#moveUVM: a Case Study of a Successful Campaign

This past week, hundreds of schools welcomed students and families to campus; many of who were new to those communities. Move-in day is a whirlwind of meeting your roommates for the first time, unpacking boxes, figuring out where everything is on campus, and coming to grips with the reality that the years ahead will be consumed and multiplied by this new place.

It’s no wonder, with all it stands for, that schools are looking at move-in day as a unique engagement opportunity. It’s a halcyon moment for alumni and perhaps the most exciting day in a freshman’s life to-date.

The University of Vermont Foundation took the opportunity to provide a welcome to new Catamounts and to deliver their first ever day giving campaign. The day long campaign was led by Kevin Morgenstein Fuerst, Senior Director of Annual Giving, and a cross-campus team.  Below is an interview with Kevin on the program, how they executed, and what they learned (and earned!).

QuadWrangle: What was the genesis of the campaign?

Kevin: This idea had trickled down from our President and CEO, Rich Bundy. His sense was, ‘We need to do something different with annual giving, so let’s try a day of giving.’

This was our [UVM’s] first, true day of giving.

QuadWrangle: Did President Bundy have a match donor in mind?

Kevin: Not to start, but once we started planning, Rich was able to share the theme and approach with some of our most invested supporters

QuadWrangle: How did you arrive at the strategy?

Kevin: Some of it is from my own background.  I’m an alumnus of Colgate University and modeled some of our strategy after their successful day of giving.  But, the bulk of the strategy came from a partnership between myself on the annual giving side, our UVM Foundation communications office, and UVM communications office. 

QuadWrangle: With regards to other schools with a day of giving, whom else did you take a signal from?

We looked at Columbia because theirs is the biggest day of giving; the most complicated, and they have replicated it.

Before coming to the foundation I was at Middlebury College where we had successfully executed month-long and week-long challenges. 

We tried to look at day of giving websites and social media accounts from a variety of schools to see what we’re [other schools] doing leading up? Day of? Day after?

QuadWrangle: Tell us about the day of the Move-In Giving Day.

Kevin: Our headquarters was in our student center. It was a public facing headquarters.

We essentially set ourselves up like a  student activity tabling for a specific purpose.

We worked incredibly hard in the planning process to involve partners on campus. All that bridge building was critical.

With our content, we felt that it should be fun. A lot of fundraising appeals can be very dry. If we weren’t having fun writing these messages and sending them out, then we wouldn’t be very successful.

QuadWrangle: What were the metrics of success? How did you perform against those goals?

Kevin: Our initial goal was 250 gifts and if we reached that, our challenge donor would make a $25,000 gift. 

We knew we would be primarily messaging through email and social media and those had not been successful communication channels in the past [at UVM], so we aimed for a modest goal of 250 [gifts].

We ended up with 512 gifts representing 801 donors, so we more than doubled our goals.

We raised close to $40,000 outside of the $50,000 challenge gift. All in all, $90K.

QuadWrangle: Were any of the donors new to world?

Kevin: Out of that 801, 205 of them were first-time donors. That’s pretty significant. 

We saw a very strong response from parents. Out of the 801, 211 donors were parents. 

We had 134 friends make a gift, which is unusual for us. We have a fairly strong friend group, but for them to make up this large a proportion was great for us. Even my in-laws made a gift.

QuadWrangle: What is it about this campaign do you think brought in new donors?

Kevin: I think some of it is specific to our institution. We had never done something like this before. It was new. It was exciting.

We weren’t just asking for money. We were coupling our challenge with other ways to roll out a huge welcome mat for the class of 2018. 

We asked for people to give a piece of advice to the class of 2018. We took some of that content and pushed it out via social media and in one of our solicitations. You could share a picture or memories of your own move-in day on social media. 

There were lots of different ways to engage other than just giving money. It needed to be a community event. The fundraising part needed to be a part of it, but it couldn’t be exclusive.

QuadWrangle: Will you do this again?

I think it’s a very repeatable day. I think for us, the questions we need to ask is if this is something our community and our alumni and parent body will want to see again. Is this something we want to make a tradition?

From all of us at QuadWrangle, congratulations, UVM!

Nick Zeckets