EOY Fundraising with Online Ambassadors

Emails sent from online ambassadors perform 312 times better than the exact same email that is sent with the institution as the sender.

Seriously, this 2015 Blackbaud study found ambassador-sent emails convert 25 percent of the time, while the same email sent from the institution converts .08 percent of the time. It almost makes you wonder if we should bother sending e-solicitations from anyone but online ambassadors?

With that in mind, below are three tips for incorporating ambassadors, influencers, and advocates to close out the 2017 calendar year

Set up ambassadors with personal online campaigns

First things first, you need to identify and engage a strong group of online ambassadors. (Online ambassadors are your digitally-focused, social media-active volunteer advocates). Use technology to do this. The cost is almost always $10,000 or less (donor list size dependent) and the return is typically many factors of X above the investment. Our clients are finding Attentive.ly is an effective platform for this work.

You also need an engagement plan for getting the ambassadors on board and energized.

Use video, email, webinars, and live boot camps to fire up this core base of online supporters. Then, connect them to targeted online fundraising campaigns and task them with raising awareness. Either do this en masse or individually, depending on the ambassador (specifics coming up in the next section) 


Make it easy to donate a holiday gift list


Donating a person's birthday is quickly catching on as a hot trend in online fundraising. And Facebook is one of those platforms leading the charge.

The concept is worth considering near the holiday season. "For this Christmas season, please donate to my favorite charity in lieu of gifts..." or "With the new year approaching, I want to be sure this important cause has the funds to advance our goals in 2018, so I'm giving my gift before December 31st." 

Just like with any fundraising walk or run, be sure you have good technology that allows each donor to easily create their own personal, donation-driving giving pages. 

And be sure you include major donors in this strategy. Finding online ambassadors with major gift potential can lead to campaigns like this one from Marquette: (click here for the story) This is a highly individualized approach to online ambassador fundraising and will be your most lucrative peer-to-peer campaigns when done right.

Overlay social listening on your donor database to learn more about what drives you most capable donors online. Then build a cultivation and solicitation strategy with this new, digitally-acquired information at the forefront. For those major donor prospects whose online behavior profiles suggest a December campaign might be of extra significance to them, consider working with them to offer up a match or challenge that will lead to big gifts at every level to close out the year.


“With the new year approaching, I want to be sure this important cause has the funds to advance our goals in 2018, so I’m giving my gift before December 31st.” 

Thanksgiving hashtag drives

#Tweetsgiving still reigns as one of the best examples of a hashtag-based fundraising campaign. In 2008, Epic Change got its start as an organization through a brilliant hashtag campaign. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the nascent Epic Change team asked supporters to post tweets stating why the Twitter user is thankful, using the hashtag "#Tweetsgiving."

The campaign went viral with many thousands of Twitter users jumping in on the action. Periodically, a group of ambassadors and Epic Change members would insert tweets with a link to their fundraising page to build a school in Tanzania. Within a few short days, the group raised more than $10,000, had enough to build the school, and laid the groundwork for the Epic Change organization.

The #Tweetsgiving hashtag campaign raised more than $10,000 over Thanksgiving 2008 to build a new school in Tanzania.

The #Tweetsgiving hashtag campaign raised more than $10,000 over Thanksgiving 2008 to build a new school in Tanzania.


As this holiday season approaches, consider creating a hashtag to unite your followers in conversation. Or, "hijack" an existing hashtag related to your mission. Using the #GivingTuesday tag, is a widely-known example, although finding something more directly related to your cause, such as "#CleanEnergy," "#EndGunViolence," or "#AdoptaPet" can add thousands of new viewers to your message and donors to your database.


Modern Pledge Drive with Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a powerful tool that can instantly drive thousands of attentive viewers to your organization’s mission and message …when it is done well. Content, the right equipment, an energetic host – there are many factors to producing a game-changing Facebook Live event.

