Friday, April 30, 2010

3,612 donors in 23 days

We just wrapped up a project for Spelman College around their Founders Day challenge. Spelman secured an anonymous donor who would give $300,000 if Spelman could achieve 5,000 donors by the College's Founders Day. MainSpring developed a micro-site for Spelman to boost awareness and participation for the final 23 days of the challenge. Based on a concept developed for young alumni by the Rice Annual Fund, the micro-site was designed to be interactive - alumnae could go to the site to respond to a questionnaire and upload photos, post comments to other questionnaires, learn more about the challenge, see the current donor totals and see a list of donors. On the backend, Spelman had the ability to log into a secure, administrative module to review and approved submitted questionnaires, photos and comments before they could be posted to the site. Emails, calls, mailers, tweets and Facebook posts sent by Spelman staff, alumnae and friends drove alumnae to the site during the final 23 days. Over the 23 day period, Spelman secured 3,612 donors and surpassed the 5,000 donor goal.

The takeaway lesson? The combination of an integrated solicitation strategy using mail, phone, email, Twitter, and Facebook and an interactive micro-site to serve as the "campaign headquarters" facilitated Spelman's successful execution of this campaign. For Spelman, alumnae participation through dialogue was critical to their success. The high number of questionnaires filled out (56 and still going even after the challenge ended!) indicates that Spelman alumnae were eager to participate by sharing their thoughts and feelings. It is important to note that the last question of the questionnaire was: “How will you inspire other sisters to participate in the Challenge?” This prompted alumnae to continue the conversation and almost every single questionnaire response indicated the intention to reach out to others via Facebook and Twitter. This type of grass roots word of mouth is priceless and the micro-site was the platform to prompt and encourage alumnae to be the voice of Spelman.

To check out the site, go to:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

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Sunday, April 25, 2010


There are few things that I consistently speak about and focus on internally and externally as often as mini-campaigns. I look upon these as discreet focused efforts to accomplish a discrete goal. In higher education, we often take these on to complete endowment of a scholarship or faculty chair. The current trend is to look at causes based on or connected to your campus that you can support this way.

This trend is something that I see as an overall positive - it moves us as an industry in the direction of making a case for support, moving away from the historical "because you owe us" loyalty argument. While that line of reasoning was successful for a number of years, to me it is now right up there with "to increase our US News ranking", old, played out and really, really, really weak for younger (defined as since the early 90s) alumni.

Most of the folks who graduated in the last 20 years did so with substantial loan debt, no matter how successful your fundraising efforts, they saw the out of pocket cost for their education increase rapidly, in some cases by 2 digit percentages each year they were in school. As we all know, for the most part, (there are exceptions to every rule) this is a portion of the alumni body that is no where near as consistent with financial support as our older alumni.

Try breaking them up into mini campaigns. Take a look at what they did as students, identify some of the causes that they may have been interested in and find the students currently associated with those causes - utilize those students to tell the story as to why the alums should support that area.

No data? Try a targeted PURL campaign - let your alumni identify that they are interested (by responding) which causes they were interested in as students and are interested in today (survey questions) and provide them with the opportunity to raise their hand as volunteers for that cause today (information or thank you page in the PURL.)

Easy, quick, simple and affordable - usually can be done for less than $1.50 per alum - money that you will more than make up over the next 24-36 months through funding appeals, often just from new donors!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I learned today (or why I like to take advantage of speaking opportunities)

My webinar on PURLS this afternoon went really well - always worry in doing webinars about the ability to generate enough energy and interest in order to keep the webinar going with no audience response. Kind of makes me understand why radio talk show hosts usually either have a side-kick or go to the phones or both.

In any case, my presentation was on utilizing PURLS to engage and empower and I spent a couple of weeks putting information together and doing research on this topic. In doing so, I looked at for profit, non profit and higher education use of the tool and found one consistent thing that puzzles me.

Many places have paid good money to put a PURL based marketing campaign out. Many places have paid good money to a printer or other vendor to push the mail and email communications out to get folks the address. Yet nobody seems happy with the marketing effort.

Almost everything that I see has over-generalization, everyone seems to be trying either for a one size fits all PURL or for a limited marketing stream. Yet we are selling a "Personal" URL. It seems to make so much sense for this to utilize variable data printing to provide each individual with unique marketing materials customized to their record in the same way the PURL is.

It is a good first step to identify a PURL that may connect with folks. The next step is to identify imagery that would do the same. The example that I used on the webinar was related to my own Alma Mater, Allegheny College. Utilizing a PURL of would connect to some extent. That on a postcard with a picture of campus might have some additional connection, but that PURL on a postcard with a picture of my fraternity brothers taken from one of the yearbooks when I was a student would have far greater connection and likelihood of me opening and interacting with it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fishing in your own pond

Most of us run several internal campaigns each year. These have mixed levels of success, often based upon institutional and program history. They include (but are not limited to) employee efforts, current students (seniors being the focus but not exclusive) and local community.

Efforts on each of these have the additional opportunity of adding in a personal element - while non of us, no matter how well resourced, can visit each of the thousands of alumni and parents, it is very viable to reach out to these internal constituencies and make personal communication reality. This can readily be expanded to utilization of a small group of volunteer solicitors who can carry the lion's share of the face to face contacts.

To that end however, these are often more challenging audiences to engage through marketing efforts. They already know the "basics" of who, what, where and when that you can use to update and inform external audiences. They often have much greater knowledge of specific areas, programs and departments than you possess.

Take advantage of these informed constituents by providing them with additional information - can you include them in press releases when they go to the media? can you provide them with annual access to the president or a networking reception? The most valuable items that you possess are informational - how can you at your institution provide constituents who support you with access to that information and how can you make sure that others identify and understand how to establish that connection for themselves?

Consider using an internally centered PURL campaign to collect updated information and allow them to opt into additional information flow. Utilize your volunteers to send it out to the folks that are connected to them and lay out a distinct list of unique (and free to you) opportunities that they will be able to take advantage of as a donor. If they make a gift, provide them with a free (this is not free to you) item that they can wear/carry/use to encourage others to give. Provide them with the information about why they should give, access to an easy way to do it and recognition and resource access for doing so.