5 Ideas for University Fundraising Campaigns at Year-End

October 10, 2017 Mike Snusz

In 2016, higher education institutions saw 17.7% of total giving occur in December. Higher education performed in line with the average across the public sector, however, it’s slightly behind Human Services, Healthcare and Environment/Animal Welfare organizations, which means there’s room to grow!

5 Ideas for University Fundraising Campaigns at Year-End

To ensure that higher education institutions are maximizing their end-of-year giving opportunity, we’ve put together a quick list of ways you can bolster giving through the end of 2017.  Even if you’re well underway with your end-of-year giving plans, check out these important reminders—many of which you still have time to implement—and “go big” with end-of-year success!

1. Get your website end-of-year ready:

Only 1 in 131 website visitors become a donor–yikes! Since 21.8% of online giving happens in December, it’s more important than ever to have a homepage that is maximized to drive end-of-year giving.  Not having the message front and center and elevated on your website will cost you donors.

  1. One way to bring end-of-year giving front and center is by doing a lightbox or pop up. Your initial thought is probably, “oh no—those annoying things?” but the research tells us that this popups can double conversion rates for email signups. Plus, they don’t cause people to leave your website anymore. So, moral of the story is: don’t rely on the donation button alone—popups bring the message even more in focus.
  2. A second way to drive awareness on your homepage is a homepage slideshow or marquee area where you place three or four different images showcasing an end-of-year message. Ensure that you’re highlighting why someone should give and the powerful impact their donation will have on students and the institution.

2. Ensure that your end-of-year emails stand out:

If you remember one thing, remember this: Don’t beat around the bush. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Easy reading level. During November and December, the email inbox is a crowded place. Between holiday party invites, a crazy promotion at a favorite store or pictures from a family gathering, it’s going to be difficult to stand out.

Here’s what you can do to help your end-of-year email stand out:

  1. Analyze your top performing emails–what were your best performing e-mails of 2017, which were your poorest performing emails?  You probably have a general idea of what performs well and what doesn’t, but spending some time really digging in and finding out why one email had a 10x higher response rate than another will ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.  Look at the images, the send time, the content of the email,who the email was from, and your subject line.
  2. Design your emails for mobile. To stand out in the inbox of your alumni and constituents, you need to take advantage of the two lines of text below the subject line–sometimes called the pre-header. Very few emails take advantage of this text. The pre-header should complement your subject line or extend your subject line–it can help set the stage of what the e-mail is about and help with click throughs.

3. Segment your audience:

One-size-fits-all email doesn’t resonate. Forty-nine percent of donors would stop donating if content is boring or not about programs they’re interested in. When you’re emailing about an end-of-year appeal, recognize individuals that have given previously, and be sure to acknowledge how recent their gift was. Event better, go beyond if someone is an existing donor or not and think about the ways people have relationships with your institution.

Follow this simple formula when crafting a segmented e-mail: recognize the relationship your donor has with your institution, and then give them a targeted ask amount based on that relationship.  Eliminating the decision about how much a person should give makes that person more likely to convert. For example, an end-of-year email to recent graduates or young alumni should assume that those individuals might just be starting out and can only give a smaller gift. Bottom line, it’s important to craft your email appeals around what people are most interested in.  As you look toward 2018, think about creating an email calendar centered around the segments versus the types of emails you have. Design around “What is the appropriate email plan for our recent donors, our loyal donors, etc.,” not “When should we send a newsletter?”

4. Leverage social advertising and ambassadors:

Posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram doesn’t take you as far as it used to. In fact, 90% of your Facebook fans don’t see your Facebook posts–especially when there is so much noise throughout end-of-year. There is a declining Facebook organic reach–if you’re not paying for advertising within your Facebook fans or Instagram or other social channels, it’s likely you’re not reaching your fans. You could experience eight times higher click-through rates for Facebook ads versus normal web ads.

Our next tip is to leverage social ambassadors. Ask alumni to get the word out on your behalf by sharing images and content, and promoting a match program if you have one. Having one alumni ask their social networks of former classmates to donate is another flavor of peer-to-peer fundraising. The impact of implementing a successful social ambassador program can be huge: 1 in 2,500 fundraising emails from an organization result in a donation, whereas 1 in 4 fundraising emails from a P2P fundraiser result in a donation. Check out a recording of a webinar I did on August 30 to learn more about an actionable Social Ambassador workflow. In fact, please sign up for the whole webinar series on digital strategy.

5. Think long term:

Lastly, don’t let all the end-of-year work you’re doing now fizzle out with a two-month campaign. Start asking the question, “If someone has given to you in the end-of-year period, when and how are you going to ask them to renew?”  Turn your two-month campaign in to a four-month campaign and design your strategy and tactics around converting newly acquired donors to longer-term donors. The more recent a donor is, the better a candidate they are for retention.  Make sure you’re asking new donors to give in early 2018, but don’t forget to thank them first!New Report on University Fundraising

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