, ,

How to Gamify Your Annual Giving Initiatives


verb (used with object), gamified, gamifying.
1. to turn (an activity or task) into a game or something resembling a game:


Let’s start with rule number 1: fundraising doesn’t have to be boring.

There are far too many things in life that are taken too seriously. And while you should speak to the cause you’re fundraising for with sincerity, that doesn’t exclude playfulness! Adding a gamelike, and even a competitive, element to how you manage donor motivations can improve engagement and boost gift size.

After all, who doesn’t love a little healthy competition for a good cause?

When thinking of ways to gamify your giving initiatives it’s important to ask yourself “why will my donors play?” If you can offer incentives and drive home the ROI of support, you can create an intriguing opportunity for potential supporters.



Initiating organization-wide giving challenges can add an air of fun and competition within your community. Not only can these challenges be created to seem gamelike, but they diversify your strategy and are beneficial in re-engaging donors who haven’t contributed recently and may be spurred by peer group activity.

There are a several different approaches to take with the structure of your challenges. Take the liberty to get creative when conceptualizing the possibilities, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Time-centered: Setting challenges throughout the day can prompt you to increase funds in an area of the donor’s choice. Each hourly challenge should correspond with a time, donation match, and requirements to get the match. For example, from 10-11AM the student organization that gets the most gifts this hour will receive $1,000.  
  • Amount-centered: This can be along the lines of the story with the most $100 donations gets a gift, or similarly the story with most $10 donations gets a $1,000 gift. Again, this can be centered in a certain time frame.  
  • Department Competition:  Try creating friendly competition among departments that have multiple stories by incentivizing whichever raises more or has more donors overall. You can also create departmental challenges that can only be earned by stories within that department.
  • Unlocking gifts: if you have a major donor already prepared to give, consider having that gift unlocked when you receive a certain amount of other donations or donors. It can be worded something like this “After the first 75 donors support   organization, a gift of $10,000 from name of donor will be unlocked to support the cause”

Crucial to all challenges is the follow-up after the reward is achieved. Be sure to thank any supporters who participated as well as providing them with continuous updates on outcomes to create an ongoing story.



You should also make sure to incorporate leaderboards as a way to reflect the challenges you’ve created. These elements work in concert to build exposure by creating an engagement point that is front-facing and updated live. Maximize the effect of your leaderboards by adding some of the following features:

  • Purchasing a place: Whenever anybody clicks on your leaderboard to donate, they should always be presented with the option to move an individual story up into a certain standing (ex. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, up one place, etc.). This should include a quick button with the amount they would need to donate. This can be beneficial for the donors as well, as it can be tied to providing them with positive publicity as a gift leader on a donor wall or in a mention in an update on the story itself.
  • Interactive data: Spruce up the visuals on your leaderboard. Try including appeal videos to provide a multimedia experience. Other features of interactive leaderboards can include a toggle for multiple leaderboards that have the data cross-sectioned in different ways (i.e. most donors, most dollars, most shares, etc.).
  • Tracing impact: If the donor shares a link to a cause through social, email, or other media offer the ability to trace the impact of that share. For example, if a donor shares the link to a story on Facebook, you should track how many donations, impressiona, and re-shares were inspired by their activity. This can be helpful in that it provides supporters a non-monetary way to engage with your fundraising. A great way to incentivize this activity is to create a donor-centric leaderboard that tracks this activity. You can even tie sharing results to incentives by allowing these supporter to participate in challenges and matches by qualifying the amount they raise as their personal contribution.


Matching Gifts

Use matching gifts to fuel your challenges and leaderboards. These elements can all supplement each other. Matching gifts are a type of giving program that essentially doubles an initial donation to an eligible nonprofit organization by incentivizing small gifts that equate to and “unlock” a major gift.

All matching gift programs are equally great! Institutions doubling the contributions of their constituents shows they are invested in their values, and it means you’re doubling the impact on the initiative itself. Keep in mind matching doesn’t have to be dollar to dollar. Matches can also be unlocked by reaching participation goals.

Another form of matching gifts is employer matching. When fundraising, always include a form that allows employees to reach out their employer about matching their contribution. There are some great resources through Double the Donation if you’re curious about starting an employee match program.

While all matching gift programs are a strong addition to your online fundraising, it’s important to provide incentives that will encourage your community to participate. Here are a couple ideas to get you thinking of ways to add some fun to your matching gift program!

  • Faculty and staff funds: Allocate each faculty/staff member a certain amount of money to give to their cause of choice each year. Make this more enjoyable by hosting an event celebrating the causes employees contributed to.
  • A raffle: Have your community pay an entry fee to submit their name into a raffle (online or in conjunction with an event advertising your online initative). The winner of the raffle will be able to donate the money to the cause of their choosing, along with other prizes if applicable.
  • Time-centered: Include a matching gift challenge in your hourly giving challenges.
  • Sharing incentives: Matching gifts don’t have to simply be the amount an individual personally contributes. Consider implementing a shared media feature. If the individual shares information about a fundraising initiative, any money donated from that share could be included as the individual’s personal donation.



Rewards are a great way to increase ROI for your donors. When developing a rewards program, the most crucial element is incorporating both tangible and intangible rewards. They don’t have to be exclusive of one another, simply deem what type of rewards should be given at different involvement levels.

Tangible rewards: These can be as simple as rewarding a donor who gave to specific story at a certain level with something like a T-shirt. In this case, consider creating a sponsored rewards program where businesses within your community can donate rewards, such as gift cards, that can be leveraged to attract donors. It’s a win-win for you both: you receive the donated funds for someone who selects a gift card as a reward, and businesses gain patrons who use the gift cards and can be encouraged to conduct repeat purchases.

Tangible rewards can also be used in a marketplace setting to put the emphasis on a donor being able to receive something of value for their contribution. For example, a donor could go to a page of all available rewards with a listed donation price. They could then select rewards that appealed to them and the funds could either already be tied to particular stories and funneled to them automatically, or a donor could then choose which stories their donations would be applied to.

