10 Steps to Preparing for Your Day of Giving
A day of giving can be an excellent opportunity to recruit new donors, generate fundraising, and gain exposure to your institution's mission and goals. Ready for your next (or first) day of giving? Brendon Woodworth, Manager of Adoption Services at Anthology, shared these tips in a recent webinar entitled Inspire Live: Preparing for Your Day of Giving.
1. Make key decisions early
When it comes to your day of giving, it’s important to be prepared. Ideally, you should start planning four to six months in advance. Begin by making some important decisions, such as the timing, length, and focus of the campaign. It is important that your day of giving takes place at a time that makes sense given your other fundraising communications. In terms of length, most institutions have adopted a 24-hour day of giving, as that may be the easiest for constituents to understand, but others host multi-day, or in some cases month-long campaigns. Consider what will work best at your institution given past experience, size of your team, and the ability to support a day of giving that is longer than one day.
Here are some more key questions to consider before you dive into the details of your day of giving:
- What limitations will you place on gifts that count towards your goal (i.e. do all gifts count, only those made to a specific set of initiatives, or only gifts from a certain demographic of donor)? Will pledges be included in this count?
- Will your constituents be able to contribute by mail? If so, how will you collect these contributions and what is the deadline to receive these?
- Will the focus be primarily on unrestricted gifts or will you also encourage restricted support?
2. Setting your goal
Since a day of giving is a short-lived effort, it’s important that your communication is clear and draws attention to your campaign. The goal of your campaign therefore has to make sense to constituents and has to be represented on your website in a way that is easy to understand. Things to think about as you set your goals include past giving trends, the ability to bring in larger gifts, and the level of interest from constituents.
Many institutions struggle when setting a goal. Keep in mind that a goal should be a stretch for your institution but should also be achievable. Consider whether a dollar goal or donor goal or a combination of both will be most effective for your constituents.
Finally, don’t be afraid to adjust your goals. If early results show you are going to hit your initial goal early, you can increase the goal and adjust your communications throughout the day as needed. In fact, consider having a stretch goal ready in advance just in case.
3. Develop your planning sheet
Be sure to create a realistic timeline so that you and your team have plenty of lead time to prepare for your day of giving. While some institutions we work with have managed to pull off a day of giving in a matter of weeks, you should usually begin planning four to six months in advance.
As you’re putting a plan together, think about who should be involved. Some departments that you’ll likely want to include are the advancement division, including alumni relations; marketing communications; student affairs; athletics; and others as appropriate. Also consider campus partners who can help you amplify your message or who have an inherent interest in the success of the day of giving. For example, include a representative from athletics if you are planning to work with coaches to get the word out.
4. Energize your audience
Early planning allows you to begin getting buy-in from your constituents, as well as from other offices at your institution. Be sure to share your campaign focus or goal so that your community can get excited about the challenge that lies ahead. Send a save the date card well in advance and promote it in your alumni magazine. Begin sharing videos and social media posts early. Create competition through challenges and matching campaigns. Generating excitement is the key to your success! As you begin to plan around those competitions be sure to account for additional updates and resources needed. You may opt to automate these through the use of leaderboards or scoreboards to help gamify the experience but also leverage the integration with your online giving experience. Everybody wins!
Think about ways to generate buzz around campus, too. You may add indicators on signage in high traffic areas, create day of giving t-shirts, and involve student and alumni groups in your planning efforts.
5. Create a communication plan
Having a communication plan prior to announcing your day of giving is a critical element. You’ll want to think about an overarching communication plan that looks at all channels, including plans for social media and email campaigns.
Social media gives you a fast, easy way to connect your constituents with the campaign, including encouraging use of a day of giving-specific hashtag. Recruit designated social media ambassadors ahead of time to share posts and build awareness on your big day. Then, to make their jobs easier, create an online toolkit with images and suggested posts.
When it comes to email, you’ll have no shortage of communications you’ll want to send. A reminder the evening before, a kick-off email that morning, promotions of challenges and matching campaigns, progress updates throughout the day, and of course a thank you email to participants. With this large quantity of emails being sent, segmentation is key to your email success. Send multiple versions of a campaign to different target audiences. You may want to consider segmenting by year or decade of graduation, date of last gift, and affinity groups, just to name a few.
6. Personalize the donor experience
Your constituents know your institution and want to feel that you know them in return. Personalize email communications with more than just your donor’s name. Consider adding their graduation year, the name of their school or college, or call out affinity groups they were associated with while a student. Find new and creative ways of using your existing data to create a more personal communication.
Make the online giving experience more personal to your constituents, too. Anthology Encompass users can use URL customizations to target specific audiences. Direct your donor to a specific designation you know they are more likely to give to and add a suggested gift amount. And of course, you will want to add appeal codes so that you and your team can successfully track all of your marketing efforts.
7. Review your web experience
Your online presence is critical to informing your community and encouraging support for your day of giving. A microsite or pages dedicated to your day of giving can help tailor your messaging to the campaign’s needs, and limited navigation options will keep your audience focused and create a sense of excitement and urgency. Visualization features such as a campaign progress indicator will help fuel participation.
Make sure your online giving is easy to complete, with as minimum of fields for the donor to fill out – focus on collecting only critical pieces of information. If you’re not building an online giving form specifically for your day of giving, then you’ll most likely want to make some changes to your existing form to support clear messaging. Consider adjusting the form to reflect the theme of your day of giving.
8. Organize campaign day support
When you plan your day of giving events, include as many constituencies as possible to help maximize exposure. Alumni and campus volunteers can assist with day-of needs such as making sure you have a presence on campus, social media reach, and thanking donors. Make sure everyone is dressed in school colors and bringing their best day of giving spirit to your events.
Including faculty and staff in the day’s activities can educate them about supporting your institution and also increase the likelihood that they will support your day of giving. While you’re raising funds from your students, don’t forget to instill the importance of lifelong support for your school.
9. Celebrate the results – think stewardship
Now that donors have supported your campaign, plan for how you will continue to build a relationship with them. Start by sharing the impact of your successful day of giving! Be sure to communicate with both your internal and external audiences as you celebrate your results.
You’ll also want to plan a communication strategy for day of giving donors that continues a few months after the campaign and communicates the ongoing, positive impact of their gifts. Encourage campus constituents to thank donors, especially if their programs benefitted from the support. Think about sending a personalized thank you to first-time donors or long time never-givers to build goodwill and encourage continued support. Thank you messages from your students are a great addition to these campaigns.
10. Learn from experience
Finally, after your day of giving has ended, it’s important to assess what worked and what could be improved. Did you meet your goal? If not, how could you revise it for next time? Who were your donors? Who participated and who didn’t? Which communications seemed to be the most successful? Did the day’s efforts go as expected? What improvements do you want to make next time? Review data and make notes while the day is still top-of-mind.
Congratulations! Once you’ve made it through these ten steps, you’ve successfully hosted a day of giving to support your institution and its students. Are you looking for even more information as you refine your strategies for upcoming giving campaigns? Watch our recent webinar on online giving trends and opportunities for 2021.
Tessa Burke is a marketing manager at Anthology and previously served as a team manager on the customer experience team for advancement solutions. Tessa began her career in marketing in higher ed and prior to joining Anthology, served as the vice president for marketing and enrollment at a private college preparatory school in the Chicago. She implemented the Anthology Encompass system in 2009 and enjoys bringing the perspective of an experienced Encompass user to her role as she supports customers in strategic digital engagement.