How can we bring alumni together and raise money?
Transforming digital philanthropy for a renowned university
During the past two years, we’ve run three successful alumni digital fundraising campaigns for Howard University, a historically black university based in D.C. and chartered by Congress just after the Civil War.
Howard is an impactful brand. It has been one of the most consequential HBCUs in the country for more than 150 years. And like every university, Howard faces an evergreen challenge: creating and maintaining donor relationships with students post-graduation.
Our job was to help Howard build those relationships with alumni online — and, ultimately, drive them to give.
Leverage unique moments and speak directly to the alumni experience
Howard has an expansive community of alumni, donors, and friends stretched across email and social channels. So we had a built-in audience filled with Howard pride — now, we needed to reach them.
After doing some early research, we knew the best way to activate this community would be to tap into their Howard memories and their shared passion for the University. And after talking to the client, we knew we would have to put a dedicated fundraising track in place.
Our digital fundraising campaigns engaged the community by embracing unique voices and stories that reflected extraordinary Howard moments, memories, and experiences — things that reminded our supporters about the incredible experience of being on campus. In fact, during our very first fundraising campaign, we were able to capitalize on a historic moment: Then-President Obama was giving the 2016 Commencement speech. This significant moment not only inspired a quick-moving fundraising campaign, but it presented an opportunity to acquire new alumni who weren’t yet a part of our digital community — and those new alumni emails we acquired would prove incredibly valuable over the next two end-of-year fundraising campaigns.
Embracing Howard during two end-of-year fundraising drives
After Commencement 2016, we worked with Howard to fundraise during two subsequent year-end fundraising campaigns. We relied on tried-and-true tactics and dug deep on the hard strategy work necessary to make sure our approach resonated with our audience. So we did even more research, having honest conversations with both our clients and with Howard alumni about what might make them give to the University. And we tapped into that energy. We highlighted moments like Homecoming. We focused on the historical — and future — importance of the University. We leveraged unique guest senders who could tell stories about Howard in real, authentic ways that reminded alumni and friends of their Howard experience. And we met our audience where they were, with social media content focused on the value of participation and showing support for the entire University community.
Unprecedented fundraising success for a historic university
Our 2016 year-end campaign raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from thousands of donors, and we raised even more money from more donors in 2017. In all, our efforts have more than doubled Howard’s digital EOY revenue in just two years. Above all, these two year-end drives demonstrated definitively that an alumni community will give when reminded of the impact, influence, and importance of their alma mater.