The point is, this is a great area for creativity!

Intangible rewards: The beauty of intangible awards is their simplicity. From handwritten thank you notes to a tour of something newly built with raised funds, the only limit is your imagination!

Some intangible rewards can include

  • Shoutouts and update mentions of major donors or participants
  • Handwritten thank you notes
  • Early access to information on the next campaign or project
  • Regular updates in the weeks following the story
  • The ability to “sponsor” an individual in a team or group
  • Free performance or a backstage pass


This guide is simply meant to help you start ideating. The most important part of gamifying your giving program is that you develop a program that best suits your organization and your community. Have fun with developing your giving initiatives and really consider what program will best encourage those in your organization to engage in the long term!

, , ,

How to Take an Omnichannel Approach to Your Online Fundraising

Online community engagement has caused many fundraisers to question the long-term impact on “the ways of old” such as direct mail, events, phone, and volunteers/ambassadors. Will it cause attrition? How do we continue to reach a generational range?

The reality is these channels are needed more than ever today and will only become more relevant as online giving evolves.

The real question that we should ask is how we can leverage these channels in a digital-first strategy? “Digital-first” is just the acknowledgment that individuals will continue to transition their transactions online, but that awareness and information gathering are still influenced by a holistic marketing experience.

Offline channels of fundraising that have been used for the past 30+ years need to be repurposed to work in concert with online initiatives. The goal should be to pull a golden thread through everything and leverage a collaborative toolset that consistently analyzes cross-channel data.

Essentially, organizations must stop thinking through the lens of multi-channel and begin thinking in terms of omnichannel.

Although there is no formal distinction between multichannel and omnichannel, there is a perceived difference and there seems to be a growing need to distinguish. Multi-channel, a more traditional term, centers around connecting with donors via independent channels. Omni-channel means supporting a range of channels for a single donor experience and providing a feedback loop for individuals to dictate how they want to engage.

Unlike multichannel, omnichannel interactions are not siloed but integrated to provide media-rich donor experiences.

Donors, like consumers, benefit when they are well connected to the product or service. So the challenge in the fundraising industry is to track and tailor that experience across all the channels from information gathering to stewardship – direct mail, web, mobile, text, phone.

When it comes to leveraging offline channels for a giving event of any kind, follow these 3 rules:

  1. Develop a comprehensive plan that incorporates all available (and sustainable) channels of communication. Map out a donor journey against this strategy. Use a buyer’s journey model as a place to start.
  2. Ensure that each communication is customized and consistent to each individual no matter how they transition from one channel to the next.
  3. Stay authentic. Targeted will always convert more than blanket messaging. Show donors you care by taking the extra time to ensure a more personalized experience with the resources you have.  

In addition, use the below strategies as idea starters to cohesively tie in offline channels with your online efforts:



It’s important to leverage word-of-mouth when it comes to increasing donations and overall engagement for your giving event. Utilizing volunteers and ambassadors is one of the most effective strategies you can incorporate into your omnichannel strategy.

The benefit of using people to spread awareness and create outreach is that it’s human, people like giving/talking/dealing with other people! Make the experience personal for your potential donors by leveraging those that already love and care about your organization or effort.

Individuals that have previously donated will be the best advocates for getting others to participate. When rounding up volunteers and ambassadors, make sure you clearly highlight the overall goal of your giving initiative.

Put together a volunteer and ambassador toolkit to outline how they will help at each stage and with each channel of the strategy. From posting on social networks to working physical events, volunteers and ambassadors will be huge players in every aspect of the omnichannel strategy. Some ideas include:

  • An email campaign with templates that introduce volunteers/ambassadors on a personal level to potential donors.
  • A social toolkit to share updates and stories before, during, and after your initiative.
  • Progress updates that are written throughout your event and posted on individual story pages or your overall site.
  • A text-to-give campaign that leverages messages from your volunteers.
  • Management of a Facebook event that is run in conjunction with your initiative.

Outside of their outreach, you should also use a variety of channels to keep your volunteers updated and informed as the event approaches. Create a facebook group or email segmentation list to easily communicate with all volunteers in a timely manner and keep everyone organized.

Finally, make sure you let your volunteers know you are grateful for them. A simple thank you note or a celebratory team lunch after the close of your initiative is a great way to keep them engaged and active for future events!


Physical Events

Creating a physical event that coincides with an online initiative is a great way to engage your community and create buzz around your fundraising. If your donors are excited to attend, they’ll invite their affinity networks and, all of the sudden, your potential donor pool has doubled!

To tie your event back to your omnichannel marketing effort, try creating a Facebook event to invite potential donors and include links to your giving page in the event description. Just make sure you adjust the settings to allow them to comment and invite their peers!

You can also update your profile pictures and banners on your website with the date, time, and location of your event so your digital followers won’t miss it. While you should always send out an email invite to your community, you can also include the vent details in email signatures across your development department to spread awareness outside of mass outreach.

During your event, document the happenings on the Facebook event message board with live updates that are media rich (photos, videos, live stream, etc.) to allow those that are not physically there to feel included. This is a good opportunity to use your volunteer base to do the legwork.

Consider setting up a station for online donations with tablets and/or educating event coordinators and creating handouts for attendees informing them of your online efforts. You can even use text-to-give technology and coordinate an announcement that asks attendees to pull out their phones and rewards whoever gives first or anyone who gives at a certain level.

To inspire further engagement, try collecting emails and/or phone numbers for attendees to loop them into your ongoing messaging surrounding your initiative.

For event-inspiration, here is a full list of ideas for your next giving day event.


Direct Mail

Direct mail is expensive, and this means you want to be thoughtful with how you integrate online channels. There are two items you should always include: a URL to your giving page and a link to the social channel(s) you will be consistent with storytelling from beginning to end. These links will help save cost by transitioning the story to a channel you can update continuously without overburdening your audience or your budget.

