In the past few years, schools of all sizes have begun harnessing the power of crowdfunding and social media to increase engagement among a diverse range of alumni and donors. In fact, according to a 2015 survey, 59% of colleges and universities surveyed boosted their fundraising efforts through social media. And the proof is in the donations. We’ve highlighted six schools that have successfully put the fun back in fundraising and sparked thousands of donations through social media days of giving.
Perhaps the gold standard in social media days of giving, Purdue University claimed the record for the most money raised for higher education through a single-day campaign for the second year in a row. Their “Bigger and Better” campaign raised an unprecedented $18.3 million from 12,872 donations in just 24 hours.
Running from midnight to midnight on April 27th, the online social-media-driven campaign spurred donors to contribute to colleges, schools, programs, or student organizations of their choosing. Bolstered by increased involvement from students and international alumni, Purdue Day of Giving 2016 surpassed last year’s efforts by more than 33%.
Hosting 35 challenges throughout the day on social media, Purdue engaged participating academic and non-academic units in friendly rivalry by challenging donors to give back and boost their favorite campus, college, school, or program in order to win cash prizes. Promoting the campaign using #PurdueDayofGiving on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, social media impressions tied to the campaign rose to 24 million from last year’s 19.5 million.
Columbia University raised $12.8 million in their fourth annual “Giving Day,” which was a 24-hour social media push to encourage alumni to support the University’s schools and programs. Surpassing the prior year’s record sum of just over $11 million, the campaign solicited 13,090 individual gifts to 19 schools and programs within the University.
Utilizing Facebook as the centerpiece of their social media strategy, Columbia created a Facebook tab that mirrored the campaign website and allowed donors to follow and engage with content. Columbia also utilized sponsored posts to drive awareness leading up to Giving Day, and created a customized Tagboard page to monitor #ColumbiaGivingDay across all social networks.
One of the major driving forces behind Columbia’s day of giving was the hourly challenges donors participated in, which provided them the opportunity to earn bonus funds for their cause. Each school, program, and initiative was eligible to receive a bonus prize based on their percentage of the total amount raised on Giving Day. By promoting these challenges and their winners on social media, Columbia provided an extra incentive for donors and fueled healthy competition among different subsets of the Columbia network.
This past March, Hamilton College hosted a record-breaking fundraising campaign called #LeapForHamilton. Reaching its goal of 1,812 gifts by 5:23pm on February 29th, the #LeapForHamilton campaign continued to build steam. Ultimately reaching 2,868 gifts totaling $900,313 by the end of the of the day, this single-day giving campaign even surpassed the record for the most gifts in any single month in Hamilton history.
Supporting and coordinating the #LeapForHamilton campaign through social fundraising platform GiveCampus, the Hamilton team was able to successfully harness the social media participation of volunteers and donors throughout the day. By producing compelling visuals and engaging social media content, Hamilton was able to spread their message and encourage participation through clear calls to action. In doing this, they created a buzz and encouraged donors and volunteers to post some of their own content.
“The real trigger was that with social media, donors themselves became advocates for the whole enterprise,” says Fred Rodgers, director of annual giving, in an interview with the Washington Post. By encouraging donors to post about their donations on social media, Hamilton was able to effectively turn donors into fundraisers.
Content for the #LeapForHamilton campaign was posted on the College’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts. Nine videos, including one featuring Hamilton’s President, were posted across various social media platforms throughout the campaign. Twitter was also a main source of content promotion for the campaign, with 49 tweets that garnered over 50,000 impressions.
University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) placed a special emphasis on targeting young donors in its first online giving day in April 2016. Hosting a 24-hour campaign on a digital fundraising platform called ScaleFunder, UCSB received $1,269 individual gifts totaling $3.72 million that will go towards student organizations, financial aid, scholarships and faculty research.
A concentrated effort to reach UCSB’s massive base of young alumni, UCSB Give Day used social media channels to digitally connect with donors. By enlisting the help of “Digital Ambassadors,” UCSB was able to get volunteers to proactively push the Give Day message through their own social media channels. Using the hashtag #UCSBGiveDay, the campaign consisted of hundreds of social media posts that reached millions of people, including thousands of UCSB alumni and supporters.
The central aim of the Give Day campaign was to grow UCSB’s rank of new donors. “Reaching out to younger alumni in the social media space is vital because it’s where they routinely socialize — it’s a space where they go for business and for pleasure,” said Beverly Colgate, UCSB’s associate vice chancellor for development and the executive director of the UCSB Foundation in an interview with The UCSB Current . Acknowledging that social media has become an essential tool for reaching young alumni, Colgate feels this is only the beginning of social media fundraising for UCSB.
College of the Holy Cross
Raising almost $2 million over the course of 48 hours this past winter, the College of the Holy Cross proved that smaller institutions can rock online fundraising campaigns too. On February 5-6, more than 6,200 donors came together during the Give Purple Challenge to raise $1.94 million to be used for all aspects of life on campus, from financial aid and academic programs to faculty resources and athletics.
Utilizing GiveCampus as the hub of online activity, Give Purple focused less on dollar amounts than on boosting donor participation. This strategy resulted in 122 new donors who participated in Give Purple, 75% of whom graduated within the past 10 years. Additionally, more than half of the funds donated came from alumni who graduated after 1990 and nearly one in three donors gave via mobile device.
Social media played a large part in making the Give Purple campaign such a success, with more than one-third of all traffic to the challenge generated by individuals sharing with one another on social media or through email. Alumni and students shared their reasons for giving via tweets, Facebook posts, and short video clips. Many donors also challenged fellow classmates and teammates to make a gift via social media using #GivePurpleHC.
Taking a different approach to online giving days, Miami University generated a record-breaking 4.123 gifts during the third annual #MoveInMiami event. A participation-driven effort hosted on freshman move in day, the #MoveInMiami campaign raised a total of $1,005,800 to support the University.
Bolstered by the excitement of move-in day, Miami University alumni, parents, students, friends, and faculty were encouraged to welcome the class of 2020 by donating to the school. “When the Oxford and regional campuses and our alumni and friends all pull together, the incoming class gets a true sense of what it means to be a Miamian and how the Miami Experience will leave an indelible impression lasting long after they graduate,” said Brad Bundy, Senior Associate Vice President for Development at the University.
#MoveInMiami was successful in large part because of social media promotion and engagement. Driven largely through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other online applications, the campaign recorded more than 10.2 million social media impressions. To encourage social media engagement, downloadable signs were made available on the campaign website for participants to write in a personalized statement about Miami University. By taking a photo with the sign and sharing it on social media using #MoveInMiami, participants were entered into a drawing to win a Miami prize pack.
Online giving days offer a more personal approach to engaging alumni that is more meaningful and helps build a sense of community among donors. Social media days of giving fundraising campaigns allow donors to see a more informal side of their alma mater – one that is playful, fun, and maybe even a little competitive. In other words, social media allows donors to see the more human side of your school, which ultimately inspires them to give. The more connected alumni feel, the more likely they’ll be to help out, and to ask everyone on their timelines to help out too.