We’re hearing it about online giving days, about crowdfunding, about email – and now we’re starting to field the same question about peer-to-peer or online ambassador programs.
One of those organizations is the University of Minnesota. In 2016, they added an online ambassador program to their giving day and saw great results. Their ambassadors then helped to celebrate the public launch of Driven: The University of Minnesota’s Campaign in September 2017, aiming to raise $4 billion.
But then they asked, “What’s next?” The answer was a combination of a more sophisticated ambassador program and the launch of a new initiative around digital major donor engagement. These efforts led to the institution’s biggest ever online giving day and a robust volunteer opportunity for the University’s most fervent online advocates.
Give to the Max Day
In 2016, in preparation for the University of Minnesota’s giving day – held on Give to the Max Day, Minnesota’s statewide day of giving held every November – the digital fundraising team sought out social media users who demonstrated affinity for the institution. The digital team then engaged this organically-grown group of ambassadors and asked them to share content during Give to the Max Day.
The effort paid off. The U’s 2016 Give to the Max Day was a tremendous success, significantly outperforming their past giving days. And there is little doubt the early ambassador effort was a key contributor to the U of M’s success on Give to the Max Day.
In 2017, the University wanted to expand on the strong ambassador foundation built in 2016 for Give to the Max Day.
“On Give to the Max Day 2016 and for our Driven launch, we saw the power of U supporters helping share messages about the impact of giving, helping us trend in social media and drive an increase in traffic to our website,” said Robyn White, Associate Director of Digital Marketing at the U of M Foundation.
First, came a partnership with Groundwork Digital to craft a strategy for expanding the ambassador program.
Next, came technology. The University partnered with Blackbaud and used Attentive.ly to scan nearly 100,000 email addresses for those in the database who have a strong social media presence.
“This tool provided an efficient way to gain extra insight to which U supporters are publicly talking about us and have a great online network for sharing,” said White.
The results were powerful. The influencer scan of nearly 100,000 records returned influencer results on more than 40,000 individual social media users.
In addition to the technology and consulting firm, the same U of M Foundation staff person dedicated to the effort in 2016 took the lead on refining the ambassador list for the 2017 Give to the Max Day.
Digital marketing specialist Karina Carlson worked alongside the Groundwork team to implement an engagement plan to activate ambassadors throughout the fall and especially during Give to the Max Day, partnering with key constituent groups across the U system.
“It was fun to see our supporters celebrate the U in a more grassroots way,” said Carlson. “And to have a new way to engage passionate supporters on our biggest giving day of the year.”
The results speak for themselves – 109 individuals from the U of M’s “UMN Influencers” group were talking about Give to the Max Day on social media. This activity boosted the University’s total reach on Give to the Max Day to 174,119 social media users. That represented a +99.4 percent gain from 2016.