Join Groundwork Digital and Mighteor for a FREE “Facebook Live for Nonprofits” webinar on Wednesday, September 27 at 3pm ET/noon PT. Click here to sign up.

During this webinar, Mighteor Founder Liz Giorgi and Groundwork Founder Justin Ware will cover:

  • How to build an hour-long Facebook Live Pledge Drive that leads to real fundraising results
  • Developing a Facebook Live strategy to enhance your 12-month content marketing plan
  • Plugging Facebook Live into online giving days and #GivingTuesday for record-breaking results

Increasing Digital Donor Retention through Innovative Stewardship

You’ve taken notice and shifted towards engaging and acquiring new donors through digital technology, but have your stewardship practices kept up with evolving trends?

Where can you find the answers to bring your stewardship practice to the 21st century?

On Tuesday, August 22nd, JD Beebe, co-founder & CEO of Thankview, and Rosa Conrad, VP & co-founder of Groundwork Digital will talk how to pair strategy + technology to better steward our digital donors. Walk away from this conversation knowing:

·      Data to track for more personalized communication

·      Enhanced content best practices for stewardship

·      Innovative technologies to provide enhanced donor experience


The Next Big "Giving Day"

Hundreds of millions of dollars raised … millions of donors taking part … scores of new supporters engaged … long-time supporters reinvigorated …

Online giving events such as #GivingTuesday and org-specific giving days have changed the face of fundraising.

Unfortunately, most fundraisers are leaving donors and dollars on the table during a giving day. The good news is, the experts at Groundwork Digital have the experience (more than four dozen giving days under our belts) to unlock those donors with proven tactics.

Equally as important, we can help integrate your giving day into a year-round digital fundraising effort that revolutionizes donor engagement for your program.

Raise your giving day to the next level with Groundwork Digital’s Giving Day Elevator package

The Giving Day Elevator package includes:

  • A full-day, on-site workshop to bring your team up to speed on the latest sure-fire tactics for launching an awe-inspiring giving day or #GivingTuesday event
  • Technology consultation to either select the right vendor or adjust your strategy to make the most out of your current online giving technology
  • Content marketing, email, and online ambassador strategic planning
  • Post-event analysis, peer benchmarking, and recommendations for the next 12 months of online fundraising

Groundwork currently offers this Giving Day Elevator package at the discounted price of $10,000. Click “Learn More” and give us you contact info. We'll get in touch to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to determine if Giving Day Elevator is right for your operation.

Trust in Influencers

The for-profit world has been placing value in peer-to-peer influencers or "online ambassadors" for years. And the results show that trust in ambassadors is paying off for many companies.

In fact, "trust" has a lot to do with why ambassadors are so effective in modern marketing and communications.

Check out this link for some stunning online ambassador statistics

People buy based on what their friends tell them, because of trust. When a relationship starts with trust, it tends to last longer. Consider these stats from the above link:

  • 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands
  • 74 percent of consumers use social media to make purchase decisions
  • 37 percent better retention is reported for customers acquired through word-of-mouth advertising

What does that mean for donor acquisition? ...and retention? The fact is, online ambassador communication works just as well - maybe better - in the nonprofit world.

In reviewing online ambassador activity that that took place on the ScaleFunder giving day platform in 2016, each ambassador would, on average, raise $125 during a giving day.

Perhaps even more staggering is this 2015 Blackbaud study that found 1 in 4 emails from online ambassadors led to a gift - a whopping 25 percent conversion rate. That's compared to 1 in 1,250 emails from the organization that led to a gift - a paltry .08 percent conversion.

Again, for those keeping score, that's a 25 percent conversion rate for ambassador-sent email versus a .08 conversion rate for emails sent by the organization.

It almost makes you wonder if you should ever send a solicitation email that is not from an online ambassador?

And it works for major donors, too. Check out the video below that details how the higher the price tag (a major gift, for example), the more peer influence impacts the decision.

