Let’s face it, in the never ending quest for unrestricted funds, marketing for the annual campaign can get pretty stale. We’ve all been there, dreading the days ticking buy on the calendar, marking them off one by one — waiting for it to begin. What will we use for a theme this year? How will we make it more exciting than last year? How do we get more FUNDS than last year? We’ve all dreaded it, but we need it. It’s the biggest source of unrestricted funds for most organizations. So how do we breathe new life into an annual campaign? Here are 3 things that just might work for you.
Rockhurst University is a small, private, Jesuit, liberal arts university in Kansas City, Missouri. They have an active alumni association and have received generous gifts throughout their history that has enabled the university to thrive. However, like most organizations who provide the same excellent service for decades, it had become difficult to tell their story for the annual campaign in a way that’s compelling to donors. In a recent campaign, Rockhurst did 3 things differently that we discuss in our Masters Circle, that could overcome this problem for years to come:
● Use overlooked assets
● Tie your story to your donor’s story
● Tie your funding request to your donor’s giving history
To make use overlooked assets, take a look around as if for the first time. What is it that has been in plain sight but is ignored because it is always there, or because it is hidden away? When Rockhurst did this it led to their massive photo archives with images from nearly every year that the school has existed. There were easily enough years’ photos available to cover all of names on their prospective, active, and lapsed donor lists.
The photos were reviewed for use in a direct marketing appeal for the annual campaign. Appropriate photos were divided into 5 year periods. Then the donor lists were divided into matching periods based on enrollment and graduation dates. A new database was developed to append other donor data beyond the basics including, spouse’s name if also on the list, major, professors’ names during the ½ decade in that major, hall’s where classrooms were housed during the period, and giving history. The database was then used by the creative team and printer to generate the following campaign.
Each donor or married couple received an ask that was created especially for them. No two pieces were alike. Each piece:
● Addressed the recipient by name
● Discussed their major
● Had a statement from a faculty member where available
● Referenced where they attended class on campus
● Showed photos of the time period while they were a student
● Showed photos of current students
● Placed their attendance on a timeline of historic events in Rockhurst’s history
● Gave the recipient radio dials for giving that began with an increase over their previous largest gift to the annual fund.
The direct mail pieces were printed using a digital printer tied to the donor database. The donor data was used to call the appropriate information and photos to print each piece. Each piece included a BRC as well as a personalized url (PURL) that led to a landing page on the school’s website. Each page was generated on the fly based on the PURL and again pulled the appropriate information to assemble the page. So donors could either give with a check through the mail or donate online. The campaign beat expectations and also resulted in the largest single online gift that the university had ever received.
By using a little ingenuity and technology, Rockhurst University was able to breathe new life into their annual giving campaign and secure the unrestricted funds that are so necessary for their operations. By creating such a heavily data driven campaign, they discovered many additional opportunities that could be capitalized on by working more closely with their data as well as capturing new data. Working with the University Archivist they discovered a treasure trove of images that are now being scanned for continued use. By celebrating each donor and sparking the flame of memories of alma mater, they were able to tie the university’s storied history to each alum’s time on campus. The result was new life in a campaign and unrestricted dollars in the door. What can you do to breathe life into your annual giving campaign?