Raising the Bar for University Fundraising.
We just concluded an alumni awareness effort last week for Furman University called http://www.DoNotCallMeAtDinner.com that leveraged database marketing and social media to create a new approach to alumni relations. Although all of the results are not yet tallied, we had some insights that we wanted to go ahead and share.
The campaign was designed to create alumni awareness and increase participation with Furman University alumni while raising funds through online donations. Like most universities, Furman has a Spring Call-a-Thon that yields predictable results but is perceived as an annoyance to many donors. This year the approach was to attack that philosophy head-on and promise not to call alumni at dinner if they made an online gift by May 15, 2009. A parody of the famous Apple/PC television spots was used to help drive home this point.
The success of the campaign was measured on the increased participation from the 90s and 2000s classes of alumni that have historically had lower participation rates in traditional campaigns. One of the primary vehicles for the campaign was facebook.com, a social media web site that already has numerous Furman Alumni groups established and assisted in successfully driving over 3,500 visitors to the campaign Web site. Overall the campaign received huge praise from Alumni, however, a few commented that the effort seemed to “blackmail” Alums into giving. Come’ on, where’s your sense of humor people?
One experimental component of the campaign was the ability for donors to leave an optional comment on “the wall” about why they give back to Furman University. I think for all of us involved this was the most eye-opening aspect of the campaign. Praise for Furman University came pouring out, and it was obvious that these alums are very passionate about their alma mater. Here is a random grab of a few of their posts:
’02 – May 17, 8:29 pm
I want to pass along the wonderful experience of Furman!
’76 – May 17, 2:21 pm
Best four years of my life.
’91 – May 17, 12:50 pm
Because it’s so important to future fundraising to have a high percentage of alumni donors.
’01 – May 17, 4:12 am
I love Furman!
’05 – May 16, 2:22 pm
My years at Furman were an incredible experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
’90 – May 15, 11:18 pm
My Furman experience was invaluable, and my dearest friends in the world are still my Furman friends.
’88 – May 15, 7:02 pm
The education, memories and overall experience at Furman were life altering. I hope this donation will allow others to have this great experience.
’01 – May 15, 6:38 pm
Because I still love yelling “FU” at football games… even if no one around me gets it!
John Kemp, Director of Annual Giving at Furman University said, “We really did not know what to expect as far as results. We just knew that we needed to find new and innovative ways to reach alumni, especially those from the 90s and 2000s. With social media being so popular with the 25-35 year olds, it made sense to test the waters with Hill Mullikin. In the end the campaign got a lot of people talking and the response was great. We not only hit the target audience with an appropriate strategy but the response was enormous. It was never about a financial return-on-investment but the campaign far more than delivered it. Participation, awareness and donations all exceeded initial expectations.”
Overall more than 3,500 visitors viewed the site over the three-week campaign and there were some interesting Web stats to go along with it. Here are a few:
- The bounce rate was less than 1% which confirms that the “sitelet” was engaging.
- Facebook was the largest inbound marketing campaign with almost 500 visitors, with twitter only sending 37 visitors.
- A poll on the site shows that 71% of those taking the survey (182) would prefer to give during an online campaign while 25% prefer to give via mail. Less than 2% desired to give over the telephone.
- The blogosphere picked it up early with some debate on if it would or would not be successful, so it got people talking. http://highered.prblogs.org/2009/04/29/furman-nocall/#comments.
- The average donation was over $100
- The comments speak for themselves.
At the end of the day we have been believers that social media is creating new avenues for universities to reach both new students and alumni. Although we can not share all of the final numbers, we know this venture into social media for higher education proved its worth.