The key when including these links is to track the percentage of your direct mail audience you are able to transition. You should tie in unique tracking codes (UTMs) and use these instructions to properly integrate them with your analytics tracking on your site.

Another emerging technology you can leverage is Quick Response (QR) codes. Instead of having to type in a URL, this allows direct mail recipients to simply use their smartphone to scan the code and take them right to your page.

Consider using links and QR codes during the stewardship phase, too, when you can bring mail recipients to pages with updates from those who benefitted from their donations.



Consider using your phonathon as a word-of-mouth tool to both get people online and get the correct information for digital follow-up. When asking for an on-the-spot donation, make sure your script is tied to an ongoing story that is reflected online.

Your goal should be to obtain or verify every recipient’s email address and affinity and establish a feedback loop with your CRM. There are two scenarios that explain why this is important: First, if they donate you can send them the URL and updates from the story that tracks the impact of their gift. You can tie this in with follow-up calls to express appreciation and give verbal updates that mirror those online to spur continued engagement with the ongoing story.

Second, if they don’t donate, you can enroll them in email messaging about the impact they can make and where they can see the funding progress of relevant initiatives in real-time. If you structure your call to identify affinity (i.e. establishing that someone typically gives to the arts), you can tailor your giving opportunities to them in your digital messaging and cross-channel for any offline methods.

, , ,

How to Tell an Ongoing Story for Online Fundraising

Your Giving Day is complete and was a huge success! The hard work dedicated by you and your team has paid off, but it isn’t over.

One of the main challenges fundraisers face is donor retention. Developing a gratitude program that proceeds your giving event should be a priority in your efforts to keep your donors engaged. Communication with gift givers should extend farther than just the initial event, especially online; these types of digital events require an ongoing story to increase your ROI.

Creating a story around a digital event like a Crowdfunding story or Giving Day initiative will accomplish a few feats:

  • Creating value around the fundraising event
  • Enhancing donor appreciation by helping them recognize the significance of their contribution
  • Demonstrating that a donation is a step in a relationship, not a one-time business transaction
  • Showing loyalty to your cause and donors alike

Constructing an ongoing story should be easy for us. Everyday, you are a storyteller. From telling the riveting tale of the traffic ticket you just got, to recounting something as boring as a visit to the supermarket, storytelling is a way of life.

Adapting these same, instinctual storytelling mannerisms around your Giving Day event will align your donors values with yours. Additionally, it will humanize your cause and be helpful in your efforts of retaining gift givers.

Any event can be turned into an intriguing narrative.

When developing your narrative, remember these objectives:

Brand Strength

  • Ongoing storytelling requires awareness of consistency. A strong brand increases brand connection, aligning the vision of the organization with that of the donors and investors. To achieve this, keep the branding of the emails, social posts, or any other platform you choose similar, clean, and in tune with the brand of the initial event. Emphasizing continuity will reinforce and remind your donors of your mission. Think of your brand as the glue that holds together your ongoing story, while directly associating it with the value of your efforts.

Value Alignment

  • More and more donors are contributing to fundraising initiatives based on whether an organization will enhance their personal brand. How will association with your story further the donors interests? Donors and prospects want to invest in organizations whose vision aligns with their own, where their participation will make the most difference, and where their interests will be advanced. In other words, they want to actualize and acknowledge the person they want to be through their impact. Because of this, firmly establish the values you want to portray and make sure those are reflected within any online storytelling and your follow-up.


Think of this blog as your checklist on how to tell lasting stories that are centered around your digital fundraising. Depending on your upcoming events, imagine your story as a cyclical figure. The end goal of your ongoing story should be to transition the narrative into your next event. Seamlessly guide your donors from one giving experience to another, such as an upcoming Giving Day, with the hopes that they trust you enough to contribute again.

Following up with donors and engaged members of your community should not be done as an afterthought, but rather planned in advance. Set aside dates and times to work on outreach.

The following are helpful, time sensitive benchmarks to hit when extending your story. However, they are just a guide; every organization and story is unique and requires forethought and internal coordination to decide on a timeline.


The Initial Thank You:

1 Second-2 Days After Event

Don’t overlook the importance of expressing gratitude for your donors after the event. Plan to send a thank you ASAP following an online initiative like a Giving Day.

Remember, your donors have shown you the channels they prefer through their method of transaction.

Digital donors should be thanked online with expediency because of the immediacy we’ve come to expect from technology. Meanwhile offline donors that say, gave through your phone bank, might want a follow-up call. This is not to say you should not incorporate other methods of thanks for select donors. Nothing is quite as impactful or thoughtful as a handwritten letter, so use alternate channels where appropriate.

This type of immediate recognition will shine a spotlight on your donor’s generosity, adding a sense of value to their contribution in the short-term. Let your gift givers know you didn’t just accept the contribution and then forgot about them.

If you’re drawing a blank, here are some methods of delivering this initial thank you. Try combining as many of these as possible to reach donors who may only engage with you on select channels.

  • Email
  • Thank you video
  • Social media post
  • Handwritten letter
  • Newsletter feature
  • Website update
  • Thank you page
  • Phone call

Take the liberty to add personal touches, this will accentuate the appreciation you feel for your donors. For example, you can use technology like ThankView to create personalized follow-up videos or mention top gift givers in your newsletter and on your online giving platform.


The Update:

1-2 Weeks After Event

Keep your supporters in the know!

Nothing feels better than being in the loop, especially when you are personally invested in a story. Keep your contributors feeling valued by sharing updates on the general fundraiser as well as specific areas they gave to 1-2 weeks following the event.

Take liberties and get creative with how you distribute this information. Turn to social media, emails, or newsletters. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating the material. Cater the content you create to the channels you plan on reaching your donors through. Keep in mind that the update doesn’t have to be just one piece. For example, if you want to utilize social media make a small campaign that spans a few weeks.

