giving day, you worked with a different partner. What made you switch?
BN: We used another supplier for our first giving day, however, due to its limitations we decided to collaborate with Hubbub for our 2019 campaign. It was important to us that the giving day site complemented the experience we wanted our donors to have. That experience being one that would seamlessly pick up from an email they received, a post they saw on social media, or a video they watched and directly to the giving site where donors could quickly and easily make their gift.
But not only would it be a pleasure for them to make their gift, they would also have their experience increased through features such as custom URLs, the ambassador toolkit, project leaderboards, and the donor wall. Each of which had their own role to play in the success of our giving day.
Finally, we also wanted something user-friendly that could be tailored to meet our needs. Our giving day has a strong brand presence, which has been a part of our continued success, and it was important that we were able to represent our brand on the site - which we were absolutely able to do.
Champions for our success
H: How would you say that working with Hubbub increased the success to your giving day?
BN: While the standard of technology Hubbub provided was definitely important to our success, so too was the input from their fantastic team. Throughout the entire process, Hubbub was professional and knowledgeable. We could tell that they were a team who truly wanted to see your university succeed. Having the support of their team before, during and after Giving Day was crucial to the success of our donor numbers as well as dollars raised.
Hubbub has staff with lived experience of running giving days paired with a platform that is purpose-built for digital fundraising campaigns. They are excited to share lessons learned and best practices in digital fundraising while providing excellent and prompt service. The team at Hubbub truly cared and strived to make #QUTGivingDay a success. We’re really excited to continue working with them in 2020.
What's next for QUT
H: What will change for your next giving day?
BN: For our 2020 giving day, we're hoping to increase the engagement that we have with our ambassadors. In the first two years, we've accumulated a good number of ambassadors, however, if we can now encourage even more of our community to take part we know that we could raise even more for the excellent projects that QUT Giving Day supports.
H: Do you have any final words to pass on to others who are considering a giving day?
BN: The work involved is worth it, senior leadership and Advancement team buy-in is key, and be sure you keep the messaging and content fun to accurately reflect the spirit of giving.
Until Next Time
QUT’s next giving day with us will take place in May 2020. Stay tuned for more.