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How Purdue blew fundraising records out of the water-in 1 day

How Purdue University leveraged social media to set the fundraising record for most money raised for higher education in a single day.

Purdue University is a large research university based in West Lafayette, Indiana, and each year we host a fundraiser called Purdue Day of Giving. The event invites the Purdue community to come together for 24 hours to grant opportunities and transform lives.

In its fourth year, we knew we had to find fresh ways to interact with and engage our audience—students, alumni, parents, friends, retirees, faculty, and staff—in order for the fundraising campaign to beat last year’s numbers.

We decided to take advantage of the huge reach of social media, and conducted a coordinated campaign across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn—an approach that played a key role in breaking our record.

A few ways we used social media to increase our numbers include:

1. Social Listening

During the campaign, we took advantage of a tool called Hootsuite, which allowed us to monitor social media channels for mentions of our organization and for hashtags related to our day of giving. We used keyword search streams to listen to our target audience and inform our campaign strategy, which helped us raise awareness for the event, better interact with supporters, and boost audience engagement.

We also set up Hootsuite Insights’ streams for our hashtags #IGave and #PurdueDayofGiving. These dedicated streams monitored every mention of our hashtags, beyond our own social channels, and allowed our social media team to observe all online conversations in one place.

With every donor who used #IGave and #PurdueDayofGiving, the team was able to efficiently act on these online discussions and respond accordingly; this streamlined our social media monitoring activity and helped us increase engagement speed.

This year, we sent out a total of 218 thank-you videos in response to uses of #IGave, featuring a personalized short video or an Instagram Boomerang, and received over 34 million impressions throughout the campaign.

(Next page: Fundraising via social media tips 2-3)

2. Facilitating Engagement Through Creative Challenges

As a new way to engage donors and raise awareness of Purdue Day of Giving, we kicked off the campaign with a Snapchat scavenger hunt, video sharing challenge, and user-generated content challenge.

These activities encouraged students to participate—with the incentive of prizes and bonus money—and helped build anticipation before the day of the event. On Purdue Day of Giving, 62 participating units competed against each other to claim the top spot on the donation and participation leaderboards.

Game theory was used to drive competition and donations on the day through leaderboard challenges and 33 hourly challenges through which participants could earn bonus money, provided by the university’s development office, for their favorite campus units.

As participants in challenges such as “Most Creative Purdue Day of Giving Selfie,” users submitted more than 9,000 pieces of user-generated content. Having Hootsuite streams meant the team could sort through submissions efficiently and repurpose the user-generated content to generate excitement for the day’s activities.

3. Social Post Automation

Because social media posts were scheduled in advance through Hootsuite, we were able to focus on what was happening in real time, which was essential because of the amount of activity happening. With the time saved by scheduling the posts, we made our ‘thank-you’ videos even more personal.

A large part of this year’s social media strategy focused on user engagement.

By better coordinating our social listening efforts in Hootsuite, we connected on a more personal level with our target audience through customized thank-you videos and responded to 100 percent of donors who used both of our hashtags.

Thanks to our social campaign and engagement from our donors, Purdue Day of Giving surpassed our goals in terms of the numbers of donors, the number of international supporters (an increase of 87 percent), and global impressions. This approach helped us set the record for most dollars raised for higher education through a single-day campaign—an astounding $28.2 million!

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