Higher education giving has traditionally relied on major gifts, annual funds, and direct mail as the primary means of engaging new donors. While that worked for decades, the Information Age has taken university giving online in a big way, with email, text to give, social media and general online giving quickly taking the place of mailers. Compounded with the impacts of COVID-19, schools around the world really had to adjust their engagement models. We see this trend in all donor personas, but none more so than Millennials and Gen Z, which has given rise to the largest trending event in higher education: the giving day.
But don’t be fooled. The giving day isn’t exclusive to universities and colleges. We have been helping social good organizations kickstart their giving or founding days for years with this free toolkit. Many K-12 schools have found success by centralizing their asks in celebration of the students, faculty and staff building a legacy. With the right tools, a thoughtful engagement strategy, and appropriate calls to action, these fundraising events are proving quite lucrative.
Giving days have grown tremendously in recent years, with schools raising millions of dollars in one day for projects that touch all areas of the campus. With the impact of COVID-19, many schools closed campus activities for multiple semesters. This all-digital approach offered an opportunity for students, faculty, alumni and community supporters alike to rally behind a common cause and retain that connection they feel on campus, delivering a refreshed approach on their beloved giving day.
Take for example, St. Joseph’s College in New York. St. Joseph’s had a giving day in 2019 but quickly realized that in order to engage both of their campuses and a wide network of alumni they needed to activate a campaign that had a foundation in peer-to-peer fundraising in order to fully capture the broader network available to them. They created a digital Giving Day Hub that raised money for multiple projects, including a last-minute COVID-19 emergency fund.
So what makes for a great giving day in 2021 and beyond? Here are the top five components we see having widespread success:
- Focus on your school’s mission. Regardless of their generation, donors want to see how their dollars will be used. Each project, fund, or giving focus has a story to tell. Engage current students and alumni to share those stories on your giving day hub to give real-life meaning to how a donation can impact the campus community. Hearing directly from people who have benefitted from the dollars raised lends credibility to the importance of various projects. It’s a great opportunity to link to a page that summarizes impact, feature a video that shares your story, or leverage social media posts to release testimonies, driving your mission top of mind for supporters.
- Allow supporters to fundraise on behalf of giving day projects. While it is likely more comfortable to just take donations on your giving day, consider that Gen Z donors are quick to activate their networks for a good cause. According to Blackbaud’s Generational Giving Report, 26% of Gen Z’ers have participated in a peer-to-peer fundraising event or activity before, and 71% believe that receiving a charitable ask from a friend or family member is an acceptable way for an organization to fundraise. Do not miss out on unlocking the power of Gen Z fundraising influence!
- Provide a social media toolkit. It is fine to track how many times your page has been shared but do the people sharing it know what to say? Do they know what hashtag to use? Do they need photos and logos? Add a guide to share sample Facebook and Twitter messages, along with easily downloadable pictures, giving day logos, and other artifacts for them to use for their social media posts. You will increase your overall reach while making social sharing easier for your supporters.
- Use video, livestream and other rich content during your giving day. Schools that give student clubs and organizations, faculty, alumni and school leadership a live voice on their giving day can see tremendous returns. Ask student leaders to create short videos that can be posted throughout the day on your giving day hub and social media channels. Enlist your school’s president to go live with a group of alumni to talk about why giving is important to them. Adding these platforms allows for greater engagement, especially with younger donors who “live online” every day.
- Make it fun. Many schools historically found creative and engaging ways to connect with supporters on campus. Pizza parties, competitions, raffles, and special perks strengthened connections while driving enthusiasm. We assumed this also increased donations. When COVID-19 caused these in-person gatherings to translate exclusively to virtual events, hosts had to re-think a few things while still securing the revenue. Many asked, “What does success look now?” Some extended the traditional 24-hour giving day to an entire week, with prizes and raffles taking place virtually. Others released special perks or gifts each day or as fundraising targets were hit. Many had to re-negotiate commitments with major donors for matching gifts or invest in a stronger peer-to-peer fundraising focus to simulate in-person social gatherings. No matter how your organization needs to flex and accommodate your student body and generous alumni, keep fun on the forefront.
These tips combined with a great website, strong strategy, and engaged campus create the recipe for true giving day success. Is your school ready to take it to the next level?