The Greatest #GivingTuesday Campaigns of 2016: Education Edition


Just when we thought #GivingTuesday had hit its peak in 2015, academic institutions and nonprofits joined forces this year to set yet another new record for the national day of philanthropy: $168 million raised.

To put it in perspective, that’s a 44% increase since last year. And over 10x more dollars than #GivingTuesday’s first run in 2012.

So, what’s happening here? For one, many organizations are heavily investing in social media and making moves to improve the online giving experience for donors. November 29 saw a 20% rise in online giving compared to #GivingTuesday 2015, with mobile giving taking 22% of the share.

It’s also clear that organizations—including schools and universities—are getting better at connecting with donors through targeted campaigns and bold marketing. From beautiful giving pages to whip-smart social media content, many institutions put their own spin on #GivingTuesday to bring in the big bucks this year.

Take a peek at some of the campaigns below.

University of Michigan

Reclaiming the day as Giving BlueDay, Michigan sparked a movement among students, alumni, and friends on Nov. 29. The tagline “your day to be a victor” brought the focus to the donor as the university hosted hourly challenges that gave followers a chance to earn $1,000 to their area of choice. Our favorite challenge? “Show off your artistic side” (depicted in the Facebook post below).

All together, Michigan raised over $5.5 million from over 7,000 “victors”—a truly valiant effort.

Skidmore College

In celebration of #GivingTuesday, Skidmore asked alumni to “go all in”—and lived up to the motto by going “all in” themselves. They held a full-day live stream from campus featuring professors, sports teams, musical groups, and more, working towards a goal of 750 donors to unlock a $200,000 challenge gift. The college ended up blowing past the goal with 987 donors.


In addition to the live stream, the Skidmore team showed off their video chops with a hilarious video of Skidmore President Phil Glotzbach making the first gift at midnight. Watch it here:

Cheshire Academy

An fun matchup between the Cheshire community and Trustees Richard Katz and Donald Rosenberg, the Katz vs. Cats campaign raised the stakes by challenging 125 donors to participate in #CAGivingTuesday for a chance at a $25,000 matching gift. Cheshire sent donors to a targeted giving page crafted exclusively for the challenge, featuring the same fun imagery as the marketing emails and making it simple and delightful for alumni to give. It’s no surprise that Cheshire slipped just past their goal to raise a total of $104,948 from 135 donors.


Northwestern University

For #CATSGiveBack on Nov. 29, Northwestern asked alumni, parents, and friends to donate to the areas of the university closest to their hearts with the promise that—as a token of gratitude—any gift would earn you a limited-edition deck of Wildcats-themed cards.

Note how the call-to-action on the campaign site read “Claim My Cards” instead of just “Give Now”:


Turns out the playing cards were a hot commodity; 1,961 constituents chipped in to make a gift, resulting in $535,567 raised towards 324 areas of the university.

Syracuse University

We love Syracuse’s approach to #GivingTuesday. Instead of racing towards a numeric goal, the team flipped the conversation and focused on bringing together the Syracuse community for #GivingCUSEDay. Their social media presence felt like an online pep rally as the university pumped out creative, branded content and bite-sized videos to get Orange Nation excited about the day.

Syracuse also did an exceptional job of showing followers that small gifts do count. Check out the inspiring message in this tweet:


Presbyterian College

Presbyterian College’s #GivingTuesday push centered on their Neville Renewed initiative, pooling contributions toward the renovation of iconic campus building Neville Hall. As a play on the holiday season, Presbyterian offered Neville-themed ornaments to lucky winners of hourly challenges (such as being one of the first 25 people to make an online gift greater than $25).

The targeted approach paid off, as the college had its biggest #GivingTuesday ever and drummed up $124,716 in support of Neville Hall.

Colorado State University

Although donors had the freedom to give to any area of the university on #GivingTuesday, CSU’s campaign highlighted the Rams Against Hunger program, which provides meal cards for students struggling with food insecurity. Focusing on this project helped CSU hone their messaging and demonstrate the impact of the day in terms of meals donated, not just dollars raised.