Whether you choose video, infographics or simply a blog post, find the channel that will best reach your audience and make sure that it has relevant and interesting information. Tell your audience something that they will care about. To achieve this you can include:  

  • A summary of the event’s accomplishments (How many scholarships were provided or meals donated)
  • Overall event results (dollar and donor numbers or top initiatives by either)
  • Photos or videos of those who are being impacted
  • Shoutouts to major donors and volunteers
  • Add a signature or commentary from a prominent event organizer
  • Infographics that display the progress of a goal the money is helping achieve
  • Updates on the individual story pages written by the fundraising teams responsible


The Personal Call:

Within 1 month

One month after your online event, block some time out of your busy schedule to personally extend thanks to donors that may not qualify for major gifts outreach. This may seem time consuming, but recreating the highly personalized touch major givers receive will assist in the retention area for smaller donors. Focus your efforts on calling donors at a higher gift threshold (such as $1,000+), first time donors who gave $100+, and donors who made a significant increase in gift amount from a previous fundraiser.

There are a few methods to seamlessly manage this task.

  • Recruit personnel or fundraising team members to execute in the calling. It helps when he or she has ties to the story that was donated to.
  • Create a rough outline for a script, something along the lines of “Hi ____ this is ____ working for ____, and I just called to say how much we appreciate your recent gift to support our Important Program!”
  • Make a record of who you called, whether or not they answered, and the results of the call.


The Slow Nurture:

Lasting 1-5 Months Following

How will your story continue after the phone call?

You have updated your donors on the success of the fundraiser, personally reached out to those who gave larger gifts, and have made it a priority to express gratitude to all. Continuing to tell the story, turn to nurturing channels like newsletters, dynamic content, and social media to keep your audience engaged. This stage is in preparation of leading donors to an upcoming fundraiser they will hopefully contribute to.

As an example, when turning to social media it is important to remember the importance of the presence of a strong brand. Utilize social media to tie your values to strong colors, images, and stories. Because it is public, pay attention to the overall message and image you are projecting. In addition, leverage your volunteers and stakeholders to get the word out and expand your affinity network.

For a complete look at scheduling social media messaging before an online fundraising initiative, check out our guide on amplifying your event with a social media toolkit.


The Lead:

6 months

There are many benefits to creating an ongoing story surrounding your Giving Day. Remember that a story is cyclical, with the end goal being leading donors to another fundraising campaign. Once you have developed a substantial story around your giving event, you can begin to facilitate reminders and updates of a new event into outreach. An easy way to reach interested parties is to segment the donors into different categories, catering communication efforts tailored to each individual. Try splitting donors by these traits:

  • Expected giving level. That way, you can funnel monthly giving prospects down one communication path and major giving prospects down another.
  • Past event engagement. Separate first-time donors and gift giving patrons. Each group should be contacted using a different message. For first time givers, you’ll want to explain the benefit of giving again.
  • Future event interest. Take your list of guests and compare it to your events calendar. Find the right events for the right supporters and send invites accordingly. This can be especially important with first-time donors or micro-sites with a more tailored focus.
  • Passion. Possibly the most important factor in messaging, and one that has become easier to uncover as online giving has progressed. Tailor giving opportunities based on the passion the individual has expressed, not necessarily the affinity your presume. For example, a College of Business grad may give $50 to a theatre program even though a college of business funding opportunity was available. They’ve shown they are a patron of the arts and may be more likely to give if you present them with similar stories. Track this metric year over year to build sophisticated donor profiles based around interest and empower your asks.


Ongoing storytelling surrounding your online event should demonstrate gratitude for the donors initial gift, reinforce loyalty to the cause, demonstrate a strong brand value alignment, and overall increase donor retention. View this technique as a step to cultivating strong donor relationships.

, ,

Response Round-Up: How do you collect fundraising ideas from your community?

, ,

Cheatsheet for Getting Buy-In from Key Online Giving Stakeholders

Untitled design (24)

Integrating online giving initiatives on your campus like giving days and crowdfunding begins from within. To this end, it’s critical to get buy-in from the internal stakeholders that will play a role in your long-term success.

The goals of stakeholder buy-in are:

  • Building awareness and excitement for the initiative
  • Forming an implementation and launch team
  • Developing an implementation plan
  • Locating your first storytelling teams
  • Promoting the initiative and any linked individual stories ahead of the public launch

As a general rule of thumb, there are three groups who will help you lay the foundation for success:


The tip of the spear is your leadership team. Having buy-in from this group gives you the authority you need to begin motivating and involving other stakeholders.

To make the case to leadership it’s important to clearly lay out the goals of undertaking online fundraising and develop materials that lay out how these goals would be achieved. Some examples might be to:

  • Increase participation
  • Empower volunteers and ambassadors
  • Ease the burden on staff to better accommodate fundraising requests
  • Create a more robust pipeline of major gift prospects

You should schedule one-on-one or small group meetings with your leadership team to discuss and understand the benefits and challenges involved with implementing focused online giving initiatives.


Advancement Staff

Look to form your oversight and launch team with internal ambassadors you recruit within the division staff of development. This includes Annual Giving, IT, Marketing & Communications, Major Gifts, Gift Processing, Research, and select unit-based fundraisers.

Start by presenting at full staff meetings, ideally with a stakeholder packet that includes the materials you developed for leadership about the goals of the initiative as well as:

  • The vision for your online giving program
  • An endorsement from your leadership
  • The types of stories you want to include
  • Examples of a range of successful initiatives to spur ideas

Follow-up with individual meetings with interested parties and discuss the value proposition and how this endeavor will benefit their role. For example, the value proposition to major gifts might be that they can use a giving day story to make an annual solicitation on top of a major gift. For research, it might be the ability to create donor affinity profiles or for communications, it could be the evergreen content of new stories that you can build fundraising initiatives around.

Keep in mind though that these meeting should be dynamic and focused on feedback and organic ideas, not a “pitch.”

