University’s Postcard ‘Bombing’ Actually A Good Thing

If you followed the 2012 presidential primaries, you might have heard of candidate Ron Paul’s 24-hour fundraising initiatives known as Money Bombs. Well, so did staff in the Advancement and External Affairs department of Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J.

That’s why 16,000 lapsed donors and recent graduates received postcards exhorting them to reactivate or donate to the university for the first time.

Saint Peter’s, in celebration of its 140th anniversary this past May, sought to gain 140 new donors in one day. The initiative was officially called “Let’s Get It Done June 1,” but it was known internally as “Donorbomb.”

The initiative garnered more than two-and-a-half times the targeted number of donors — 382, according to Vice President for Advancement and External Affairs Michael Fazio. It raised approximately $90,000 in one day. “Our expectations were certainly blown away,” Fazio said.

The university sent three waves of postcards. The first wave went out in early May and consisted of standard-sized postcards. It went to 16,000 former donors and recent graduates. In mid-May, staffers pared down the initial 16,000 to 10,000 people who had donated within the past two or three years. A week before June 1, about 2,000 donors who had given $1,000 or more in the last year received one more postcard.

The tagline “140 donors. 24 hours. Let’s Get It Done June 1,” took up the front of the postcards. On the back was an ask stream of $5, $10 and $20, with possible uses for each. Gas for a service trip would cost $700 (140 donors giving $5), $1,400 buys a year’s worth of textbooks for a student, and 140 donors giving $20 each would allow for computer upgrades.

A personalized URL (PURL) was at the bottom of the card that would take the donor to a unique landing page. The university set up a stand-alone website, engaged in a social media campaign around the initiative, and advancement staff and a telemarketing company were on the phone with postcard recipients all day.

The average gift was about $100, said Fazio. Most of the $90,000 was donated via credit card or arrived in the mail, with very few pledges. Funds went to the donor’s choice, though the university suggested giving to its annual campaign (an unrestricted fund) or toward the new student center, slated to open early this year. The total cost for the project was about $12,000.

Recipients were recent graduates, as well as lapsed donors who had given on “typically the smaller end, $10 gifts, $50 gifts,” said Fazio. “And for those non-donors, especially the younger generation who might be out of school for only a year or two, it might be an entry point into philanthropy. Because it was a new and inventive approach to philanthropy, we wanted to make sure our younger audience was in the loop,” he said.

Fazio said Saint Peter’s is planning another donorbomb for May 1. “One thing we found was that the younger demographic responds very well to instant gratification, something that was a very short window,” he said. “It told us that we need to get a little more inventive in messaging to and interacting with donors, especially with those donors who are not leadership donors (gifts of at least $1,000). You have to stand out,” said Fazio.  NPT