Online giving events such as #GivingTuesday, Giving Days, and fundraising blitzes have become common practices on universities’ advancement calendars.
Before Funderful started to pioneer chatbots in Higher Education, we were offering sleek, gamified Giving Day and campaign websites for universities to improve their fundraising results. (Here are a few examples) Having a great Giving Day website is important, but over the years we discovered a factor that is just as important, if not more so - what tactics and channels you implement to drive your community to that website.
Getting your alumni to notice your Giving Day messaging is becoming increasingly difficult, because the existing channels used to reach your community, spread your message, and solicit donations are becoming more and more saturated with marketing content. With this abundance in competing content, it’s harder than ever for your message to be seen amongst the crowd.
It’s best to take a multichannel approach to promoting Giving Days, using all channels at your disposal, rather than focusing on just one. Until recently, the most common outreach tactics have been:
- Telethons (phonathons) - It takes an average of 20 attempts to reach a prospect on the phone, which requires both a heavy labor investment and a large time commitment from institutions. As such, telethons are becoming an increasingly costly channel to use for Giving Days. Telephone outreach must be used wisely by targeting the right constituency, such as leadership level prospects.
- Direct Mail - In order to be effective, you must have up-to-date alumni mailing addresses. The success rate of using direct mail has fallen dramatically, as it is increasingly difficult to turn printed newsletters and other communications into donations. Even beyond the challenge of maintaining an updated mailing address database, direct mail also requires extra effort on the part of your audience as they need to take the initiative to seek out a Giving Day website, thus adding additional barriers between the communication and gift-giving.
- Email - Email open rates are holding steady at 25%, with a 3% click-through rate (source: Mailchimp). Sending just one email is no longer enough to capture someone’s attention and persuade them to perform an action. Interestingly, increasing the appeal frequency has been proven to lead to higher participation rates. That being said, it doesn’t take take much effort for someone to unsubscribe from your email distribution list if the frequency crosses their acceptable threshold.
- Social Media - Giving Day update posts used to be an important way to create buzz on social platforms. Nowadays, a user’s feed is supersaturated with content from clickbait publishers and social influencers. Consequently, an organic Facebook post published on your page will only be seen by 2% of your followers, and that percentage is sure to decrease in the coming months as the platform’s algorithm continues to de-prioritize brands’ organic posts. In fact, Facebook has warned Pages that they can expect organic reach to eventually arrive at zero. (Read about it here)
As the standard of communicative behavior evolves, more and more universities are turning to Paid Social as a new channel for engaging with their alumni. As we mentioned in our recent blog post focusing on Paid Social, social media marketing gives universities the ability to personalize their messaging by speaking directly to the audience who will find it the most relevant, right on a platform that they’re already using.
If you run Paid Social campaigns well (using high-precision targeting, strategically-crafted content, and real-time performance optimization), they can be an extremely cost effective way to raise donations for your Giving Day. For example, one of our partner universities saw one advertising dollar generate $21.50 in new donations during their Giving Day when we ran their Paid Social campaign.
In general, social media advertising is a channel that universities should embrace in the modern age but more importantly, it can be the best option for promoting a successful Giving Day. Since time is of the essence for a Giving Day, your social media strategy can be strengthened through the use of a two-pronged tactical approach: 1) running a high-impact one-day flight optimized for large-scale reach and 2) making the most of Facebook Messenger to broadcast timely reminders to your alumni audience.
Chatbots for Giving Days
Messaging apps are quickly becoming a key player in the new digital communication landscape. Roughly 60 billion messages are exchanged on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp daily, which is more than triple the amount sent via SMS text messages. Brands have tapped into this booming messaging trend by moving customer service communications away from the traditional channels of phone hotlines and email newsletters. Instead, many brands are now talking to their customers over alternate messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Twitter… and the public is responding favorably. Research has found that social media users actually prefer communicating with brands through these personal messaging channels rather the legacy methods mentioned above.
Source: Conversocial, ‘The State of Social Customer Service’; eMarketer Calculations, Nov 14 2016
With these findings in mind, we decided to implement new methods of outreach and marketing promotions to see how they could benefit universities. We used Paid Social campaigns to advertise Giving Days in the month leading up to the event, reaching alumni right in their social newsfeeds. One key difference, however, was that we lead the alumni then to a Facebook Messenger conversation, built with Funderful’s chatbot software, instead of driving them to an external website that no longer allows the university to control over the constituents’ experience.
This method of combining Paid Social and Messenger chatbots is proving to be exceptionally effective as a new channel to reach and convert alumni into Giving Day donors. As institutions begin to implement this strategy, we’re seeing, on average, 80% open rates for our chatbot messages compared to the 25% average open rate that email marketing garners. Most importantly, alumni open Facebook Messenger chats and respond within seconds, which is extremely helpful when trying to solicit as many donations as possible in a 24 or 36 hour window. Here is a sample of how this conversation looks to a prospective donor:
Social ads driving your alumni directly to pre-built Facebook Messenger conversations
Source: Funderful example
Read more about Funderful's Chatbots for Giving Days here.