Once your core team is formed, make sure to continue to share consistent updates and conduct relevant training and webinars for remaining staff to keep them involved and continue cultivating potential ambassadors.


External Partners

After forming your core team, it’s time to make a list of key programs and units that can help you locate your first storytelling teams and promote your initiative internally. Every institution is different, so a good rule of thumb is to look through your campus directory well before your outreach efforts to establish which departments would be the biggest value-add to the platform. Keep in mind how active departments are in campus fundraising, personal connections you or others in advancement might have, and the available resources each department has on hand.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Student Affairs/Activities
  • Athletics and Club Sports
  • Student Government
  • Institutional Communications
  • Research Office
  • Student Aid
  • Career Services

Reach out initially through email, but make sure to arrange a meeting with the units you think will be most valuable.


For quick reference, use this cheat sheet that reiterates what we’ve covered above:

On-Campus Stakeholder Cheatsheet





Responsible for integration and ongoing support. •     Email

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Annual Giving Team

Evangelists for the crowdfunding platform and will likely have some responsibility in execution and ongoing oversight. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

All Development / Advancement Officers

Evangelists for the campus platform and may have some responsibility in execution. They can also be responsible for creating internal development campaigns, funds and programs. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Foundation Staff

Evangelists for the platform and may have some responsibility in execution. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Student Clubs / Orgs

Encourage them to create crowdfunding campaigns and programs each semester to support campus funding needs. •     Email/Bulletins

•     Meetups

•     Student Org Leadership Events, Workshops

•     Invitation to Creator Training Events

Deans of Colleges

Evangelists for the crowdfunding platform and may have some responsibility in execution as platform administrators. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation


This is a significant source of campus campaigns, you can encourage them to set up programs for each varsity sport. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Marketing Department

They must work in concert with platform marketing, promoting and sharing as needed through various campus channels. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Alumni Office

Evangelists for the platform; encourage them to create campaigns and programs. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation

Office of the President

Ambassador for the crowdfunding platform. •     In-person meetings

Student Government

Evangelists for the platform. Encourage them to create campaigns and programs. •     Email/Bulletins

•     Social Media

•     Meetups

•     Class visits

•     Invitation to Creator Training Events

All internal media channels such as campus radio, newspaper, blogs, etc.

Major promoters of the platform. Encourage them to create crowdfunding campaigns and programs, but also share relevant stories. •     Email

•     Phone

•     Meet 1:1

Faculty / Staff

Key players in discovering and submitting ideas in which they care deeply and great partners for eliciting interest from others. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Scheduled meetings

•     Stakeholder Presentation
(for interested parties)

Alumni Contacts

This is a source of potential ambassador campaigns, as well as voluntary evangelists. •     Conversation

•     Email/Bulletins

•     Social Media

•     Inclusion in direct mailers

•     Inclusion in phonebank scripts

Once you have your list of desired participants, we encourage another formal stakeholder meeting that gathers as many of the interested parties as possible. Stakeholder meetings are a great way to share the vision for the crowdfunding campus platform, answer questions, and build awareness for the opportunities the platform presents.

A stakeholder meeting will typically include:

  • Presenting the vision for the platform
  • Basics of crowd fundraising and its value to different stakeholders
  • Facilitating conversation and discovering potential team members
    • Overview of goals & timelines
  • Q&A / Discussion

If you do this correctly, not only will you find willing allies, but you’ll inspire excitement and interest for the impact the platform can make on campus and in the world!

, ,

Stellar Crowdfunding & Giving Day Examples Part 2

Crossing the Chasm: How the University of Denver is Trailblazing Higher Education Crowdfunding

3 Fundraising Ideas That’ll Boost Your 2018 Campaign Efforts


Your organization is only as successful as your fundraising, so make sure your fundraising ideas are top-notch!

You’ll want to pick ideas that are practical for your organization to carry out but also within the realm of your donor base’s most popular interests. Take into consideration what’s feasible for your organization and what has the most potential for the biggest revenue. If your donors are excited about your fundraisers, they’re sure to be successful.

Check out our top 3 fundraising ideas to boost your 2018 campaign efforts:

  1. T-Shirt Fundraising Campaign
  2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign
  3. Matching Gifts

If you’re ready to make the most of your fundraising with some stellar fundraising ideas, let’s dive in and find the perfect idea for you and your donor base.


Fundraising Idea #1: T-Shirt Fundraising Campaign

Fundraising Idea Overview

T-shirt Fundraising combines two powerful tools: merchandise sales and crowdfunding campaigns.

Crowdfunding campaigns harness the power of social media and allow you to accept donations from friends, family, and peers. With the easy capability of sharing, your peers can share your campaign with their networks to expand your potential donor base.

On the other hand, t-shirt fundraising is an easy way to visually unite your supporters and create a community. It also activates a new tier of donor, because the investment is smaller and they get something in return for their donation.

Combining these two fundraising methods grants you access to the best of both worlds and a fundraiser your donors can’t say no to!

How to Get this Fundraising Idea Started

You’ll need to invest in a t-shirt fundraising  provider in order to successfully run your campaign. Select a platform that helps you design your merchandise and handles inventory so you don’t lose funds.

There are a few main steps once you’ve decided on a provider:

  1. Choose your products. If you select a platform like Bonfire, you can easily select multiple colors, styles, and fits so every supporter can find something they love.
  2. Design your merchandise. With a platform provider, you’ll be able to design aesthetically pleasing products, even if you’re not a graphic designer. Look for software with an extensive design library.
  3. Set your prices. Choose a t-shirt fundraising site that lets you set your selling prices. Take your base cost into consideration and adjust your profit margin as you see fit to reach your goal.
  4. Schedule your campaign. Different platforms allow for different campaign lengths. With Bonfire, for example, your campaign can last anywhere between 7 and 21 days.
  5. Customize your page. You’ll want to customize your fundraising webpage so it feels like you. Add in compelling copy as well as powerful photos and videos. This page is your chance to share your story and connect supporters with your cause.
  6. Promote your campaign. Spread the word with your page’s social sharing options so your network can donate to your campaign. You’ll want to post updates on your campaign’s progress to keep your fundraiser on people’s minds.

