In the last few years, “Day of Giving” campaigns have become increasingly popular across higher education. Julie Solomon, a long-time development professional in higher education and recent addition to EAB Advancement Marketing Service’s team, sat down with Synthia Reader, EAB Advancement Strategic Leader, to discuss the allure of these campaigns and how to maximize their success.
Julie Solomon: Why plan a Day of Giving?
Synthia Reader: Because they’re effective. I’ve worked directly on Days of Giving with multiple partner schools for the past five years, and time and again, I have seen an infusion of donors and dollars, often at a time of year that might otherwise be quiet. Creating an event—a special drive with a name, branding, and goal—extends your opportunity to reach contributors. It helps create a deadline which, by human nature, can drive donors to act. Quite simply, a Day of Giving is one more tool in your annual program that can drive incremental impact.
This resource is part of the Improving Alumni Participation Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.
JS: Often, schools that do host a giving day will host it at the end of the calendar year, when donors are thinking about their taxes and primed with the holiday spirit. Is this the ideal time for a Day of Giving?
SR: Timing is an ongoing point of debate. Many schools do host their giving day at calendar year-end to coincide with the benefits of Giving Tuesday. However, this leads to a tradeoff. Donors that would have given to the annual fund during this season anyway shift their giving from traditional channels. As a result, you lose the benefit of incremental giving.
JS: Are there particular types of donors who are more likely to contribute on a Day of Giving?
SR: No. Reach out to everybody! I have seen many schools restrict their Day of Giving campaign to young donors, but that is mistake. While this channel sometimes can be the predominant way young donors participate, giving days attract donors at every age and level.
JS: “Everybody” can be hard to reach! What strategies to do you suggest to maximize campaign resources?
SR: You’ve got to make the most of all your ambassadors. There is a direct correlation between their involvement and the success of a Day of Giving program. The key is to access their networks and leverage their personal connections.
Also, be deliberate about which channels you use to communicate. Use past data to determine which channels are most effective with which populations. We’ve seen that while most gifts were made online, the average gift is often higher from other channels, such as mail. In fact, our testing has shown more than a 20% lift in donations when a full mailing is incorporated into the Day of Giving campaign.
JS: That’s helpful to know that incorporating offline channels can increase success. What other strategies have you seen be effective but are possibly counterintuitive?
SR: Persistence is one of the biggest discussions we often go back and forth with partners on. Exactly how many times should the giving day be communicated? So many institutions are afraid of over-communicating with donors. The reality is that our alumni aren’t paying close attention to most things they receive. Think about your own inbox and how many things you delete or ignore on a daily basis—and not for lack of interest. It’s just hard to get anyone’s attention nowadays. You have to be persistent, especially around such a “limited time” event like the Day of Giving.
In our role as a direct marketer, EAB’s Advancement Marketing Services is very interested in testing the impact of outreach frequency. Preliminary data indicates that is takes 7-10 emails before a reader responds, so we know persistence is incredibly important. However, we have some testing in the field that will continue to help us refine and balance message frequency.
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