Justin ware

"Agile Fundraising" Leads to Online Giving Success at the University of Minnesota

Campaign Highlights:

  • $183,000 raised in two months: $83,000+ in small gifts plus the $100,000 gift from a major donor
  • New donor acquisition: More than 110 new donors who have never given to the University of Minnesota – 80 lapsed donors reactivated
  • Major gift referrals: 12 major gift prospects referred to development officers from this project

The big game, a big donor, crowdfunding, and a road trip

Those ingredients, combined with a skilled and agile fundraising team, led to an exciting multi-channel, “agile fundraising” campaign win that will ultimately send the University of Minnesota marching band to their first road game performance since 1996.

Click the image to watch a video of the University of Minnesota Marching Band learn they would be playing in the Super Bowl halftime show with Justin Timberlake.

Click the image to watch a video of the University of Minnesota Marching Band learn they would be playing in the Super Bowl halftime show with Justin Timberlake.

It starts with that closely trademarked “Big Game.” During this “Big Game” football event in Minneapolis, on February 4th, 2018 (wink, wink), Justin Timberlake invited the U of M’s Pride of Minnesota marching band to perform with him during the halftime show. The Pride of Minnesota knocked it out of the park with a flawless performance, and local news took notice.

The University’s Foundation and it's College of Liberal Arts fundraiser, Jake Muszynski, saw the potential in advance. A small group within the Foundation had access to the privileged and secret information about a band half-time performance several days before the Big Game event. The skilled team of fundraisers, communicators, and strategists quickly turned to a generous band donor. Within days, the donor offered to match up to $100,000 to encourage an influx of donations to the band that could be used for travel with the football team for a B1G game. (Funding a road trip for the University of Minnesota Marching Band comes with a $100,000 price tag) In 2018, that game would take place in Lincoln, vs. the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The campaign was an instant success. Thousands of dollars were rolling in during the first few hours, with more than $20,000 raised in the first week.

The fundraisers behind the project flexed their promotional muscle with a strong news media push, emails to supporters, social media marketing, and engagement of U of M social media influencers to drive the effort. Almost all of the marketing and fundraising was done online, with some gifts coming in-person and 10 percent of the final total raised through telemarketing. This communications work elevated the campaign and kept the momentum strong through the first $50,000+ raised.

Then, a short stall – the fundraising stayed locked in the $50,000 range for the final weeks.

So back to work.

The communications team fired up a video-based email and Facebook Ads campaign to drive toward the finish line. The final week total: $73,000+ raised by the April 6 deadline. Additional gifts trickled in after the “deadline” bringing the total to more than $83,000.

"I had conversations with top donors leading up to the launch of this project, but the incredible thing about this campaign is that everything was organic. There were no gifts set up ahead of time--this campaign was truly built around excitement and timing, and it proved to be extremely successful," says Muszynski.

The elements of the U of M Marching Band campaign were no coincidence. This approach of connecting with major gift capacity donors and working to magnify their generosity through donor-acquiring (and retaining) digital events was a very deliberate strategy on the part of the University of Minnesota Foundation. The Foundation’s team brought talented fundraisers and communicators together with forward-thinking strategy to connect digital-savvy large gift donors with online fundraising campaigns that aligned with the donors’ passions.

Oreo Cookie was one of the first to introduce the concept of "agile marketing" during the Super Bowl in 2013.

Oreo Cookie was one of the first to introduce the concept of "agile marketing" during the Super Bowl in 2013.

And, they were “agile”

“Agile marketing” is essentially the practice of marketing that rolls with the blows, so to speak. We live in a real-time world, which means we expect real-time everything. 10 years earlier, a commercial that was tone-deaf to the events of the day would be understandable. Today, that faux pas is inexcusable. This is true not just of our news media, but also the marketing aimed at us. (Think of the classic “Oreo Big Game Power Out” tweet for a perfect example of real-time, agile marketing)

Agile marketing helped the U of M Foundation team find success, despite the tight-timeline. In less than a week, a CLA fundraiser had the generous matching gift of $100,000 ready to go. The communications team quickly followed with their email and social media strategies, the Big Game happened, the band performed, and now that same band is on its way to Lincoln for a long overdue B1G road game. In addition to funds raised, the project saw many other gains.

"This project became a great cultivation tool, as donors told stories through their giving. Many donors left a note on the crowdfunding page saying who they were or why they were giving, and it made for a great way to follow up with those donors in a thank you," says Muszynski. "I was very surprised and excited at the number of new donors this project uncovered."

Takeaways

Your fundraising organization can realize similar success to the University of Minnesota’s band campaign. Below are tips for launching and growing an agile fundraising program.

  • Foster open, cross-team collaboration – fundraisers, communicators, prospect development, and strategists should all be meeting regularly to discuss opportunities in the digital space
  • Hire smart, nimble staff who can adjust on the fly to run digital fundraising campaigns that align with the media and news cycles
  • Integrate digital with the major gifts AND annual giving programs and encourage both groups to work together – provide training for gift officers and leverage online data for sophisticated major donor prospect development research
  • Produce more video – the centerpiece of great, multi-channel content marketing campaigns

From video, to digital for major gifts, to email, to online ambassadors, and more - Groundwork Digital builds programs that produce results like the UMN Marching Band campaign. Click here to fill out our contact form and we'll be in touch soon with how we can help.

