Giving Days

How to Make #GivingTuesday Work in Higher Ed Fundraising

Justin Ware
Nov 15, 2022

Ten years ago, the 92nd Street Y launched the inaugural #GivingTuesday. Since then, nonprofits have raised hundreds of millions of dollars through #GivingTuesday efforts.

For higher education fundraising, #GivingTuesday often takes a backseat to other campaigns. Most institutions prefer to put resources towards their own Giving Days.

At firstname.co, we know it's hard to stand out during such a busy time of year. Luckily, we're here to help! The following are a few tactics firstname.co’s client partners have employed over the years…

Say “thank you”

When talking with our client partners, staff often cite "stewardship" as one of the biggest areas around which advancement shops can improve.

It should be easy – saying “thank you” comes naturally. But how do you ensure donors receive that message of gratitude?

On #GivingTuesday, the inboxes and social media feeds of your supporters will be full of solicitations. Instead of more of the same, this is a great opportunity to zig when others zag.

Going out of your way not to ask, but instead thanking donors for their past support is a great way to stand out on #GivingTuesday. Be literal and let the recipient know you’re sending a “unique thank you message” as opposed to another #GivingTuesday ask. Use video and (always) go with as much personalization as you can achieve with your message of “thanks.”

Kick off year-end campaigns

No institutions should be sending solicitations without first warming an audience. We know far too much about how important tools like video, for example, are to priming a large audience to make a gift.

This is a great chance to reposition #GivingTuesday as the kickoff to your end-of-year campaign. One that warms donors before the end-of-year solicitations arrive in mailboxes and inboxes.

Create a three-part video series and introduce the main characters on #GivingTuesday. Email infographics with figures around the impact of past giving. Alert recipients that you’ll be asking them for year-end gifts shortly. In short, make an impression so that the end-of-year solicitation is not the first your donors and alumni have heard from you in months.

Get students involved

Consider leveraging your on-campus talent to help tell your story. When it comes to student fundraising, our client partners have discovered two critical components.

One, get them working together in groups. And two, give them a clear fundraising priority that matters to them.

For close to a decade, St. Mary’s College of Maryland has driven #GivingTuesday fundraising with a student video challenge. This challenge encourages student groups to create their own video content. The groups who produce the best videos, determined by Alumni Council vote, receive $5,000 for their organizations.

This brilliant campaign meets many goals for St. Mary's. Not only does it activate students, it helps inspire alumni giving and generates a massive amount of video for future use.

Looking for help adding personalized video to donor engagement efforts? Click here to learn more about firstname.co’s student-led Donor Engagement Center programs.

Justin Ware
Justin Ware is a digital fundraising expert with nearly 15 years of experience helping nonprofits raise money online. An Emmy-winning YouTube producer and one of the original pioneers of the online giving day and online ambassadors programs, Justin is focused on innovative tactics and "what's next?" for cause-based work.

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