Higher Education Institutions
North America

$3.5 Million in 24 Hours: How Brown University Achieved #GivingTuesday Triumph

Brown University recognized the potential to rally a far-reaching community of support on #GivingTuesday but needed the right tools and strategy to drive success. With the right customer and relationship management solution in place, an easy-to navigate website, and strategic segmentation, Brown grew its fundraising by 63% year over year.

Fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, #GivingTuesday is a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy across the globe. Over 40,000 organizations participated and raised more than $380 million in 2018 alone, with some of the largest campaigns held by higher education institutions. When it comes to giving from the heart, Brown University supporters came out in full force for #GivingTuesday 2018, making it the single biggest giving day in Brown Annual Fund history.

Brown University—a centuries-old, independent, and coeducational Ivy League institution in Rhode Island—experienced an impressive 833% increase in funds raised on this day since launching its first #GivingTuesday campaign in 2014.

More than 5,000 members of the Brown community came together to help raise over $3.5 million to make #GivingTuesday 2018 one for the record books. The Brown team achieved this drastic uptick by making a few key modifications to their approach using Blackbaud solutions, according to Jeanne Pecha, vice president of advancement services and development support.

“By shifting our campaign strategy, leveraging a centralized website powered by innovative technology and a comprehensive CRM, and tapping into well-organized fundraising groups and staff, we were able to achieve our strongest #GivingTuesday yet,” Pecha said. “We were thrilled to see the level of generosity and know that the gifts received will have significant impact on the university. The giving microsite made it fun for donors to see their gift make a difference and allowed our volunteers to see progress in real time.”

Shifting Strategy for Greater Results

In its early years of participation, Brown’s #GivingTuesday campaign achieved slow annual growth. The team soon realized they needed a change in strategy for the campaign to make a significant difference for the university.

In 2018, the Brown Annual Fund joined forces with athletics on #GivingTuesday. By integrating their campaigns, they were able to create a broader giving day for Brown and offer a much more unique appeal for donors.

In addition to the 4,500 Brown Annual Fund donors giving over $3 million, Brown supporters, known as Brunonians, stepped up to the plate to support the Sports Foundation. Together, they raised more than $500,000 for Brown’s student athletes.

Growing Participation Across Campus

To boost excitement and funds raised, the Brown team tapped their additional fundraising groups on and off campus. Brown’s staff personally contacted hundreds of alumni and parents to share information about the campaign. The Student Philanthropy Council also encouraged more than 500 students on campus to get involved through fundraising conversations and trivia games.

The Brown team equipped its more than 1,000 annual fund volunteers with individualized toolkits following pre-calls. Prepared content for everything from calling scripts to social media to email templates helped empower and mobilize dedicated volunteers; it also ensured consistent messaging. One class alone received 194 gifts, largely due to volunteer outreach.

Building Engagement with One Dynamic Website

Having a single, centralized website with campaign information, easy-to-make web transactions, and real-time fundraising data was crucial to Brown’s success. It eliminated the possibility of confusion with multiple microsites or web pages, while also allowing the university to more effectively engage with donors.

“By leveraging Blackbaud CRM and Blackbaud Internet Solutions, we were able to show the dollars being raised and how everyone’s total was growing in real time,” Pecha said. “It added to the experience and the value of what we were able to offer.”

Strategies for Future Success

Never content to stand still, the Brown team is already thinking of how they can build on this success and improve strategies for the next #GivingTuesday campaign. A few initial thoughts are to:

  • Increase awareness on campus and get more staff and students involved
  • Refine their strategic plans with an in-depth channel analysis
  • Implement new strategies for increasing the volunteer base
  • Encourage class challenges and overall matching gifts on the day
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