Making #GivingTuesday Count: New Mexico State University’s Story

October 26, 2017 Leslie Cervantes

One day can make a difference and New Mexico State University (NMSU) can prove it! After a hugely successful Giving Tuesday campaign in 2015, we’re excited to share our “Four ‘T’s of Giving Tuesday” with the keys to our success and some actionable takeaways you can implement at your institution.

For our Giving Tuesday campaign in 2015, our focus was impact via scholarships.  Our secret sauce and what we believe made this initiative successful was our ability to offer a matching gift incentive.  On Giving Tuesday, every gift to a scholarship anywhere in the NMSU system was matched dollar for dollar. We had goals to increase total giving to the NMSU system, increase alumni giving rates, see participation of 1,000 donors, add endowments for colleges, departments and units across the system and establish communication partnerships with local businesses.  An even loftier goal of ours was to establish a new vision and culture with 100% participation from all volunteer leadership boards and campus leadership, plus 100% participation from advancement staff in planning and personal giving.

Our #GivingTuesday results were transformational.

  • We created 82 new scholarships
  • We had 100% participation from the Foundation Board, amounting to over $881,000.
  • We had 100% Regent participation and had over 1,000 donors in 24 hours amounting to over $642,000.
  • We raised a grand total of $5.7 million with the matching gifts.

So, here’s our first tip: match funds, if you can.  We had a unique opportunity with $2.9 million matching funds from our NMSU license plate affinity program, an estate gift from a loyal Aggie and additional campus matches.  Think creatively when looking around your institution for matching gift funds—gathering seemingly small amounts from various places can add up!

The Four ‘T’s of Giving Tuesday

  • Technology: As you can probably imagine, it’s important to ensure you have the right infrastructure to support donations, advanced segmentation, e-mailing those segments, tracking gifts and pulling reports to capture progress.  For NMSU, the infrastructure for tracking matching gift expectations was crucial.  We created a short gift agreement or funding agreement with matching money language included. We entered all gifts with an appeal code in our nonprofit fundraising software. That appeal code then became the driver in our reports which allowed us to tie various pieces of the campaign together and see our final results. We also built a giving page to promote the Giving Tuesday campaign, created segments out of donor and alumni databases and e-mailed those segments with links to that giving page.  Our biggest takeaway: make it all connect. 
  • Tell your story: The only way to make your Giving Tuesday campaign successful is to get the word out. At NMSU, we developed a comprehensive communication plan and used a multi-channel approach.  First, we created a logo that aligned with the international logo which allowed us to brand all our communications consistently.  Our e-mail strategy included that consistent look, impactful messaging, clear calls-to-action, a hyperlink to the giving site, student-centered photos and social media links.  We also used direct mail; we sent two pieces, one was a postcard and the other a newsletter, both with very impactful writing and a clear call-to-action.  We didn’t stop with e-mail & direct mail; we posted to Facebook 39 times, Tweeted 37 times and posted 25 pictures to Instagram.  We used radio, television and traditional media to get the word out as well.  Telling our Giving Tuesday story via every channel possible garnered great alumni participation; we had 286 first time alumni donors, 655 new donors and 2,440 individual donations made. Our biggest takeaway: Be consistent. Be everywhere.
  • Teamwork: Teamwork makes the dream work; it might sound cheesy, but it’s true!  NMSU would not have had its Giving Tuesday results without serious collaboration. We partnered with local businesses, partnered with local government officials to proclaim December 1, 2015 #GivingTuesday at NMSU Day and celebrated these partnerships, our team and donors throughout the day.  One of the best ways we created an exciting team atmosphere was with our campaign headquarters.  We had the “thank you” call center, a photo booth, entertainment by student groups and an hourly dollar announcement set up in our student union.  All in all, the teamwork was stellar; however, we did have one key learning that when it comes to our internal planning committee structure, there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.  Be sure you have a structured planning committee with key contributors and stakeholders, only. Our biggest takeaway: Your team doesn’t have to be big, but it better be mighty.
  • Thank You’s: Last but not least, at NMSU, we prioritized stewardship on Giving Tuesday.  On the day of the event, we made personal phone calls, created handwritten cards and send e-mails to thank our donors and participants. We kept the Giving Tuesday branding, even with our stewardship efforts by placing Giving Tuesday stickers on receipts and customizing all of our thank you notes and letters. It was important for us to remember that “thank yous” should be personal; we thanked first time donors differently than we thanked major gift donors, for example. Our biggest takeaway: Send personal and sincere gratitude on Giving Tuesday. 

We hope you found these tips applicable and useful for your institution’s Giving Day efforts; we certainly had fun sharing them!  We will be discussing our experience even further in a webinar on Tuesday, October 31 at 1:00 PM ET – register here to join us!

Turn Your Tuesday on #GivingTuesday

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