Saint Mary’s College’s 24-hour Donor Challenge
Danielle Mason, Director of Annual Giving, and Kayla Thomas, Associate Director of Annual Giving, at Saint Mary's College share, how working with GiveGab allowed them to grow their efforts in utilizing timely and reliable data, enhancing the Ambassador and donor experience, and growing their even at scale during their annual Saint Mary's Donor Challenge.
Saint Mary’s College, located in Notre Dame, Indiana, has always been a leader in implementing creative alumnae engagement strategies. With approximately 1,400 students, this women’s liberal arts college has fostered a close-knit community with a dedicated and passionate alumnae base. These strong bonds have allowed Saint Mary’s to lead unified efforts to support the school.
Among those initiatives to drive alumnae engagement and philanthropy is their 24-hour Donor Challenge. Their first challenge was held in 2013, making Saint Mary’s College one of the early adopters of the Giving Day fundraising model. The 24-hour Donor Challenge was conceptualized to encourage young alumnae participation, but once the College saw its impact, the event opened to a wider audience of those who had a strong connection with giving back to Saint Mary’s fundraising efforts.
“The goals were set around young alumnae who hadn’t made a gift yet – it was very niche. And then it really took off the next year when we opened to any alumnae, and then later to anyone in the community. It is still a day where we see our alumnae participation increase significantly and has remained a way for us to encourage alumnae in giving to Saint Mary’s College.” - Danielle Mason
Strategic Initiative #1: Gain Access to Timely and Reliable Data
A significant challenge that Danielle & Kayla faced on their previous Giving Day platform was access to reliable, accurate, and quick data. Like other Giving Days, there is a sense of urgency created around the 24-hour Donor Challenge. It’s a day when the entire Saint Mary’s community is actively visiting the site to check the progress and see the impact of their collective gifts.
Additionally, donors and supporters are invested in seeing how close the school is to completing the challenge and there is a lot of excitement created around reaching those big milestones. The Saint Mary’s team was often held up in sharing these big wins and announcements due to having to run a report, analyze the results, and verify their accuracy.
“The timeliness of the data was something we had provided feedback [to our previous platform] for several years in a row and we just weren't seeing the kind of improvements that we needed. We send different communications throughout the day based on the number of donors that we have at a given time, and so it was important that we have the information that we need to strategize as best as we can.” - Kayla Thomas
Kayla also noted that inaccurate data would appear on their website, causing confusion among their donors and supporters.
“Our donor and school populations really care about the numbers. Before joining GiveGab, our leaderboard would freeze in place at various times, sometimes for up to an hour! We would get a lot of phone calls and emails. Donors and school administrators were concerned that the gifts they made weren't represented and would ask if the site was down." - Kayla Thomas
It was a priority for Saint Mary’s College to work with a technology platform that they could rely on to show the true impact of their Donor Challenge at any given time. They wanted to be confident in their ability to celebrate big wins and ensure that every donor could see the immediate impact of their gift.
Strategic Initiative #2: Enhance the Ambassador & Donor Experience
As the Donor Challenge grew, Danielle and Kayla were interested in new tools and features that would provide a better user experience for both their donors and their ambassadors. They wanted to create more opportunities to demonstrate the impact of each gift in fun and exciting ways. They also wanted to make it easier for the Ambassadors to create robust fundraising pages and provide them with the tools to share their efforts with their wider networks.
Kayla noted a key trend in fundraising that development teams across the Higher-Ed space were currently facing.
“Having worked in higher ed and now development, we are seeing as a trend across the board that fewer donors are giving more dollars. So, although a lot of schools are hitting their dollar goals, they are seeing a decrease in donor engagement. This is an unsustainable and unhealthy model. We need a large pool of donors, contributing to a wider variety of gifts coming in, it's just healthier overall for fundraising. We really want to make sure we are aware of this and are making it really easy for every kind of donor to feel comfortable giving to Saint Mary’s.” - Kayla Thomas
Ensuring that Saint Mary’s 24-hour Donor Challenge remained a great way to bring in new donors and provide them with fun and easy ways to give became an important strategy to combat this trend.
Strategic Initiative #3: Grow the Donor Challenge at Scale
With any fundraising event, there are administrative costs that need to be considered. While coordinating an online event can significantly reduce those costs when compared to hosting a luncheon or gala, or even processing and receipting checks received in the mail, they still play a role in how you can grow your efforts.
While both are necessary components of having a secure and reliable way to collect funds online—and can also reduce the upfront investment of the technology for the institution, some donors may not even know that every online transaction comes with these costs, and what the impact is to your bottom line.
The Saint Mary’s team was interested in finding a solution that would help offset the cost of their Donor Challenge while also educating donors on the full impact of their gift.
When asked if Saint Mary’s team had any final advice to similar-sized colleges considering hosting a Giving Day with GiveGab, Kayla shared:
“Our advice to smaller colleges hoping to work with GiveGab is to be really transparent about the capacity of your school. With all that is offered, we first thought that working with GiveGab would be outside of our budget and were disappointed because they were exactly what we were looking for. We were straightforward about what we were able to afford, and the Engagement Team was able to customize a contract and a package that worked for us and included everything we needed and more!” - Kayla Thomas
Saint Mary's 24-hour Donor Challenge 2022 Results
Raised from Fundraising Ambassadors
Donors Opted to Cover Processing Fees
Matching and Challenge Funds Unlocked
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