 

HOW TO Build Multi-channel Fundraising Campaigns

Whether a giving day, end-of-calendar-year campaign, #GivingTuesday, spring appeal ...whatever the cause for the solicitation, TRUE multi-channel fundraising campaigns are proven to significantly increase fundraising outcomes. (Online and offline)

So what is a "true multi-channel campaign?" We explain in the video below. Just click to watch... *NOTE: the content starts at the 2:10 mark. (There is nothing wrong with your audio!)

Do you want an expert leading your multi-channel fundraising strategy? Groundwork Digital offers packages to align and modernize your fundraising efforts across social media, email, direct mail, and phone. Click here to send us an email for more information. 

Video Campaigns that Drive Huge End-of-Year Fundraising Results

57 percent of everyone who watches an online video produced by a nonprofit will go on to give to that nonprofit. (Google, 2013)

Keep that in mind, then go look at the number of views you have on some of your strongest Facebook or YouTube videos. And imagine 60 percent of those views becoming donors. Technically, that should be the case.

If only it were that easy ...or maybe it is?

The following are three tips to build a video-driven content strategy that leads to your organization's strongest ever end-of-calendar-year fundraising push.

Facebook Live - do it and do it often in December

Launch an end-of-year Facebook Live telethon. On New Year's Eve or the week before, invite your best supporters who are also digitally active (your online ambassadors) to a special end-of-year party. Be sure there are plenty of food, drinks, and entertainment ...and an experienced Facebook Live crew.

FacebookLiveOldCam.jpg

During this event, conduct several interviews with attendees and have them talk about why they gave back to your organization in the previous year and why they will continue giving in the new year. You might also interview a person or two who has been positively impacted by your mission. This could be a student, a patient, or a dog-in-waiting to be rescued ...you get the idea.

To increase the audience for your Facebook Live, make sure everyone you're interviewing shared the Facebook Live with their friends and family as soon as you go live.

And of course, throughout the Facebook Live event, be sure to frequently remind donors they "can give to support your mission by clicking 'donate now' in the Facebook post.

We call this the "modern Facebook pledge drive." For more details on how to conduct a Facebook pledge drive, click here to watch our webinar

Keep it simple for more video

You might have heard from various digital experts that lower quality, more authentic video is more effective for fundraising. 

At least in some cases, that's true.

According to Thankview, lower-quality, webcam-recorded videos are watched to completion 61 percent of the time, while higher-quality, uploaded videos are watched to completion only 47 percent of the time. More importantly, webcam-recorded videos lead to call-to-action clickthroughs on an email link 15 percent of the time, while uploaded videos only lead to CTA clickthroughs 10 percent of the time. 

If you're sending 10,000 emails, that's an extra 500 people who go to your gift form from the lower-quality video.

That's not to say high quality video doesn't have it's place. (Wait until you see what Groundwork is doing with virtual reality and major donors) But we should never avoid sharing videos with our donors, because we feel the quality is unbecoming of our mission. Can you see the video? Can you hear the video? If you answer "yes" to both and the message is on point, then share that video with your donors and prospects. Especially via year-end appeals. This approach will lead to more video messaging and, ultimately, more gifts.

Sell virtual seats to your holiday season gala

If you've experienced virtual reality, then you are aware of the medium's transformative power. VR can place a person in a different time and space while giving them an emotional experience similar to being present (in the literal sense).

VirtualRealityPurple.jpg

Imagine using this technology to democratize your high-priced, end-of-year donor galas. Of course, nothing beats the real thing - actually being there - but for $50, a donor can experience the event virtually as opposed to paying $5,000 for a table. Access to watching the speakers, hearing the musicians, enjoying the celebrity keynotes... can all take place from the comfort of home and at a more approachable price point. This gives the annual fund donors unique access to high-end experiences without cheapening the experience for large gift donors, because the large gift donors still have the exclusive benefit of literally being there.

This tactic could also be used as a leadership annual giving tool by moving the $50 up to $500. Especially if you're concerned about cheapening the high-price live gala experience.

Using VR to widen the reach of a gala could be done through Facebook Live or could be recorded and edited for later use. For example, gift officers could carry VR headsets with them to donor visits and allow those who couldn't attend in person to watch the next best thing.

Is your development operation ready to transform your fundraising outcomes with video? Groundwork Digital builds sophisticated digital strategies and produces award-winning videos for clients. Ask us about it by clicking here and completing our contact form.

Get to Know Groundwork: Justin Ware

Justin Ware is the Co-Founder and President of Groundwork Digital.  A thought-leader in the nonprofit sector, Justin is a fundraising and content marketing expert.  Justin's work spans nonprofits, higher education, and media. In 2009, Justin was the executive producer on one of the first ever YouTube videos to win an Emmy. The "Science of Watchmen" video has been viewed nearly 2 million times and was also nominated for a Webby. Justin began his career in television before joining the University of Minnesota and then Bentz Whaley Flesser.  After BWF, Justin led digital fundraising strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz as well as Product Management for Annual Giving.  Justin has spoken at numerous conferences, and led consulting engagements for universities and nonprofits across the country.  In his spare time, Justin can be found rooting for the Minnesota Vikings and Gophers, skiing, hiking with his dog, and enjoying family time with his wife and two children.

Justin would love to talk digital fundraising from giving days to the major gifts program. Email him at justin@groundworkdigital.com.