Plan a Fundraiser Donors Will Love: 3 Tips
Most of your higher education donor prospects, whether they're first-time supporters or long-term donors, already have an affinity for your college or university. They might root for your sports team, champion academic research on campus, or want to pave the way for continued high-quality academics.
While many supporters are emotionally invested in your institution, they may still hesitate to support your fundraising initiatives. They may ignore your Giving Tuesday email appeals, scroll past your social media posts promoting your recurring giving program, or think, “My alma mater always does the same old thing during Homecoming Week” when they receive an invitation to your annual benefit.
So, in order to really grab your donors’ attention, you should plan fundraisers that they’ll be excited to participate in. Of course, there’s no need to throw out the current strategies that are working for your organization, like your graduation day email stream that always boosts your progress toward your annual fundraising goal or the Parents’ Week dinner that sells out every year. But you can fine-tune your strategies so that you always plan fundraisers your donors will love!
We’ll help you get started by covering three tips:
- Learn about your audience’s preferences.
- Offer easy-to-use fundraising tools.
- Have your campaign culminate in a fun event.
As you set out to improve your fundraising efforts, consider working with a fundraising consultant. These professionals bring to the table a third-party perspective and years of experience, helping to improve your fundraising strategy in ways you may not have seen. And their work goes beyond identifying problems—a consultant can help you brainstorm and implement positive changes to your strategy, setting your organization up for sustainable success and growth.
Let’s dive into our three tips!
1. Learn about your audience’s preferences.
To plan a fundraiser that will resonate with your audience, you need to get to know your supporters and their preferences.
The first place to look for this information is your organization’s CRM. Review the donor profiles saved in your CRM to identify trends in your audience’s demographics and preferences. For example, you might notice that most of your donors fall within the age range of 45-60. You might use this information to create a more targeted social media marketing plan for your next campaign, leaning into Facebook over a platform that younger generations prefer, like TikTok.
Another source of information is donors themselves! Try surveying your donors to find out what they want to see in a fundraising campaign. For instance, you might ask your donors, “Where did you hear about our fundraising campaigns?” or “Which of the events listed below are you most likely to attend?” Show your audience that you care about their opinions while gathering ideas. This will help build and maintain stronger relationships with your support.
Leveraging your CRM and surveying your audience of supporters will empower you to step into your community members’ shoes and see your fundraising efforts from their perspective. This way, you can easily plan campaigns and events that they will be excited to participate in!
2. Offer easy-to-use fundraising tools.
Having the right fundraising tools on your side will help you set up a campaign that is quick, easy, and hassle-free. And convenience will be a major deciding factor in how your supporters feel about your campaign!
Here are some fundraising tools for your next campaign, as well as how they can be used to streamline the process for everyone involved:
- Online donation form: An online donation form allows donors to give to your campaign whenever they’re able. Make sure to keep the form short and to the point, only asking for necessary information. For example, essential information to collect includes the donation amount, payment details, and contact information. You can further optimize your form by adding a matching gift search tool so your donors can check their eligibility!
- Crowdfunding page: With a crowdfunding page, you can collect lots of small donations that add up to great results. You’ll simply set up your page on a crowdfunding platform and share the link with your supporters over email, social media, and other online platforms.
- Social media fundraising page: Many social media platforms now offer fundraising pages. For example, Facebook allows you to set up a fundraising page with a built-in fundraising thermometer that showcases your progress toward your goal. Because these pages are easily shareable and meet donors where they’re at, they can be extremely handy in helping you secure support.
- Text-to-give platform: A text-to-give platform allows your supporters to give on the go. Donors simply text a designated keyword to a specific phone number. Their text is then returned with a link to your online donation form, which they can use to contribute to your campaign.
With each of these fundraising tools, one of your main priorities should be to brand the tool to your organization. Even if you’re using an external platform, having your institution’s brand elements present on a fundraising page or other donation tool is imperative. Doing so can reinforce for your supporters exactly why they’re giving and can help establish professionalism and credibility with your audience.
3. Have your campaign culminate in a fun event.
One of the best things about fundraising for a college or university is the tight-knit community that your organization gets to interact with each and every day. So, why not level up your next fundraiser by having your campaign culminate in a fun event, where people who love your school can gather together and mingle?
There are hundreds of options out there for fun end-of-campaign events. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Walk-a-thon: According to Donorly, Walk-a-thon events are the perfect way to conclude fundraisers like peer-to-peer campaigns. This is because these events lend themselves well to pledges prior to the walk itself and they act as marketing for the event. For example, someone might secure a $5 pledge for every mile walked. After they walk 10 miles at the event, the person who pledged that amount would donate $50 to your college or university.
- An evening of entertainment: For an evening of entertainment, recruit your school’s performing arts students to put on a showcase for your supporters. You can celebrate the end of a special campaign with an evening of music, dancing, and refreshments.
- Meet-and-greet: Your supporters would love the chance to meet some of your star athletes or history-making researchers on campus. Set up a meet-and-greet and invite supporters who donate to your campaign to come and introduce themselves, get to know their favorite campus celebrities, and take pictures.
Events like these can bring your community closer and help your supporters create lasting memories that they associate with your institution. To make your event a success, make sure to start planning early. You’ll need to secure venues, arrange catering, and recruit volunteers to make sure everything runs smoothly on the big day!
By using these tips, you can polish your college or university’s approach to fundraising and plan campaigns that your donors will love. As you do, remember to focus on building lasting relationships with your supporters. Show them that you appreciate and value them, and that you’re working to make sure your efforts resonate with them and what they love about your school. Good luck!