Now here's the catch - it's not easy. Online ambassador programs are volunteer programs and they require careful and frequent management ...but if you do it right, you have the potential to transform your development operation for the 21st century.

And guess what? Groundwork Digital has built dozens of online ambassador programs. Click the "Contact Groundwork" button below to send us a message and set up a time to talk about how we can help revolutionize your development operation with peer-to-peer fundraising.


Giving Days, Major Donors, and Building a Culture of Philanthropy

At large institutions and organizations, the online giving day is a cacophony of activity. Annual giving, marketing, donor relations, the major gifts team, corporate relations... giving days are an all hands on deck extravaganza of fundraising activity.

When done well, that means a giving day can have far-reaching impacts on many aspects of a development operation. For the University of Idaho, during the school's first giving day in 2016, the reach of the giving day extended to major gifts, student giving, and across the advancement team as a lightning rod that stimulated team building.

In the video below, Stacy Rauch - Idaho's Associate Director of Development for Engineering - talks about how her team connected with major donors to secure challenges, engaged team members across campus, and led the communication blitz that led to big fundraising bucks.

Groundwork Digital's team members have built many giving days, like the one detailed in the video above. To find out how Groundwork can help you launch your first giving day or expand your current giving day, click the the button below to schedule a FREE giving day consultation. 


Getting Noticed on #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is a powerful swell of support for philanthropy across the world. With over 1.5 million gifts given last year, it's clear donors are paying attention. Make sure your content helps your mission stand out on Giving Tuesday!

Check out our video below for three tips for outstanding #GivingTuesday content, even with the smallest of budgets. 

HOW To produce eye-catching content for #GivingTuesday on a nonprofit budget.

Do you need help planning your biggest #GivingTuesday yet? ...or launching your first? No one has planned and launched more online giving days that Groundwork Digital. Click the "Contact Groundwork" button below, fill out your info, and we'll get back to you with a free, 30-minute #GivingTuesday consultation.

Get Ready for #GivingTuesday

$168 million raised from hundreds of thousands of donors over just 24 hours - with those 2016 results, #GivingTuesday has become solidified as a fundraising movement. The online giving day event is a tremendous opportunity for nonprofits looking to expand their digital footprint. (Not to mention increase their donor acquisition)

But just like with any online fundraising campaign, #GivingTuesday requires more than sending a single email and waiting for the gifts to roll in. Check out our video below for three areas to focus your attention to ensure #GivingTuesday success.

Then, click the "Learn More" button to sign up for our FREE #GivingTuesday webinar. During the webinar we'll go in depth on the three areas of focus and help your nonprofit realize #GivingTuesday fundraising success.

New Data Enhances Content + Messaging

A few weeks ago, we talked about tracking the right data from your digital donors. But this new data won't help if you don't simultaneously adjust what you do with it. What adjustments should you be making? Great question. 

Once you have the data, visualize it.

Remember that postcard from my vet? Using four data points, the postcard arranged them in a neat package that I was able to consume and process within five seconds. 


Today’s donors want visual stories, not written ones. A 2017 Mighteor video viewership study found 81% of women and 50% of men reported watching a video on their smartphone in just the past week alone. Facebook prioritizes video in its newsfeed, conditioning your constituents to engage more and more with this storytelling channel. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to be overproduced! These can be short videos shot with a smartphone, creating a personal and immediate feel. One of my favorite recent examples is UT Austin’s 40 for 40 giving day campaign this year, putting out short videos from staff to departments and students who won different challenges. Short, sweet, and to the point - with a little fun added in - all in about 10 seconds!

The 2016 Abila Donor Loyalty Study noted that brevity conquers all, with short e-mails with no links and short YouTube videos (under 2 minutes) as 2 of the top 3 preferred content types of donors. But that short content has to be relevant to them, with 72% of respondents saying poor/irrelevant content would affect whether or not they donated. Personalized content is key to our organization's future success.