Keep in mind that this fundraising idea is accessible to every supporter. Because it’s based primarily online (and inexpensive to run), every donor has the opportunity to donate to your cause.

The bottom line:  T-shirt fundraising campaigns are easy to master and promote, and provide the perfect opportunity to share your mission. Plus, hosting a t-shirt campaign is a fundraising idea no supporter can say no to!

Bonus! Check out Bonfire’s How to Design a T-Shirt for more tips on customizing amazing merchandise that your donors will love.


Fundraising Idea #2: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign

Fundraising Idea Overview

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, also known as social fundraising, P2P, or team fundraising campaigns, allow you to use your supporter’s networks to gain revenue.

By turning your donors into fundraisers, you have the potential to raise more money and strengthen donor relationships.

Plenty of nonprofit organizations use peer-to-peer fundraising in their overall strategies because it’s a relatively easy and cost-effective fundraiser. Since your supporters are fundraising for you, the only expense to your organization will be your peer-to-peer fundraising software.

How to Get this Fundraising Idea Started

There are plenty of ways to go about starting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, so we’ve narrowed it down to just 4 steps for you:

  1. Set your campaign goals. You’ll want to plan your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign around your organization’s needs. Think about tying your campaign to an event and determine your timeline.
  2. Choose your platform. Just like t-shirt crowdfunding, you’ll need a platform in order to host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Choose one that aligns with your goals and needs.
  3. Set up your page. Once you’ve decided on a provider, start customizing your page so it feels like you. You’ll want to upload plenty of photos and videos that illustrate your cause and what you do to further your mission. You’ll want to create templates for social media posts and emails as well.
  4. Encourage your fundraisers. Remember that the donors you’ve recruited to raise money on your behalf aren’t seasoned fundraisers like you are! Remember to coach them and give them email and social media templates to promote your campaign.

Just because your fundraisers are the ones raising money doesn’t mean you get to sit this campaign out. Remember to stay on top of your fundraiser and help your supporters raise money.

The bottom line: Peer-to-peer fundraising boasts incredible fundraising potentially that you can easily capitalize on, especially when your supporters reach out to their networks for support.

Bonus! Check out BidPal’s Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Guide for more helpful tips and tricks for this fundraising idea.


Fundraising Idea #3: Matching Gifts

Fundraising Idea Overview

Matching gifts are corporate giving programs that allow employees to double their donations!

Most employers match donations at a 1:1 ratio, though some offer 2:1 or 3:1 ratios. For example, if an employer matches gifts one for one and an employee gives $100 to an eligible organization, the company will then donate $100, making the total donation $200.

Many employers won’t match contributions made to religious organizations but will match donations made to projects that religious organizations may carry out. For example, a company might not match a gift to a synagogue but will match a donation to the community soup kitchen the synagogue runs.

Typically, there are gift minimums and maximums that companies specify in their guidelines. The most common minimum is $25 but can be as low as $1 whereas maximum gift matches range from $10,000 to $100,000.

How to Get this Fundraising Idea Started

With the fundraising potential that comes with matching gifts, you might be wondering why more organizations don’t take advantage of corporate giving programs. Most donors aren’t aware of these corporate programs, so it’s worth your organization’s investment in matching gift tools to help promote the matching gift process.

The matching gift submission process takes roughly 5 steps:

  1. Contribution is made. Your supporter donates to your organization or project and your organization informs your donor on matching gift programs. They should be able to search your software to learn about their employer’s program.
  2. Matching gift request is submitted. Your donor then submits a matching gift request to their employer following the instructions and resources you provide.
  3. Company reviews the request. During this step, the company will determine if your nonprofit is eligible based on their guidelines.
  4. Nonprofit verifies the donation. Here, your nonprofit will confirm that the employee did, in fact, contribute a gift so there’s a possibility for a matching gift donation.
  5. Nonprofit receives matching gift. If your nonprofit is eligible, you’ll then receive a check matching the initial donation, thus doubling the gift amount.

These matching gift database providers offer all the information you need to inform your donors on how to submit a matching gift request and complete the process. Investing in matching gift tools allows your donors to easily research their employer’s matching gift program and policies.


The bottom line: The more informed your supporters are about this corporate giving program, the more likely they are to take advantage of it. Plus, they’re more likely to submit their matching gift requests if they know how much it can help you!

Now that you have our top 3 fundraising ideas to boost your 2018 campaign efforts, there’s no room for failure. All that’s left to do is choose the best idea for you and start raising money for your cause. Happy fundraising!

Crowdfunding Campaign Description Guide

After your video, your campaign description is the most important place on your campaign page to tell your story and get funded.  Every campaign description should include the following information:

  • Who We Are: This is your opportunity to briefly describe who you are.
  • What We Believe: Here is where you talk about your passion that drove you to seek donations through crowdfunding.

Example: It is our belief at Copia Community Farms that sustainably raised produce coupled with a sustainable lifestyle is our formula for quality life and quality produce. We are passionate about being able to enjoy fresh, locally-sourced, delicious produce being something everyone in our community can enjoy, whether they can afford to pay for it or not.  

  • What We Are Doing: This is where you dig into some more detail about your campaign, the specifics of what you are trying to accomplish, and the impact you hope it will have.

Example: We will be supplying a handful of forward-thinking restaurants with a consistent source of local produce but we will grow as much food as we possibly can! The food grown beyond the needs of the restaurants will be donated to the food bank or provided directly to friends, family, and others in need of wholesome food.

We have bartered in exchange for the land and water that we use to farm which has eliminated the majority of our upfront costs for getting Copia Farms up and running, ultimately allowing us to provide our produce at the most affordable price.  

