higher education

Major Donor Microsites - Personalized Digital for Big Gifts [WEBINAR]

Cultivating prospects in new and effective ways … filling your pipeline with warm prospects and donors … and of most importantly, securing six- and seven-figure gifts…

All of the above are true for Groundwork Digital’s partners thanks to robust, digital major donor engagement strategies. Specifically, the addition of “major donor microsites” to our digital offerings has helped unlock significant giving at every level.

Curious? Great! That’s why we recorded our “Major Donor Microsites - Personalized Digital for Big Gifts” webinar originally delivered on April 18, 2019. Watch the full recording here…

Can we help you build major donor microsites? Email me at justin@groundworkdigital.com or click the button below to send me your contact info …and let’s talk!

"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 Find Fundraising Technology for Your Nonprofit

There is an amazing amount of powerful, game-changing technology on the scene today. Whether you’re launching a giving day, identifying online ambassadors, or engaging major donors around their social media behavior, in modern fundraising, if you want to do it there is probably a tool for it.

But this embarrassment of riches has its challenges.

First, there is option paralysis. In our efforts to continually improve Groundwork Digital’s services, I just did a search for “social media influencer platforms.” The first page of search results was littered with blog posts promising “25 best…” “40 best…” “57 best … influencer identification platforms!” Even artificial intelligence and machine learning now have multiple players in the nonprofit space with wonderful platforms like Gravyty and QuadWrangle continuing to expand their tool sets and client lists.

Then, once you’ve made a decision and purchased software, do you have the talent to make the most of your investment? This is the issue that we so frequently see in the nonprofit and higher education spaces – amazing tools that are collecting dust on the shelf, because the fundraising teams either don’t know or don’t have time to learn how to use those tools.

Some forward-thinking organizations have hired to manage new technology. The University of Connecticut Foundation is one of those organizations. After recently taking the reins, UConn President and CEO Joshua Newton quickly hired a “Director of Business Intelligence” to “change the way we communicate with and solicit our alumni.”

UConn has hired a position to focus on "business intelligence" and finding the best technology to lead their engagement and fundraising efforts.

UConn has hired a position to focus on "business intelligence" and finding the best technology to lead their engagement and fundraising efforts.

“Knowing of the micro-targeting and customization in how we are approached as consumers, (the UConn Foundation) wanted to utilize that same approach and technology,” said Newton. “We hired a Director of Business Intelligence from the corporate world. It was a deliberate and intentional move on our part to begin to allow us, and each alum, to have an individualized relationship with the university.”

Hiring a technology expert is something we at Groundwork would recommend every large organization consider. Or, consider restructuring the responsibilities of your current team to better utilize technology your shop owns now or may soon acquire.

Whether you’re hiring or restructuring a position, the following are talents and skillsets present in the right candidate to lead your nonprofit out of the dark ages and into an innovative and more efficient future.  

First and foremost, your new technology expert should be a top-level fundraising strategist.

And they need to be more than a digital expert – they need to know multi-channel fundraising. Coordinated and aligned multi-channel fundraising campaigns typically perform best. That’s why your technology expert should know how email, direct mail, digital advertising, phone programs, and social media work together.

A technology expert also needs to be more than an annual giving specialist. Perhaps even more important than online giving software are the increasing set of tools that make major gift work more efficient and effective. This is why your technology expert should be aware of what keeps gift officers and directors of development up at night. The tech expert should understand what is possible in terms of data capture and management and which platforms can make the most of your data as it relates to your most capable donors and prospects.

Next, find an innovator to operationalize your technology.

An “innovator” is someone who can think out of the box and reimagine your current technology suite. The innovator can also recognize how the right new platforms could transform your fundraising shop. This is particularly difficult to do with in-house staff as their ideas and concepts are intertwined with your existing approach. With technology, a fresh perspective can be tremendously helpful.

Finally, you need unbiased ideas and recommendations.

It may seem obvious, but you can’t turn to a tech vendor for tech recommendations. Oddly enough, sometimes the tech vendors are not even the best ones to actually sell you their technology. A vendor only knows your team so well. The full toolset, the politics, the capabilities of your team – all are important factors in selecting new technology and an internal team member or consultant who knows you well is in a far better position to select the right technology based on these factors.

Between CRMs, websites, online giving technology, and a host of other platforms, your organization likely spends well into the six figures and possibly more on technology. This is a good thing, but also a substantial challenge. To make the most of this technology, you need a person or team focused on integrating the technology with your operation. Find someone who is equal parts fundraising pro and technology geek to take the reins of your tech and watch your operation grow because of their presence.

Need help? Groundwork Digital leads technology selection and implementation projects for our clients. Click here to email us and learn more.

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.