The cause ended up resonating with hundreds of donors. Of the over $47,000 raised, $26,908 went towards Rams Against Hunger—enough to serve 3,844 meals to students in need.

Tufts University

What better way to thank your donors than to showcase their names on a donor wall? On the path to 2,000 donors for a $200,000 challenge grant, Tufts listed every donor on a landing page that documented the day from hour to hour. (If you made gift, you could find your own name on the wall by typing it into the search box!)

Halfway through the day, Tufts had already breezed past their goal of 2,000 donors—so the team issued a surprise bonus challenge: 3,000 donors for an additional $20,000 grant. Thanks to a strong email marketing push, help from volunteers, and plenty of social media promotion, over 4,000 donors made their mark on the wall to raise a record 24-hour sum for Tufts: $1 million.


Trinity Preparatory School

Trinity Prep, a day-school in Florida for students grades 6-12, proves that #GivingTuesday can be just as powerful for small schools that put in the effort. The concept for Trinity’s campaign was simple: raise $5,000 to provide Alumni Giving Fund Grants to students with demonstrated financial need. Couple that mission with fantastic marketing—including branded graphics on social media and a video featuring students who were able to pursue their interests and dreams at Trinity thanks to scholarship money—and you have a well-executed campaign that tugs at the heartstrings (and wallets) of alumni.

The school was able to reach and exceed their goal, raising $5,270 for financial aid and a total of nearly $9,000. As announced on the Trinity Prep Alumni Facebook page, the money will have a direct impact by “helping provide two students with Alumni Giving Fund Grants next year.”

Furman University

Furman pulled out all the stops for their #GivingTuesday drive. From #unselfies, to branded swag, to commercial spots featuring little kids (aka future Furman students), the university unveiled awesome content and fun giveaways all the way to their $60,000 target. Hourly prizes included Furman memorabilia, sending Starbucks coffee to a favorite professor, and custom Furman YETIs (which were so popular that the site crashed and they had to extend the giveaway).

Going all out worked. Furman surpassed their goal and raised over $120,000 to support the future of the university.

Northern Illinois University

For #GivingTuesdayNIU, the university pitted seven NIU colleges against each other in a friendly competition to see which group could raise the most. With a university-wide goal of $60,000 from 200 online donors, each of the colleges went to work on social media and beyond to make the case for support.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences wound up clinching the victory and a challenge gift from the president’s cabinet—but in the end, the entire university deserves recognition for their hard work on Tuesday. The Huskies beat their dollar goal by 91 percent and donor goal by 36 percent to raise $114,863 from 272 donors.

Brown University

Brown’s approach to #GivingTuesday was simple and impactful. Although the university didn’t publicize a dollar and donor goal to the community, the Brown Annual Fund encouraged alumni and friends to give back by offering a 1:1 match on online gifts (up to $200,000) and by putting a spotlight on student stories. During the course of the day, the team shared inspiring student quotes and videos to demonstrate the impact of giving to the annual fund.

Your greatest asset is your students, and Brown knows this well. Take a look at a few of their #GivingTuesday pieces below.

Boston College

Boston College does a phenomenal job with social media year-round, but their social presence on #GivingTuesday was on fire—in part because of help from the BC community. On their campaign page, BC provided sample social media messages and graphics tailored to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help followers spread the word about #GivingTuesday. They even wrote out and organized the messages by BC affiliation (ex: “for alumni, parents, friends,” “for BC volunteers,” “for GOLD alumni”). This made it easy for people to promote the campaign by copying and pasting the messages into their personal social media accounts.

One small touch that we loved was a pop-up on the campaign page that read, “Want to know more about your impact on #GivingTuesday? Find out.” (See the below image.) It was a clever way of directing people to learn more about why their gift makes a difference.

All in all, the BC community came together to set a university record of $625,000 raised, including a $200,000 financial aid grant and a $50,000 grant because over 1,000 GOLD alumni donated.



Did we miss your institution’s #GivingTuesday campaign? Let us know in the comments below. 

Want to see more schools innovating on giving day? Check out how the Salisbury School reinvented their giving day. 

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