Annual Fund Marketing Program

one word. one gift. annual fund

When Cheshire Academy launched its “One Word. One Gift.” annual fund marketing campaign at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, we had no idea how successful it would be.

This two-year branded annual fund marketing campaign combined traditional print marketing with email, digital and social media marketing, as well as organic development outreach to reconnect with current and past constituents. Designed to engage constituents in a two-part interaction with the school, this endeavor asked donors to remember what they love about Cheshire Academy by choosing one word to represent their experiences, and then make one gift to the annual fund in honor of that word.

The goal was to engage alumni, increase annual fund participation, and increase the total amount raised for the annual fund.

How “One Word. One Gift” was Developed.

This marketing campaign came after a failed, “Tell Us Your CA Story” annual giving program during the 2013-2014 academic year. CA Story was designed to engage donors by soliciting both stories and donations from current and past constituents about their Cheshire Academy experiences. Very few stories were submitted and the annual fund fell just shy of its goals, raising only 92% of the intended amount.

When the CA Stories effort faltered, we were able to use those experiences to drive a better strategy for the next year. This strategy involved minimizing the effort we ask of our donors to participate (give us one word versus a paragraph or longer) and allowing them to choose a meaningful memory to them to honor with a gift online. We focused on nurturing relationships and asking constituents to reminisce, which gave them the inspiration to give in honor of their own experiences.  

The concept came out of a meeting with the development office in which frustrations from the previous year were aired, goals were shared, and the previous year’s marketing campaign was analyzed. With an alumni director who wanted, “just one gift” from a group of disconnected alumni and my own declaration of, “forget a story, I just want one word,” One Word. One Gift. was born.

A crucial component of success is that the concept was fully embraced by both the Strategic Marketing & Communications team and the Development & Alumni Relations Office.

The Target Audience

The One Word endeavor targeted the full Cheshire Academy constituency: parents, alumni, past parents, friends, and donors.

Even current students got involved and made annual fund gifts in honor of their words.

The Goals

The initiative had a three-part goal of increasing overall participation in the Annual Fund, increasing online donations, and engaging donors in meaningful conversation. These goals aligned with the goals set in our strategic plan that called for the Academy to increase support through Annual Giving.

The Implementation

The concept was simple, and we kept the implementation of it simple, too. In fact, the first print publication was a clean and simple postcard that outlined the marketing campaign.

We outlined a strategy that combined print and digital outreach that worked together to reach our constituents in the ways they wanted to hear from us. Simple postcards directed people online, detailed brochures contained BREs, and digital appeals connected them straight to the giving page, which was branded with One Word. Social media outreach supported the effort, with several outlets sharing the message. Facebook galleries were made with graphics that showcased words that had been shared with us, tweets went out highlighting words, and YouTube videos were posted.

An example of the designed brochure that was sent out to donors can be found here.

The results

From the start, this endeavor resulted in strong positive anecdotal feedback, with multiple donors expressing positive reactions to the concept. This was the first occasion in recent history in which donors voluntarily reached out to us to comment favorably on an annual giving effort.

We also saw hard numbers that supported our overwhelming success of the effort by the end of the 2014-2015 school year. In total, we saw a 15% increase in funds raised and 20% increase in donors as part of this effort. In addition, the Academy has seen more than an 800% increase in online gifts and more than 2,000% increase in total funds raised via online gifts. The most staggering measurement of success is the participation rate for One Word submissions. Compared to our story submissions from the previous year, One Word submissions are up more than 4,000%. Of those who submitted words as part of One Word, 28% were new donors.

We attribute much of the specific One Word success to taking a multi-channel approach, combining regular print and digital outreach with personal contact from the development office. The repeated touches have allowed us to share updates on success and share stories, which help us make emotional connections with donors. In addition to this growing outreach, we also attribute One Word success to the fact that both the Strategic Marketing & Communications team and the Alumni & Development team embraced the effort and worked the language into everyday conversations. 

Awards Received

The campaign won two awards for its success:
• 2016 CASE District 1 Silver Award for Annual Fund Programs
• 2016 CASE Circle of Excellence Silver Award for Annual Fund Programs (38 entries)

A testament to our work, we didn’t simply compete in categories for independent schools, and put our campaign up against some of the best colleges in the country. In the District 1 awards, we were exceptionally proud to fall between the Gold Award Winner of Boston University and the Bronze Winner of Dartmouth College. In the CASE COE awards, which had nearly 40 campaigns submitted for consideration, we were equally proud to be listed among the other recipients, including Gold Winner Wake Forest University and Bronze Winner Miami University (OH).

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