Connections that Convert: Creating targeted campaigns that inspire donations

“We need more engagement!” “We need more young alumni donors!” “We need funding for this priority project!”

Sound familiar? Advancement shops across the country run up against the need to fund priority projects or engage certain populations, and standard solicitation campaigns aren’t always the standard for success. Enter: micro-campaigns.

Or blitz campaigns. Crowdfunding campaigns. Initiative-based campaigns. Whatever you call them, these quick-timeframe solicitations pack a punch and can do wonders for donor engagement.

Williams College’s strategy surrounding micro-campaigns is intentional, and it works. We recently heard from Kelan O’Brien, Williams College’s Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, about how – and why! – he and his team focus on micro-campaigns each fiscal year

Check out the full webinar to hear his thoughts on:

Benefits to running a microcampaign

Giving days are a staple of many annual giving shops’ fiscal year calendar. But – not at Williams! Instead, the team focuses on micro-campaigns to engage alumni in various ways year-round. As Kelan noted, micro-campaigns still require a lot of care, thought, and time in each one, but their facilitation is not going to knock you out like a giving day will (Those all-nighters during giving day…we’ve all been there!)

This strategy gives both annual giving staff and alumni room to breathe. Instead of blasting alumni with 5 emails for one initiative during a 24-hour period, they are careful with their email schedule, ensuring there are other engagement opportunities – like event invitations – mixed into what their donors are receiving. This helps with donor fatigue and provides constituents with multiple opportunities to designate their gifts in different ways throughout the year. For those that run on an annual basis, people stay engaged year after year (hello, donor retention!)

In fact, some donors even email THEM to ask when their next opportunity to give to a specific campaign is. Is that not the dream!?

Kelan O'Brien on the benefits to running micro-campaigns

Useful tools to execute a micro-campaign

Kelan utilizes EverTrue to identify who the team should be reaching out to for a specific campaign. To do this, he plays around with filters – building a list by starting with where they think they want to be. If the number that’s generated is smaller than anticipated, they’ll play around with more filters…how can the list be expanded? Who is engaging with content related to this topic on social media? This is all data that can be found right in the platform – and helps inform their strategy.

Kelan O'Brien on how he utilizes EverTrue in micro-campaigns

Another key tool in the Williams’ team’s line-up is ThankView – and with their open rates averaging around 75% and click rates at 25%, it’s easy to understand why!

A staple for Kelan is the video request feature, noting it is “revolutionary” in his day-to-day work. Gone are the days of tracking down folks to make sure they submit their video request in the right file type, with the right permissions, all within the right timeline… this process can be easily managed within the ThankView platform and, as a result, cuts back on hours of back and forth (and headaches!)

Kelan O'Brien on how ThankView has been a "game changer" in his daily work

Lessons they have learned

  • Segmentation works: Personalizing communication based on an alum or donor’s interests will help achieve better results every time. We have the tools to meet donors where they are by discovering what interests them: we need to use them!
  • Authenticity is critical: At the end of the day, donors want to know that there’s an actual human on the other end of the communication they’re receiving. If a message sounds too sales-y, it likely won’t hit the mark with your audience.
  • Track as much data as possible: What is data that you have? Data you want? What’s your overall goal? Use this to inform what and how you want to track – and then use those numbers to craft your future strategies.
  • Intentional Stewardship: Make it personal. Utilizing a tool like ThankView allows donors to see their gift come full circle. Have a student who is benefitting from a donor’s gift send a personalized video message – and let the story speak for itself.

Kelan O'Brien on lessons his team has learned while running micro-campaigns

A planning template you can bring back to your team!

This planning template Kelan shared is *chef’s kiss*.  Check it out, bring it back to your team, and get ready to crush your fiscal year goals.

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