Shannon Riffe (@rifferaff) is associate director of marketing, online engagement in the University of Michigan Office of University Development.
The University of Michigan held its first 24-hour day of giving, Giving Blueday, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2, 2014). It invited alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, patients and their families, and fans worldwide to make donations to any area of the university they wanted to support. By giving on this day, donors had the opportunity to take part in the university’s current fundraising campaign—Victors for Michigan—and support the campaign’s three priorities: student support, engaged learning and bold ideas.
In the University of Michigan Office of University Development, our goals for the day fell into four categories:
- Revenue: Raise more than $1 million in 24 hours.
- Pipeline reach: Receive gifts from 1,000 donors—many making gifts for the first time. The social media-driven nature of the 24-hour campaign enabled us to reach donors who might not be receptive to phone, direct mail or email solicitations. It also allowed us to reach students and recent grads on the social networks where they already spend their time.
- Energy, Excitement, Engagement: Create more than 1,000,000 campaign impressions via traditional and social media outlets.
- Team IQ: Many units within the university have expressed a desire to execute crowdfunding campaigns. Giving Blueday provided the opportunity “at scale” to justify the human resource investment. By doing the vast majority of this work in-house, we intended to gain countless new insights—including pipeline growth, online gifting, IT knowledge, social media, crowdsourcing, non-traditional stewardship, matches/challenges and student engagement—that could be applied to future projects.
Components of the plan included:
Online Ambassador Program: We used Giving Blueday as an opportunity to launch a new volunteer opportunity, the M-bassador program, that allows participants to leverage their personal social media accounts to share university-provided content. This program helped to amplify our Giving Blueday message and ensure that peer-to-peer sharing would complement the posts from the university’s social media pages.
Social Media Challenges: Ten hourly challenges valued at $500-$1,000 each. These challenges were designed to provide a constant stream of relevant social media content using the #GivingBlueday hashtag and as a way for people to participate in the day beyond making a gift. Some individual units provided matches specific to their fundraising activities that were available only for the day. (For example, the College of Engineering matched gifts to its annual fund for the day.) This helped to fuel urgency for making a gift within the 24-hour period.
Marketing Toolkit: A marketing toolkit prepared by OUD contained sample social media images and text for posts, a template for an ad that units could use in publications or newsletters and a template for a postcard mailing.
Online: Central to our ability to execute our plans for Giving Blueday was the revised online giving experience, which we launched in October 2013 with improved features such as the ability to give to multiple funds in a single transaction that made it easier to find funds to support, and social sharing on the confirmation page. This enabled a positive donor experience and allowed us to accept and process gifts at scale. The online giving page featured a Giving Blueday banner throughout the site and Giving Blueday messaging and social sharing options on the confirmation page, including an #IGaveBlueDidYou hashtag.
We created a standalone website at www.givingblueday.org, which featured an add-to-calendar widget before the event was live. On the day of Giving Blueday, the website had a real-time counter of donors and dollars. For the week leading up to the event, Giving Blueday was the featured story on the university’s homepage.
Real-time Stewardship: We did our best to respond in real time to anyone who used the #IGaveBlueDidYou with a personalized thank you message.
Social Media: We raised awareness before the event with a series of six emails to all alumni and donors but active social media engagement from institutional and student organization pages across the university fueled the excitement throughout the day. This included a “Snapchat story” from the university Snapchat account that featured images from events on campus and images of campus landmarks made possible by class gifts. Students could get a T-shirt if they found the location spotlighted in the Snapchatters.
We also reached out to high-profile alumni with large Twitter followings, and we ensured that the featured @umichstudents student tweeter for the week was selected by the student philanthropy team. We used that platform to help share the fundraising videos created by student organizations.
Student Engagement: More than 70 student organizations signed up to participate in Giving Blueday and fundraise for their causes. These student organizations had access to a comprehensive marketing toolkit geared toward students and created by our student philanthropy team. A big motivator for student organizations was $30,000 in match money for any student gift up to $1,000 and $10,000 in challenge funds for donations from recent graduates.
On-campus events at two locations offered additional opportunities for students to participate. Students were asked to fill out a card giving one idea for an area that could use more funding. In exchange, any student who filled out a card would receive a high five from the student volunteers working the event. Two of those volunteers included gold-medal winning ice dancers (and current U-M students) Meryl Davis and Charlie White. At the end of the day, we selected four cards and made a $250 donation to the specified funding area in the name of the student who submitted it.
- Total dollars raised: $3,252,309
- Total donors: 5,437
- On Dec. 2, the #GivingBlueday hashtag was used in 4,671 tweets, reaching 4.4 million people on Twitter and generating 11.5 million impressions.
- Additional impressions were created through multiple articles in mLive, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Michigan Daily, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other publications. This exposure generated new levels of awareness and positive sentiment for the Victors for Michigan campaign.
- 394 M-bassadors
- Number of current student donors: 1,502. (We had more student donors on Giving Blueday than we did in all of 2013!)
- Total dollars raised by student organization: $132,077.51
Giving Blueday became a rallying point for people across the university community to celebrate all the things that make our institution great. While the vast majority of the gifts were in the $5-$150 range, about 40 donors were so enthused by the efforts that they made larger gifts—with one being $350,000. A vibrant social media component ensured that our supporters could stay engaged throughout the day, even after they made their gift. It was especially fun to see the students embrace the spirit of the day and get excited about all the things that philanthropy makes possible at Michigan. For the first time, many students felt a connection between something they are passionate about and the act of philanthropy. This is a key component in building a lasting culture of philanthropy.