Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Blog

Launch Your First University Giving Day

Are you a university or school that is just getting started with annual giving days? It can be overwhelming to know where to start but don't worry, we have your back. 
Do you hear that? It could be the sound of your staff cleaning up the campus after a special Seniors-only event on your giving day. Or perhaps you hear the rumble of cheering from the department that raised the required funding. Maybe it is the sound of someone's thumb tapping the screen of his or her phone as he or she scrolls through the many social media posts. 

Hopefully, you also heard the (imaginary) sounds of a cash register chiming every time another dollar was added to your giving day's donation count. And if you haven't heard that sweet, sweet tune and want to start your first giving day here are our top 10 Ways to Secure Giving Day Success. 
  1. Get Buy-In. From your President, your staff, the department heads, the mascot, your student leaders, your influencers. The most successful giving days have participation from all levels of leadership. Everyone is supporting the same effort and message in a coordinated effort, which means students and alumni know exactly what to do and the impact it will make. 
  2. Establish your goals. Some schools focus on the number of gifts. Others have true revenue goals for each program or department. Some like to watch the total raised for the day. Whatever your focus is, define it, advertise it, and communicate progress towards it. Not sure where to start? Our average amount raised per giving day in the Spring of 2019 was about $40,000 per school. 
  3. Plan in advance. While you could pull off a giving day weeks beforehand, it will go a lot more smoothly if you plan months out. We find that having a dedicated triage person for internal staff makes for more coordinated employee experience. Training leadership also takes time and effort! Everything from designing the theme for the event, on campus signage, save the date cards, marketing assets, home page design (we recommend a scrolling image or pop up on the day) takes time and preparation to do, and it pays off. The most profitable giving days start planning 6-8 months out.
  4. Incorporate Matching Gifts or Challenges. We see great success in unlocking matching gifts once a fundraising threshhold is reached. Coordinating a few challenges throughout the day (one in the morning and one in the evening) can not only motivate your donors to give, but in some cases, to give twice! You can also incentivize seniors to give a modest amount based on a theme (like $18 for the class of 2018). 
  5. Increase Connections. Through on campus events, social media engagement, multi-channel communications, and staff gratitude- Every decision should facilitate personal connections with the school and student body.
  6. Use Video. It's the growing medium to exchange information and a giving day is a wonderful opportunity for a live video (through Facebook, Instagram, etc) to be shared, stories to be told and most importantly, for your students to share why the school is important to them and the impact it left in their lives. Video sharing content should be bi-directional and personal.
  7. Keep it Simple. As giving days grow year over year, things can get more robust. Don't look at an established program and try to copy it. Start with a donor experience of less than 3 clicks to give, something that shares easily to social media and something that enables departments or students to fundraise on behalf of your university. Don't forget to leverage your website aka your billboard. Anyone landing there should immediately know what is going on and how to get involved.
  8. Appreciate your Employees. Whether it is free food all day long or gift baskets to the staff who stayed late to process gifts, don't forget to (budget and) thank everyone who pulled this off, in as personal way as you can.
  9. Create a Social Media Toolkit. Build out recommended verbiage or images supporters can use when they promote the event. This makes it easy for their involvement and keeps most content on brand. 
  10. Once the day is over, keep the lights on. Or at least keep the campaign active. Donations can trickle in up to 5 days after a post to social media. We are not saying you have to wait a week before unpublishing the campaign, but consider accepting gifts both before the actual day (it's like how you never see a tip jar empty) and up to 48 hours after (because someone always has the best intentions but is late to follow through). 

There you have it folks! For those who are just getting started with a giving day, what are you most excited to test out? For anyone who is a seasoned pro, share your ideas or recommendations below in the comments!
Posted by Stephanie Thomas on May 21, 2019 4:43 PM America/New_York

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