So far this growing season we’ve been spending our time and energy on building a greenhouse.  We have built our entire beautiful greenhouse for free by up-cycling windows, doors, and lumber that was had been left unused in a field or was heading for the dump.  We have accrued a mass of tools and irrigation supplies with which we will work the land.

  • What We Need: Here is where you are very transparent about how much you are asking for and why you need that amount. Focus on what it will allow you to accomplish. Make clear what how you will use funds that come in if you EXCEED your campaign goal. This gives people the incentive to continue donating, even after you have reached your financial goal. Use a budget to outline your needs for easy reference.

Example: We are asking our community to help us raise $5,000 to make Copia Farms as sustainable and carbon-neutral as possible as we provide great food to our community.  See our budget for exactly how we will use this money.

  • How You Can Support Us: Always drive it home with the 3 specific ways your community can support your campaign.

Example: We would be thrilled to say that Copia Community Farms is community funded, and to do that we ask for your support in any of the following ways:

  • Donate to our campaign 
  • Sponsor a reward 
  • Promote our campaign to your community and social networks.

Thank you for everything, and feel free to stop by the farm!

Building a Culture of Philanthropy: The 5 Pillars

Development professionals often talk about a “Culture of Philanthropy.” But what does that really mean? It seems to be the holy grail of all large philanthropic organizations. But how do you actually achieve it?

While the precise definition may be slightly different for some organizations based on sector, size, and existing initiatives, at its core a culture of philanthropy simply implies that you have a community of people committed to telling and supporting relevant stories to enhance each other’s wellbeing.

An engaged community steeped in philanthropic values is a living force. Not a piggy bank to shake now and then, but the legs, hands, and heart of everything your organization does. It’s powerful, self-sustaining, and enables entirely new possibilities.

So how do you achieve it?

Like most things worth doing, it doesn’t happen overnight. Cultural evolutions can take multiple years, especially in the fundraising industry where people move between organizations at such a high frequency.

Think about building a culture of philanthropy as a process more than an endpoint.

The first step is redefining how your organization views your community. Many organizations think in terms of silos: donors vs. alumni vs. faculty vs. staff vs. students, etc. They treat these silos very differently. Messaging often flows at them rather than between them, eliminating the chance to share a common experience.

The reality is an organization has one community.

From leadership to entry positions, billionaire alums to first-year students, it’s imperative that everyone in your community is provided the opportunity to engage, contribute, and share. Organizations must adopt a “first amongst equals” mentality, understanding that one donor making a huge gift means nothing without others doing their part.

The second step is to ensure your organization’s vision, mission, and values are not only clearly established, but top-of-mind. Every member of your community should embrace the vision of where you’re all going and why, the mission that drives the actions to get there, and the values that will always be preserved.

Re-establishing or reaffirming these narrative elements gets people excited for where they work, reminds people of why they work, and catalyzes conversation between your organization and community. There are many ways to tastefully bring these elements front and center: designing posters that clearly outline each, including them in email signatures, featuring them in the header of your website, and filtering them out into the larger world through your language, brand, and actions.

Here are two great articles published on this topic: How to Connect Employees With Your Company’s Mission and Are your employees engaged with your company values?. While both of these speak to the private sector, they are also applicable to the nonprofit sector.

Once you’ve redefined your community and provided a common story through your vision, mission, and values, you’ve essentially “prepared the soil for cultivation.” Cultivation is the “act of improving,” and improving your philanthropic culture is the entire subject of this conversation!

Of course, this is fun and easy to talk about, but I suspect you’re here to do something about it. In order to provide a framework for a strong culture of philanthropy, you must focus your energy on the five pillars: Inclusion, Transparency, Empowerment, Collaboration, and Celebration.


The 5 Pillars

Community members should always feel like they belong (inclusion), believe in the purpose their community exists (transparency), have opportunities to tell their story (empowerment), have the power to help others tell their stories (collaboration), and feel like their contributions are valued (celebration).

Each of these pillars requires specific attention, but together they provide the foundation for uniting your community with a common philanthropic purpose.

1. Inclusion

Inclusion begins with the decision you made earlier to see every person with value and as a single community contributing differently, but equally.

Everything that’s considered and executed in your fundraising strategy must be inclusive. It’s essential that development offices break down their silos and integrate within the institution as a whole. You can’t completely separate development from marketing, donor relations, the alumni office, etc.

For too long development has worked in a vacuum to raise money while being shunned as “fundraisers” that nobody wants to work alongside. This is a byproduct of the past 30 years where the pressure to secure donations has forced development offices to look at the majority of donors as database numbers rather than as individuals. It’s created a dynamic where affiliates want to protect their communities from a barrage of marketing tactics that might dissuade people engaged in their story.

This paradigm must change. Working together yields much better results overall and with greater efficiency. A golden thread should be pulled through each of the silos within your organization to unite them together around complimentary collaboration.

If each of these groups is united by the mission, vision, and values, each can play their role in serving the institution in a complimentary fashion. Leadership must endorse, support, and encourage this transformation as well. There should be regular meetings between development and relevant departments as well as cross-functional projects between team members.

If your organization has not considered OKRs (outcomes and key results) it’s a great way to unite team members. Check out this overview explaining The Fundamentals of OKRs. This again applies to nonprofits as well as for-profit companies.


2. Transparency

Transparency is required to solidify inclusion because it builds trust. No one wants to be included in something they can’t rely on!

Transparency is essential to cultivating a culture of philanthropy because people want to know their capital is being used as they think it is, that it’s being used responsibly, and the direct impact they’re having.

In The Importance of Transparency, The Nonprofit Times explains that “there is an increasingly savvy and information-hungry public. It means that a mere lack of transparency can now cause suspicion or even damage to an organization’s image.”

This is certainly true from a donor’s perspective, but it’s also true from an organizational perspective for faculty, staff, and stakeholders.

