As advancement teams start planning for the next fiscal year, it’s difficult to determine what fundraising will look like. With COVID-19 still lurking around our communities, the option for in-person fundraising events seems less likely next year. It’s important to have a contingency plan for all in-person events and to pivot to a digital strategy if necessary.
It is possible to have a fully digital fundraising strategy. However, it may be difficult to keep your donors engaged through all the digital noise. Digital fatigue will increase over the next year and your message may not stand out amongst all others. You may also be concerned about replacing all your relationship-building meetings and stewardship with less personal digital meetings. There may not be a concrete roadmap for next year but an adjustable plan will go a long way towards your fundraising success.
Advancement professionals may wonder how to keep building relationships with donors when they may not be able to meet in person. Donors want to feel connected to you and the school they are helping support. Why not send them a personal video asking them for a virtual coffee? Free tools such as Loom can easily help you create a short and personalized video that you can imbed into your email.
You can also show the impact of their gift on your video. If their contribution this past year went to a student relief fund, include a student testimonial in the video. You can also record the video in front of a building on your campus if their funds contributed to building or renovating. The point is to use video creatively and make it personal.
One way to keep your donors engaged is by planning a unified digital strategy throughout the year. Start with your Annual Fund and give this year’s appeal a theme that will speak to your donors. Many schools are uncertain about the future and the long-term impact of COVID-19. Select a theme that provides a vision of the future amidst much chaos. By letting your donors know that your school is adapting to the changes, you are establishing confidence that their gift is supporting the future of your school.
Carry your theme for the remainder of the year. If you are planning a Day of Giving, integrate your theme into your Day of Giving. All of your social media, online campaigns and print materials align with your message. Make sure all your campaigns include transparency. Your donors will want to see that the funds you are raising are helping your community. You can use tools like Canva to design the look and feel of your campaign for consistency.
Determine the age range of your donors and your strategy around acquiring new donors. By identifying each segment, you will be able to determine the best way to reach them. While Millennials are on social media and respond to texting, your older donors may prefer snail mail and the telephone. Since many of your constituents may be faced with digital overload, it’s important to reach out to them using the channel they are most likely going to respond to.
Segmentation can also determine what type of video to send to your donors. Your younger alumni and donors will respond well to Instagram video stories involving current students. Older donors will respond to Facebook posts and videos on your school’s page. It’s more important now to get to know your donors well and reach them in an impactful way.
Including a Day of Giving as part of your fundraising strategy for next year can help boost your donors’ digital engagement. A Day of Giving rallies your community together and can help your school reach its Annual Fund goal. If you have not had a giving day in the past, read about how you can plan a Day of Giving in Six Steps.
The success of a giving day is largely determined by your communication plan and how you can keep your donors engaged during this short fundraising blitz. Engagement channels include email, social media, phone calls, and texting. Ideally, you will want to make it as easy as possible for your donors to give and you will want to create friendly competition amongst alumni and parents.
You can achieve this by creating challenges to unlock throughout the day. Challenges will motivate donors to give since they unlock a lump sum. Read how this school used challenges to leverage different constituent groups and raised over $414K during their giving day. Leaderboards also create a sense of competition between constituent groups. Your donors want to have visibility into the alumni, parent or student group they identify with. Make sure that you are sending updates throughout the day that include information about your leaderboards. It’s important to have the data available to share with your donors. Using a giving and engagement platform like BoostMySchool will give you instant visibility into leaderboard and challenge progress.
Leaderboards and challenges are also a great way to re-engage your SYBUNTs and LYBUNTs and to attract new and young donors. A giving platform will help you achieve this with mobile responsiveness and payment options that make it easy for your younger donors to donate from their phones.
As you head into planning for the next fiscal year with so many uncertainties around COVID-19, make sure that you have a strong digital strategy that will allow you to hit your goals regardless of in-person fundraising events. There is no doubt that planning for next year is difficult right now but keeping your donors engaged digitally will help propel your fundraising efforts.
Caroline is the Director of Community at BoostMySchool. Having worked in a private K-12 school, she understands the importance of school fundraising and keeping schools sustainable for the future of generations to come. She is an advocate for education and currently has two kids in a private K-8 school.