6 mobile-friendly donation actions for fundraising success

How strong mobile giving platforms and social media promotions can fuel your advancement campaign
By: | July 17, 2019
Here are six university fundraising strategies recommended by advancement administrators who are making headway in receiving donations using mobile fundraising platforms.

It’s a reality that advancement officers face: Many younger alumni don’t have landlines and don’t use checkbooks—meaning direct mail and phone contacts aren’t going to cut it. So a growing number of colleges and universities are focusing on online outreach and setting up mobile fundraising platforms to encourage giving, particularly from younger alumni.

Philanthropy research backs up that strategy. Nearly one-quarter of all online giving transactions in 2018 were made using a mobile device, according to the Blackbaud Institute’s “2018 Charitable Giving Report.”. That’s up from about one in five the prior year.

Yet higher ed institutions’ giving websites still struggle to keep up with the latest innovations in mobile fundraising in this age of easy-to-navigate GoFundMe campaigns and Amazon one-click shopping.

Here are six university fundraising strategies recommended by advancement administrators who are making headway in receiving donations via mobile transactions.

1. Simplify giving forms.

Donors should be able to complete a gift transaction within a minute, and prefilled forms help make that happen, alumni research from Corporate Insight has found.

In addition, when needing to populate fields, donors don’t want to have to scroll or flip their screens horizontally.

Allowing gift-givers to use PayPal is one strategy that has worked for some higher ed administrators without the resources to add their own one-click transactions. However, a contract with a campus payment solution platform could prevent an institution from adding a PayPal button.

Also, keep in mind that most popular payment platforms will take a percentage of each donation as a fee.

Some advancement teams have been able to connect an email marketing “give now” link to a personalized website with a form that has basic information (but not payment information) prefilled.

The overall goal: Shorten the time a donor must spend on the form in any way possible.

2. Provide choice and build excitement.

Crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, allow donors to earmark contributions to a particular cause—making higher ed gift-givers less eager overall to donate to a general fund.

So giving sites should offer options to earmark a gift to a specific cause or effort. For example, Middle Tennessee State University’s online giving form notes 15 different ways to earmark the gift—including the annual fund, a particular academic college, athletics or scholarships. There’s even an “other” option, allowing a donor to be more specific.

Crowdfunding also helps attract first-time donors, with 31% of advancement professionals identifying it as the most effective tactic for new donor acquisition (tied with giving days), according to a 2017 research report by Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

The savviest schools don’t just collect the one-time donation, though. They gain insights into what each donor is passionate about for help in building an ongoing relationship.

3. Choose the right partners.

Moving toward a better mobile giving experience often involves finding a provider to help.

Administrators suggest seeking a partner with experience in higher education and a solution that offers data analytics and reporting tools. Also, consider that any platform must play well with the current setup. Don’t underestimate the system integration piece or purchase a system without ample tech support.

4. Use giving days to experiment with tools.

Days of giving have become quite popular—not only for generating large numbers of donations in a 24-hour period, but also for engaging alumni online in the future.

Administrators often add the option of texting in a donation during these days as well.


Read: Helping mid- and senior-level campus administrators gain comfort and experience with fundraising


Gamification is another way to boost the success of such events and more. For example, a college could announce hourly and full-day challenges that give donors the chance to earn bonus funds for their favorite student group. This tactic inspires some friendly competition among various alumni classes and groups.

Boston University’s 2019 BU Giving Day included six hourly challenges to encourage donations at a particular hour or time block of the day. From 11 a.m. to noon, for example, the donor from the oldest graduating class earned an extra $1,000 for the cause they supported—resulting in the chemistry and biology departments getting those funds, thanks to a class of 1956 donor.

No matter what the back end of a giving day involves, be sure to consider afterward what could have made the user’s mobile experience easier or more intuitive.

5. Deploy digital ambassadors on social media.

Advancement teams often amplify their fundraising messages on social media by deploying alumni volunteers (sometimes called digital ambassadors or advocates) who donate their time to encourage giving. And it’s not uncommon for a school to get a big return on this small investment.

Fundraising platforms may even be able to provide training to the ambassadors on how to become a successful advocate for the school—including examples of posts that have performed well in the past.

The payment to these volunteers, who generally post from their personal accounts and tag the school, can be in the form of free T-shirts or other prizes.

6. Continuously strive for a better experience.

Experts say remaining competitive on generating mobile donations involves creating a plan focused on connecting with people via both social media and mobile devices.

Further shifts toward making giving easier, faster and even fun are worth spending time developing. After all, it’s about meeting donor expectations.

Read the original story, “Higher ed fuels donations.”


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