Adrienne King (@dr_adking) is vice president of marketing and outreach at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.
In preparation for our 2015 end-of-year fundraising campaign, Murray State University decided to implement a crowdfunding trial utilizing the institution’s existing social media platforms. The integrated campaign was built from the university’s integrated marketing communications holiday promotion, which was designed to support the university’s yearlong 60th Anniversary of Desegregation celebration.
The Challenge Was On
The campaign message was simple—”Celebrating a season of global traditions. United as Racers”—and encompassed all constituent groups. It was designed to deliver an integrated message of campus unity using personal stories and holiday memories from our students, faculty, staff and alumni. The promotional campaign included direct mail, email, online videos and a specially designed holiday website which supported online giving. The social media campaign focused primarily on four platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
As part of this communications campaign, the university decided to attempt its first-ever crowdfunding campaign to support its end-of-year annual fund efforts. The initial goal was to raise $15,000 for student scholarships, which would be divided into $500 gifts. The campaign ran Dec. 6-31, 2015, and included a series of online fundraising challenges: Dunker’s Challenge for students ($1,888), Faculty/Staff Challenge ($4,178), Alumni Challenge ($8,470) and Library/Athletics Challenge ($4,855). Each group was challenged to match the previous week’s gifts.
Assessing the Results
Racers jumped at the challenge, raising $19,391—nearly 30 percent more than the initial campaign goal! The fundraiser attracted 178 total donors; 87 of those were first-time supporters. The monies raised throughout the campaign will be used to create 39 new student scholarships and study spots in the library.
In addition to the funds raised, the university garnered significant promotional benefits from the campaign. During the campaign (December 7-31), the holidays.murraystate.edu website received 3,971 pageviews from 2,554 users. Interestingly, more users used mobile devices to access the holiday site (62 percent), compared to our typical mobile usage (38 percent) on the murraystate.edu site.
The total potential reach of the university and alumni Facebook/Twitter accounts was 3,040,582. The campaign generated incredible engagement, including 12,015 interactions. The holiday traditions video series were viewed 1,809 times, representing a 567 percent increase from the same time period the year before. Multiple news outlets covered the campaign.
By analyzing the data following the campaign, we determined that several small tweaks should be made during the next attempt:
- Timing: We should have started the campaign the week following Thanksgiving so as not to interfere with finals. We believe student participation numbers would have been even higher if we weren’t competing with so many other end-of-year messages.
- Audience targets: The final week of the campaign proved very difficult. The first three constituent groups were easy to identify and target on our social platforms. Library supporters proved to be much more difficult.
- Matched gifts: These are critical to the success of an online campaign such as this one. They help keep up momentum during the multiple weeks’ promotion. We had several matching gifts come in during the campaign, which really helped to propel our results.
All in all, the campaign was a huge success. It proved to be a great learning experience for us as we begin contemplating how we might use a crowdfunding concept during a future campaign.