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Content Strategy

Content must-haves for your next fundraising campaign.

Ashley Budd • 4 minutes

Colleges and universities along with many other nonprofits have used crowdfunding campaigns to drive giving participation.

Giving Days fall into the crowdfunding category. They are a fun and effective way to boost online participation. The 24-hour fundraising window requires what I deem a marketing sprint.

If you can create two weeks of highly visible awareness marketing, you will have an audience that is excited and ready to act on the big day. I’ve gathered a few content ideas to inspire your followers to participate in your next Giving Day.

Personalized Email

The majority of your staff time should be spent getting personalized email messaging right. Philanthropy is a feel-good experience. The second we have turned someone off, we’ve lost them. Spend extra time with audience segmentation and writing to make the reader feel like you know who they are. Then, get to the point. Make messaging brief and the call to action clear.

With personalized emails, make messaging brief and the call to action clear.

During Cornell University’s 2015 Giving Day the central email campaign using a custom audience segmentation was the number one source of revenue online, resulting in a quarter of the site traffic that day and over $600,000 in gifts.

Sample audience segmentation

International addresses
Donor behavior
Brand fans — volunteers, staff, etc.

Large online fundraising efforts are meant to bring in a diverse group of donors. You don’t have to segment your audience into every generation, but if you are going to pick one to speak differently to — pick young alumni.

International addresses should get special attention on Giving Day. The time of day they experience your event might be at a slow time for your main audience. Encourage them to keep the momentum going through the wee hours of the campaign.

It’s standard practice to segment your donor audience by past giving behavior. If anyone deserves special treatment on your Giving Day, it is your most loyal donors. As the leaders in your donor community, they should asked to be ambassadors for the campaign.

Last, show your brand fans some love. They might not give every year, but they sure do care. Remember to show gratitude to your your volunteers, staff, and students when soliciting them on Giving Day. They give in other ways that really matter.


The goal of the two week marketing sprint is to generate awareness and excitement leading up to the main event. This concentrated amount of time lets you reach a large audience, grab their attention, and keep it long enough participate. Each message is paired with a clear call to action —save the date.

Sample email schedule:

Two weeks out — Save-the-date
10 days out — Teaser 1
7 days out — Teaser 2
3 days out — Most personalized message
Day before — Final reminder
Day of — Up to three reminders

Teaser content is meant to build hype and should be highly shareable. Light-hearted, visually appealing, or funny — again with a clear “save-the-date” call to action.

These three teaser videos were created for Cornell’s first Giving Day in March of 2015.

The week of your event the number of email reminders can vary depending on your audience’s tolerance for inbox crowding. After a gift is made on Giving Day it is best practice to send an immediate thank-you acknowledgements and to suspend any additional reminders.

A 24-hour feed

You don’t have to host a 24-hour live broadcast, like Keith Hannon did. You do, however, need a plan for content that fills the entire day. This is a day to be all over the internet, all day long.

Ambassador programs

Guarantee social media support. Recruit your biggest fans to help you spread the word. Platforms like SocialToaster have become popular social media ambassador tools for mobilizing large audiences. Begin recruiting social media ambassadors at least three months prior to your Giving Day in order to run a recruitment challenge. Give ambassadors points for each new person they recruit then select your top recruiters to win a prize.

Prime your ambassadors with content to share before Giving Day. Tell them why you are asking them to share a specific piece of content with their networks. Find out what kinds of messages they are willing to share and on which networks.

On Giving Day, use the power of your social ambassadors to send reminders, updates, and milestone achievements.


Buy the feed. Paid media on our favorite social networks has never been better at reaching our audiences. Support your email marketing by retargeting your calls to action with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ads. Upload your email lists to their advertising platforms to match your content with their users. Place a pixel (a snippet of code) on your website to retarget visitors on social sites.


You don’t always have to pay to play. Social media challenges encourage followers to keep your content buzzing all day long. Are you offering monetary challenges for your Giving Day? Consider unlocking some extra challenge money for likes or tweets.

Instagram challenge

Encourage your followers to like your photo (or in this case high-five a mascot) using Instagram’s double-tap to like feature. After your chosen number of likes, unlock a challenge gift for your Giving Day. Choose a number of likes larger than your follower list. This will drive your followers to help spread the word to others on Instagram without having to spend a dime.

Join the Touchdown double-tap challenge! 300 likes will unlock a $2,500 gift for #cornellgivingday. Give your favorite bear a high five!

A photo posted by Cornell Alumni (@cornellalumni) on

Trivia challenge

Share campus trivia or create another game for your followers to play on Giving Day. After a certain number of people have played the game, unlock additional challenge money.

Trivia Challenge

Facebook comment challenge

Create a dialog on Facebook. Ask your audience to share why they are proud to be a part of your community. After a certain number of responses, unlock additional challenge money for your Giving Day.

Facebook challenge

Hashtag challenge

Reward your followers for creating a buzz! After a certain number of uses of your Giving Day hashtag, unlock additional challenge money for your Giving Day.

Hashtag challange

Content must-haves for your next fundraising campaign.

About the Author

Ashley Budd

Director of Digital Marketing, Cornell University

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