University’s Fundraising Campaign ‘Bombs’

June 4, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Saint Peter’s University bombed again — Donorbombed, to be exact. Inspired by former presidential candidate Ron Paul’s 24-hour fundraisers known as Money Bombs, the Jersey City, N.J. university ran its second so-called donorbomb, titled “Let’s Do It Again May 10.” This year’s campaign follows on the heels of last year’s, called “Let’s Get It Done June 1.”

The 2012 campaign sought to acquire 140 new donors for the university’s 140th anniversary. It exceeded that goal, garnering 382 new donors and raising approximately $90,000. This year, the Office of Advancement and External Affairs set its sights higher, at 424 new donors, and again exceed its goal, with 458 donors.

“There’s not much rhyme or reason” to the arbitrary-sounding goal of 424 donors, said Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs Michael Fazio. “It’s a little more than 10 percent of last year’s donors. We were doing it for 24 hours, so we decided on 424.”

Although this year’s initiative grabbed 76 more donors than last year, it raised about $86,000, roughly $4,000 less. The lower fundraising total doesn’t worry Fazio. “This is an exercise of donor acquisition for us. We received donors who had already given this year, but we were really looking to get new donors,” he said. “We’re still doing the analysis, but it seems like new donors and donors who gave last year but not this year account for the vast majority” of the 458 donors.

The campaign consisted of a two-postcard mailing, first to about 16,000 recent graduates and lapsed donors in mid-April. The university then pared that pool down to include only recent graduates and donors who had given in the past few years, said Fazio. Those roughly 10,000 prospects received the postcards between one and four days out. “It was more of the recency of (the second pool’s) giving,” he said. “The broader pool was people who perhaps hadn’t given in several years, and the second was one or two years.”

The university aggressively pushed the initiative on its social media networks, sent three emails on May 10, and had advancement staff and an outside telemarketing firm calling prospects all day. A personalized URL on the postcards brought prospects to a personalized landing page where they could make a pledge or set up a reminder.

The first postcard said “424 donors. 24 hours. Let’s Do It Again May 10” on the front, and repeated that copy on the back, with a box that said “St. Peter’s University is reaching higher. You can help us reach our goal of recruiting 424 new donors in one day! Every gift and every donor makes a difference.” The second went with “We’re reaching higher” on the front, and on the back a breakdown of what $10, $25 and $50 gifts can do.

The campaign cost about $11,000 in postage and printing, according to Fazio. He said fees for the telemarketing company were calculated separately as part of the company’s service contract and was not included in the campaign. Donors were directed to a fund for the Student Center, which was opened in mid-March and for which approximately $27 million of the $35 million the building cost has been raised, said Fazio. However, donors were free to give to the unrestricted fund or specific programs, “whatever was most meaningful to them,” he said.