“By opening up internal operations, successes and failures to the public and to employees, we demonstrate transparency as a company, allowing them to trust us, to recommend us, to tell us when we err, and to choose us again.”

Transparency is also directly tied to authenticity. In today’s world of mass marketing exhaustion, it’s authenticity that breaks through the barriers people have established to avoid the next mass CRM email, direct mailer, or scripted phone call. Authenticity is the Trojan Horse of fundraising because it resonates with individuals at a human level.

Here is another great resource on transparency for anyone who wants to dive deeper.


3. Empowerment

Empowerment is the act of giving people greater authority and autonomy. Essentially, it’s giving people a voice.

Empowerment is fueled by inclusion and transparency: no one can truly feel empowered without feeling valued and informed. It starts with giving people responsibility as part of the whole by providing the knowledge and tools to participate.

You may have heard the expression “many hands make for light work.” By positioning people within your community to authentically share their stories you’re enrolling an army of evangelists to spread the word to people you would never otherwise reach. It shifts the responsibility of the development office from creating stories for your community to curating those stories.

Empowerment causes what has been a centralized responsibility to shift to a decentralized model, which emulates that actual peer network of any institution:

The more empowerment you facilitate, the stronger your community becomes over time. A study published by the American Journal of Psychological ResearchPower and Empowerment in a Nonprofit Organization, concludes that empowerment has a tremendous impact not only on an individual but on the organization as a whole.

“It’s clear that some of the measures that pull for empowerment have an impact on a better sense of self and that perceived control over one’s work environment can also lead to greater mental health. Yet the results would seem to underscore the importance of power and empowerment in terms of the development of the health of the organization.”

Organizations that empower their stakeholders improve the confidence and mental health of individuals, the overall health of the organization, distribute the work of fundraising, promote authentic storytelling, and reduce the demand on development offices as the only source of funding for small groups.


4. Collaboration

Collaboration can have many meanings. By definition, collaboration means working together but you can also use this word to mean supporting one another.

When groups effectively collaborate, individuals are actively building social capital and bonds, inspiring results that surpass those achieved in a silo. Cross-functional collaboration is most effective because you converge different personalities with different areas of expertise creating diverse approaches to problem-solving.

Administrative and staff collaboration should be focused on three main areas:

  1. Donors – How can you collaborate to provide the best donor experience imaginable?
  2. Efficiency – How can you collaborate to reduce the level of effort to get the same or better results?
  3. Innovation – How can you collaborate to pull the best and brightest ideas together and turn them into reality?

With an interdisciplinary team, you’re able to explore a wider spectrum of tactics and solutions. It also breaks down the walls that have often separated departments. It informs individuals of what others are working on and adds variety to what can be monotonous and routine work, also known as boring work!

In his blog Five Ways to Get Extraordinary Results from Collaboration, Harbrinder Kang explains five actions you can take to foster inter-departmental bonds within an organization:

  1. Build relationships and networks that lead to trust
  2. Turn human interactions into results
  3. Evolve the culture for productive collaboration
  4. Balance decision-making and consensus building
  5. Leverage patterns of collaboration

Staff, faculty, and other stakeholders should also be encouraged to become philanthropists in the spirit of collaboration.

It’s not about the dollars. It’s about the fundamental question why should someone give to an organization stakeholders aren’t willing to support? I’ve heard the line “working here is my gift to the organization.” This implies it’s about money when participation is just as valuable.

Viewing collaboration as a transaction allows you to present a range of opportunities rather than simply asking for dollars. Donors need to understand the different essential resources they can provide to make a story a reality.

Remember: participation relies on a story being told well enough, the outreach being authentic, and the demonstration of impact significant. If all of these elements are in place, donors will gladly collaborate to help make it happen!


5. Celebration

Celebration represents the authentic human expression of appreciation. This is the most important of the five pillars, and it’s the fun part, too!

Everything from a storyteller demonstrating empowerment, to a community member showing generosity, to a brilliant idea produced by a cross-functional team is a reason to celebrate.

Celebrations can take the form of large events or simple social media posts, but the most effective ones put people in front of their peers and specifically highlight their actions. By widely acknowledging the behavior of an individual or group and demonstrating the impact of their contribution, you create a higher likelihood that others will seek to emulate the experience.

Celebrations must be authentic, impactful, and delivered in a meaningful and personal way. Here are some examples:

  • Acknowledge in an internal memo, campus newspaper, social media post, or mass email empowered storytellers in your organization and their impact collaborating with the community.
  • Host a “Fundies” award ceremony where you award things like the most funded project, first project to receive support from 100 donors, largest team collaboration, most creative project, donor who supported the largest quantity of campaigns, etc. Creativity is your only limit!
  • Take out an ad in a local newspaper or leverage digital advertising purely to acknowledge donors big and small for their contributions.
  • Have a pizza party for all storytellers using peer-to-peer fundraising in a given month.
  • Create a month of donor recognition and publicly thank 10 donors each day.

Celebrate in any way that emphasizes the things that are meaningful to your community. Celebration reminds us that we’re human and helps us appreciate one another for the important roles we each play.


If you have a desire to build an engaged culture of philanthropy, understand it will take work and you can’t do it alone.

Remember: it’s not an end goal, but a process that needs to be tweaked as you go. If you’ve not seen this article by Jennifer Harris on Holistic Fundraising, I encourage you to check it out as it supports many of the concepts I’m proposing here.

It’s also important to consider the technology you use in this effort: technology that encourages each of the five pillars will help you strengthen your culture more quickly. You will also need your leadership to be part of this transformation, if not to catalyze it, if you hope to accomplish meaningful change.

I’m reminded of a mantra one of our clients taught me when she was making the leap of faith to convert her institution’s culture. She said, “McCabe, we just printed this phrase out on paper and put it all over our office: This is easy, and we can do it! And every time it gets hard, I say it over and over again to remind me to have confidence in our decision.”

In my own life, I find myself life saying these words now and the best part is… it really works!