While most of us were planning our July 4th barbeque, Valencia College Foundation was preparing to launch their First ONE campaign. This year the foundation took their six-week fundraising campaign online using peer-to-peer fundraising to supplement their offline campaign activities. At the end of the day the foundation raised $203,817 which included a matching grant, recruited 152 fundraisers on 36 teams, and attracted 170 first time donors.

Donna Marino, Valencia College Foundation’s Donor Stewardship Manager, shared some points of their success as well as some important lessons to take into planning for their next campaign.

Narrow the Cause
All of us are familiar with our alma maters reaching out to us in one way or another asking for our support. Perhaps there is a new stadium that needs funding, the art building is in need of repairs, but sometimes there is no real focus at all. Hey, this is our yearly fundraiser, won’t you gives us money to help current students have a great experience at our university?

Valencia College Foundation fine-tuned their ask down to a fund that would provide scholarships to first generation students. By being very specific about where the money was going, it allowed them to get specific and creative about their messaging to fundraisers and potential donors.

Fundraiser Training & Support
With a two-week soft launch, the foundation trained 32 team captains who had been identified as prospects months before in the planning stages. Team captains were invited to train at a campus computer lab where they registered, created their fundraising page, and learned how to use the online tools.

At the kickoff event different stations were available where people could come in and learn various aspects of the campaign including how to create a fundraising page to solicit gifts.  Additionally, the development staff hosted a help line where fundraisers could call should any questions arise during the campaign, and on the First ONE website fundraising tips and a help guide were easily accessible.

Marino said she would like to see a larger investment for training by having a special kick off for team captains and another opportunity when the campaign officially launches.

“We may want to have a team lead training perhaps months in advance of the kick off to share our goals and some of the benefits of the ways they could fundraiser off or online,” Marino said. “I believe formalizing that a little more may be beneficial for us, and ultimately our students, in the future.”

Create Excitement & Provide Ownership
The First ONE campaign officially launched with an on-campus reception where laptops were available allowing supporters to register. The development staff handed out a fundraising booklet providing information about the campaign, noting team captain responsibilities and offering a number of fundraising tips and ideas. And the environment was festive! Refreshments were available, information tables were colorful and red foam fingers with First ONE branding filled the room.

The opportunities for sharing the campaign excitement were endless. Images from the kick off reception were posted on the foundation’s social media sites, shared among various student group sites and blogs as well as the student newspaper.

Marino also saw the importance in giving fundraisers ownership in the campaign by allowing them to think and act outside the fundraising ideas provided. One student group proactively collected donated items from the community and held a silent auction to raise funds.

“That was one of the things we learned,” Marino said. “We had this great fundraising ideas book we provided them, but it was important to allow them to create various fundraising activities that are meaningful for them.”

Diverse Communication Plan
Rather than relying on their email, the development staff called fundraisers to offer assistance, posted updates and stories to the First ONE social media sites and blog, and aired a PSA on their local public radio station during the last two weeks of the campaign.

The email campaign primarily focused on coaching and milestone messages to guide and motivate fundraisers and provide updates on the campaign progress. On the social media front the development staff went above and beyond to interact with their audience by monitoring and recognizing top fundraisers, double-posting Facebook notes on personal pages and the organization’s page, and when possible, tweeted to specific fundraisers.

Marino said there was an important balance in virtually keeping people engaged without overwhelming them with email communications.

“Next time we might empower our volunteers more to send out emails and reminders with additional lead training rather than [the message] coming from our point,” she said.

Team Captains Help Spread the Word
By arming team captains with the essential campaign and fundraising FAQs, these fundraising leaders served as important messengers for the First ONE campaign. Marino said the team captains were vital in the foundation’s fundraising success.

“It just isn’t going to happen without them,” she said. “If the team captain had an affinity group, they would collaborate with the foundation to reach the whole affinity group rather than just those they knew. This was great because we could maintain donor confidence, but still get out the information.”

Next year Marino hopes to bring corporate and community partners on board by asking them to adopt the foundation for a month or the length of the campaign.

Planning & Timing
While planning began five to six months from the launch date, Marino said additional planning time will be built into the next campaign to allow more meaningful collaboration with student groups so they become more invested months before the actual fundraising begins.

“In the planning you need to start very early on even collecting things like images, videos and the like, so that when it is unveiled everyone has already heard of it, felt it or seen it,” Marino said. “I don’t think we did that as well as we could have.”

While the First ONE campaign exceeded their fundraising goal, the development team learned that, at least for an educational institution, summer may not be the best time to launch a campaign. For example, while the foundation’s board was excited about the campaign efforts, they don’t meet during the summer, so getting them involved proved to be difficult.

“I think our time frame may have to change,” Marino said. “The summertime is when community partners and executives are able to take their breaks; students are off from classes… that was a very difficult time frame. However, for the first time, it was easier for our team internally to kick it off because we could take that challenge on when we weren’t as busy. In the future, that time will be better spent planning.”

Overall the campaign was a positive experience for everyone involved. Marino said the development staff bonded during the fundraising experience and everyone is looking forward to doing the campaign again. Next year, she hopes they can find ways to further engage and make the campaign more meaningful to their fundraisers.

Looking to make peer-to-peer fundraising a part of your giving program? Want to improve your P2P knowledge? Attend Blackbaud’s Peer-to-Peer Bootcamp coming up in November!

Other posts you may be interested in:

Kathryn Hall reviews some techniques used by organizations using Independent Fundraising Events (IFE) in A Cornucopia of Ways to Support Independent Fundraising Events

Third Party fundraising takes some thoughtful strategies. See some tips Valencia College Foundation used in Knock Your Third Party Fundraiser Out of the Park.

Learn ways to Coach your Online Fundraisers by Deepa Karani Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a Blackbaud consultant, Jennifer Peters combines her knowledge and nonprofit experience to help customers maximize their fundraising potential with Blackbaud Sphere’s Friends Asking Friends. Jennifer loves seeing her client’s peer-to-peer fundraising websites move from thought to fruition. Her day to day activities allow her to work with a variety of organizations to build their online fundraising site while guiding them with best practices along the way.

Prior to joining Blackbaud, Jennifer served the nonprofit sector through various development and communication roles with non-profit organizations such as Project Medishare for Haiti, Drug Prevention Resources, Inc., Alley’s House and The Mended Hearts, Inc. Her background consists of event planning, peer-to-peer fundraising and eMarketing.

When she’s not working, Jennifer can be found either walking her three dogs, hiking/kayaking/biking around White Rock Lake or traveling to satisfy her wanderluster soul.

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