As fundraisers, we're also inherently storytellers, used to focusing a lot of time and energy on how to best get that message across. The digital age has changed how we tell that story, and thankfully, provided great online tools that can relieve pressure on your internal resources and still create content that resonates with our online communities. We already talked about using a smartphone for video, but if you’re building out graphics and aren’t a master designer, check out Canva or Venngage as tools for creating compelling visual content!

So now you’ve taken the data and visualized it - how do you make sure people see it?

According to the most recent M + R Benchmarks Study, email open rates are down 7% from the past year, hovering at about 15% for nonprofit organizations (M+R), so we can’t rely on that alone. Today, we have to come at it from all angles. For online campaigns, this approach should be three-fold.

  1. With the growth of crowdfunding and giving days used for acquisition, digital stewardship from the unique campaign is critical. Donors want to know the impact of their gift to a specific campaign, particularly if it was their first gift. This part has to come first to build the trust to the institution. Did a group of donors give to a group of students going to do service work over spring break? Take pictures to send to donors of the trip, shoot videos that have participants share their experience and how it helped mold them. Donors need to see the personal impact their gift has made.
  2. No matter what online channel the donor came from, this person is now a donor to your institution - woo hoo! But personalization is a part of every online transaction these days, so whether the gift came through an ambassador or your regular online giving form, the donor needs to feel heard. Adding more personal data points to a donor profile creates more effective segmentation opportunities for e-mail touchpoints, but also helps with enhanced social media engagement. You can use that same data for targeted Facebook advertising, so your donors see you both in their inbox and Newsfeed.
  3. Peer-to-peer is no longer just for acquisition. To make sure donors are seeing the great work you’re doing, it also needs to come from their friends. By building an online ambassador program and having the ambassadors share content throughout the year, your donors are introduced to a variety of unique, transformative things your institution does through word of mouth. This authentic approach to donor engagement and stewardship (via their friends) is a big step toward retaining those supposedly hard to retain online-acquired donors.

Want help updating your online content strategy and execution? 

Online Ambassadors Exponentially Increase a Nonprofit's Reach

During a recent conference, our friends at Texas Christian University shared an incredible stat - 1 in 4 emails from online ambassadors led to a fundraising gift. That is compared to 1 in 1,250 when the email comes from the organization.

To put it another way, online ambassador emails have a staggering 25 percent gift conversion rate while institutional emails have a paltry .08 percent conversion rate.

So yeah, you need a strong ambassador program if you want to compete for your donors' dollars. 

In the video below, Groundwork Co-Founder Justin Ware breaks down the basic elements of effective ambassador programs:

Great content, a strategy and technology to find your most effective ambassadors, an incentives plan to keep those ambassadors engaged and sharing ... there is a lot to consider when it comes to building online ambassador programs. Here are a few tips:

  • Dedicate resources to the effort - An online ambassador program is a volunteer program. You want a person to dedicate a substantial amount of time to building relationships with the ambassadors. This person should also know how to track and analyze data to improve the ambassador program over time. Basically, you need an experienced social media manager with volunteer management experience to run your program.
  • Consider technology - For increasingly reasonable amounts of money (roughly $1500), you can find technology that will scan your entire email database and tell you who the ambassadors are within that list. This saves valuable staff time and is almost always far more fruitful than manually scouring a list and searching against LinkedIn and Twitter. Considering the impact ambassadors have, it could end up being the best $1500 you spend all year.
  • Give them great content to share! With today's online-driven landscape, great content is imperative. It, too, requires resources, but ambassadors are going to be far more likely to share content that inspires them. And if you can, go with video. A Google study found that 57 percent of people who watch a YouTube video from a nonprofit will go on to eventually make a gift to that same nonprofit. That, combined with the ambassador email conversion rate, and you basically have an impossible-to-ignore fundraising solicitation.

Are you ready to build or expand an online ambassador program? No one has more experience helping fundraising organizations develop effective ambassador strategies than Groundwork Digital. Email us at info@groundworkdigital.com to learn how we can help.