What is digital fundraising?

By on March 1, 2017

Have you been in a meeting where someone has said: “we need to be more digital”? And everyone agrees without – honestly – really knowing what that means? This post will explain what digital fundraising really is, what makes it successful, and how we can go about making campaigns more digital.

First, we need to consider a traditional strategy. Let’s take Direct Mail, which looks like this:

What is digital fundraising

How do we try to increase the response rate to our DM campaigns? We segment prospective donors, and make the messages more personal.

These are key principles behind another traditional type of campaigning: Phonathons, which look like this:

What is digital fundraising

Student callers become our ambassadors, the nodes in the diagram above, that make the ask more personal and relevant to the donor (a form of segmentation). We’re even going a step further and sending personalized thank you videos to each donor:

What is digital fundraising

Now if I let you select anyone you wanted to be your ambassadors, who would you choose? Maybe you’d get David Blaine to call all your alumni! What about your donors themselves?

“Hi Dunc, best friend of 20 years, whom I met in our first year at college, when I caught you copying my answers in class… I just gave a gift of $1000 to our alma mater to help students who wouldn’t be able to afford school without our help. Now it’s your turn…”

You can’t get a more personal ask than this: the segmentation has been done because our friends know how to appeal to us (and the rule of reciprocity applies). But, we haven’t done this with our phonathons (actually, Yale do).

How social media create a culture of sharing

Enter social media:

What is digital fundraising

We just find it a lot easier to share and ask when it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram… When you last asked someone out – or got asked out – on a date, was it by text or a call?

What is digital fundraising

Boris and his friends created a culture of sharing their gifts and family stories – which is fast becoming an annual tradition, improving participation:

What is digital fundraising

(You can view a presentation on Babson’s program in the Hubbub Sharing Center – you will need to request access.)

This is digital fundraising. Perhaps it should be called social – or personal – fundraising. Done well, it looks like this:

What is digital fundraising

Another example of distributed campaign? The Ice Bucket Challenge of course! Which was started not by the ALS Association but by golfer Chris Kennedy – the culture of sharing and giving was created instantaneously because it was so much fun to do and share.

How to embrace digital fundraising

So how do we add a digital aspect to our campaigns? The challenge is two-fold:

  1. Identify social ambassadors
  2. Create a culture of sharing – by making it fun!

This is what TCU did with their giving day in 2016:

  1. They used sophisticated tools to identify 185 social media ambassadors, and
  2. gamified sharing by tracking clicks and gifts, and offering prizes for the best performers

TCU Ambassadors Giving Day gamificiation

Their approach was new in 2016, and here’s what happened:
tcu stats
TCU Giving Day ambassadors Hubbub

Why we need to decentralize our campaigns

In summary, enhancing our campaigns with digital means decentralizing them – as much as possible.

How we do it depends on the campaign, but I guarantee you: there’s always a way.

What is digital fundraising
Interested in discovering how digital fundraising can help you reach a younger audience?





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Duncan Knox

Co-Founder, VP of Business Development at Hubbub
Duncan single-handedly built Hubbub's relationships with university Development Offices around the UK. He has become the first point of contact to turn to regarding crowdfunding in education and now continues to develop networks across the Higher Education space

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