Making #GivingTuesday Count: New Mexico State University's Story | npENGAGE

Making #GivingTuesday Count: New Mexico State University’s Story

By on Nov 6, 2018


Giving Tuesday tips

One day can make a difference and New Mexico State University (NMSU) can prove it!

After a hugely successful Giving Tuesday campaign in 2017, we’re excited to share our “Four ‘T’s of Giving Tuesday” with the keys to our success and some actionable takeaways you can implement at your institution.

For our Giving Tuesday campaign in 2017, our focus was impact via scholarships. Our secret sauce and what we believe made this initiative successful was our ability to offer a matching gift incentive.  On Giving Tuesday, every gift to a scholarship anywhere in the NMSU system was matched dollar for dollar. We had goals to increase total giving to the NMSU system, increase alumni giving rates, see participation of 1,000 donors, add endowments for colleges, departments and units across the system and establish communication partnerships with local businesses.  An even loftier goal of ours was to establish a new vision and culture with 100% participation from all volunteer leadership boards and campus leadership, plus 100% participation from advancement staff in planning and personal giving.

Our #GivingTuesday results have been transformational. Over the last three years:

  • We raised a grand total of $10,926,650 with the matching gifts.
  • We created 172 new scholarships.
  • We received 7,502 gifts.
  • We have received a gift from a total of 5,636 donors.
  • We had 100% participation from the Foundation board and the Alumni Board of Directors.

So, here’s our first tip: match funds, if you can.  We had a unique opportunity with matching funds from our NMSU license plate affinity program, an estate gift from a loyal Aggie and additional campus and donor matches. Think creatively when looking around your institution for matching gift funds—gathering seemingly small amounts from various places can add up!

Don’t be afraid to create a match cap, this enables more donors to participate. Millennials are one of our university’s biggest impacting segments — cultivate them and create them to becoming regular stewards. For 2018, we are integrating a $500 cap per household, we hope this will have a positive impact on our alumni participation rate.

The Four ‘T’s of Giving Tuesday

  • Technology: As you can probably imagine, it’s important to ensure you have the right infrastructure to support donations, advanced segmentation, e-mailing those segments, tracking gifts and pulling reports to capture progress.  For NMSU, the infrastructure for tracking matching gift expectations was crucial.  We created a short gift agreement or funding agreement with matching money language included. We entered all gifts with an appeal code in our nonprofit fundraising software. That appeal code then became the driver in our reports which allowed us to tie various pieces of the campaign together and see our final results. We also built a giving page to promote the Giving Tuesday campaign, created segments out of donor and alumni databases and e-mailed those segments with links to that giving page.  Our biggest takeaway: make it all connect. 
  • Tell your story: The only way to make your Giving Tuesday campaign successful is to get the word out. At NMSU, we developed a comprehensive communication plan and used a multi-channel approach.  First, we created a logo that aligned with the international logo which allowed us to brand all our communications consistently.  Our e-mail strategy included that consistent look, impactful messaging, clear calls-to-action, a hyperlink to the giving site, student-centered photos and social media links.  We also used direct mail; we sent two pieces, one was a postcard and the other a newsletter, both with very impactful writing and a clear call-to-action.  We didn’t stop with e-mail & direct mail; we posted to Facebook 39 times, tweeted 37 times and posted 25 pictures to Instagram.  We used radio, television and traditional media to get the word out as well.  Telling our Giving Tuesday story via every channel possible garnered great alumni participation. Our biggest takeaway: Be consistent. Be everywhere.
  • Teamwork: Teamwork makes the dream work; it might sound cheesy, but it’s true!  NMSU would not have had its Giving Tuesday results without serious collaboration. In 2015, we partnered with local businesses and local government officials to proclaim December 1, 2015 #GivingTuesday at NMSU Day and celebrated these partnerships, our team and donors throughout the day. One of the best ways we created an exciting team atmosphere was with our campaign headquarters. We had the “thank you” call center, a photo booth, entertainment by student groups and an hourly dollar announcement set up in our student union. All in all, the teamwork was stellar; however, we did have one key learning that when it comes to our internal planning committee structure, there is such a thing as too many cooks in the kitchen.  Be sure you have a structured planning committee with key contributors and stakeholders, only. Our biggest takeaway: Your team doesn’t have to be big, but it better be mighty.
  • Thank Yous: Last but not least, at NMSU, we prioritized stewardship on Giving Tuesday.  On the day of the event, we made personal phone calls, created handwritten cards and send e-mails to thank our donors and participants. We kept the Giving Tuesday branding, even with our stewardship efforts by placing Giving Tuesday stickers on receipts and customizing all of our thank you notes and letters. It was important for us to remember that “thank yous” should be personal; we thanked first time donors differently than we thanked major gift donors, for example. Our biggest takeaway: Send personal and sincere gratitude on Giving Tuesday. 

 We hope you found these tips applicable and useful for your institution’s #GivingTuesday efforts; we certainly had fun sharing them! 

#GivingTuesday tips

Editor’s note: This post has been updated since its original 2017 publish date to reflect NMSU’s current #GivingTuesday results and strategy.

Leslie Cervantes received her Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from NMSU in 1986. She currently serves as the Associate Vice-President for Alumni Participation and Stewardship in University Advancement. Prior to serving in this role, Leslie used her business degree to start  her own teenage skincare company. The company received national recognition and was distributed in three countries.   After many years of production, she eventually sold the company and thought she would slow down. Then she discovered the world of fundraising and so began a second career in higher education. Leslie gives back to her community by serving on many local boards and service groups. She considers herself a loyal NMSU Aggie and a red chile expert.

She has been married to Dino Cervantes for 31 years whom she met at NMSU. They are the proud parents of their daughter Alyssa a practicing attorney in Albuquerque.

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