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Top Online Fundraising Ideas for Higher Education

Alumni both young and old are relying more and more on technology to donate to their alma mater. In 2016, online giving grew 7.9% for the nonprofit sector but in the higher education sector the growth was a stunning 12.3%.

So online campaigns for giving and engagement are a must for all nonprofits, but even more crucial for higher education institutions because of the particularly rapid increase in their online giving numbers.

This week, we’ve reviewed the online interaction being used by well-known colleges and universities to provide you with the top online campaigns for higher education fundraising.

Social Media

Younger alumni generations like Millennials and iGen’s are much more likely to engage on social media which means that this form of outreach is more a necessity than an option these days. The trend is also spreading across generations – many older individuals are tech savvy and using well known social media platforms as well.

When it comes to social media, Facebook has the largest user base but there is also Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Snapchat to take into account. For each platform, there is a high level of creativity required to create a message that will capture the attention of your alumni and donors. Think – Snapchat filters with school logos, inspiring videos on Facebook or LinkedIn, a photo worth a million words on Instagram, or a or a thought-provoking message on Twitter all with the same goal – attract more followers, inspire them to share, and make a connection with them. Take a look at some of these top social media campaigns to get some new ideas.

Flash Online Fundraisers

Nonprofits use flash online fundraisers to add a sense of urgency to their campaigns. With a persuasive email or message on social media and a limited time period, these flash fundraisers tend to provoke a rush of last-minute donations. Colleges and universities can use a similar tactic to get a surge of donations that are particularly effective towards the end of a campaign.

Princeton University had great success with their first flash email fundraiser. Their email, sent to alumni worldwide, was aimed at the heart with nostalgic photos and videos of students and alumni on campus. “Our goal was to set a context for giving by reminding constituents of their connection to the university and the importance of their support,” said Judith Friedman, director of the Office of Development Communications. It was a success – their online giving rose 300% in the days following the email campaign.

Capital Campaign Websites

Often the biggest fundraising efforts in higher education are made for capital campaigns – new buildings, student housing, research funding, etc. It is common for schools to dedicate a separate web page to these campaigns so alumni and donors can browse through every detail of the initiative. Moreover, this online form of engagement serves as a portal (that should be very user-friendly) to make their online gift.

Take a look at this list of top capital campaign websites from various colleges and universities such as Boston College, University of Texas Austin and University of California Los Angeles. They are engaging donors with inspiring videos, catchy lines and memorable photography on these top capital campaign efforts.

#GivingTuesday has undoubtedly grown to become the biggest day of giving of the year and it is a huge online movement. From hashtag activism to promotional social media videos, this day has become a major online focus for most nonprofits and higher education fundraisers.

#GivingTuesday has brought about a plethora creative online fundraising ideas including virtual partiesonline fundraising challenges, real-time donation updates, and more. Take a look at our #GivingTuesday blog to read more about this day of charitable giving.

Most online giving is spurred by online appeals, so the better your online outreach the more online response to can hope for. Social media and various other online engagements have made peer-to-peer interactions the key to promoting any institution. If done well, this form of engagement and charitable giving can be very effective and efficient.


Sources & Additional Reading

[5] Winners At Heart,

[7] Giving Blue Day 2017,


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