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"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 Launch Ambassadors for Big Giving Day Success

This post originally appeared in the February 8th, NP Engage blog.

“What’s next?” is becoming a common question for digital fundraising strategists.

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.

More importantly, the fundraising during the giving day saw a tremendous lift. In 2017, the final fundraising numbers were:

  • $1,436,000
  • 3,300+ donors

The 2016 numbers were:

  • $1,054,500
  • 2,900+ donors

Sophisticated technology coupled with an innovative strategy around their “UMN Influencers” helped the University of Minnesota achieve a roughly 36 percent boost in dollars and approximately 400 more donors from one giving day to the next.

Where to next?

In 2018 and beyond, the University of Minnesota will be focused on growing the ambassador program, Give to the Max Day, and digital fundraising overall – more involved management of ambassadors and major donor engagement.

For the ambassadors, having that authentic, personal touch appears to be increasingly critical. A more personal connection will grow between the staff person tasked with managing the volunteer “UMN Influencers” and the ambassadors themselves.

For major gifts, an enhanced digital major donor engagement strategy for the U of M’s Give to the Max Day is key. The University did enjoy some big major donor contributions during the 2017 Give to the Max Day. Donors gave gifts of $75,000 and $100,000 to support the effort while many more offered thousands of dollars for matching gifts.

While that activity is impressive, the U is excited about 2018 efforts as the new digital donor engagement strategy gains steam and Attentive.ly is used in partnership with the U’s digital marketing and prospect development teams. Beyond Give to the Max Day, the University will be pursuing targeted major gift crowdfunding campaigns and other personal fundraising efforts for the institution’s most capable supporters in 2018. Stay tuned for exciting results soon…

Groundwork Digital builds online ambassador programs. Click here to get in touch with us and learn more about how we can help you fundraise with volunteer social media influencers.

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.