This week's feature is an interview with Jake Strang, now the Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement for the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Jake was, until recently, the Senior Associate Director of Annual Fund Program for Columbia University, where he played a role in the establishment of Columbia Giving Day, among many other things. Columbia Giving Day has become a tradition at Columbia, raising over $14 million in 24 hours this year. Jake started his career in fundraising as a Carolina Caller at the University of South Carolina, when I managed the call center. I'm so proud of his success!
I asked Jake some questions about getting started with giving days and what strategies have been the most successful in his experience.
*Giving Tuesday is a campaign to make the Tuesday after Thanksgiving dedicated to charitable giving, countering the commercial focus of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
No one department is responsible for a successful giving day. Working with your team is really the key to making the day a success. Often, creative solutions are needed to accomplish the overall goal and strong partnerships are what make it possible. Giving Days must be a team effort between everyone from annual giving to gift processing to web initiatives and marketing and communications. Without bringing in the full team and having support from senior management giving days can see only limited success.
Challenge Matches and Incentives
Challenge matches and incentives are another essential part of giving days. As fundraisers, we need to ask ourselves what our donors are asking themselves, “Why today?!” The answer is to make the gift go further via matching funds, engage new and returning audiences, build social reach, and set organization records. Among other reasons, this is why the giving day model truly works. Donors want to know they’ve made a difference, not just by giving but also by giving on this particular day. More and more we see the rise of the digital age in giving. How do you get donors interested and how do you keep them coming back? By providing live updates on the day, hourly challenges and friendly competition, donors are incentivized to come back and check on the progress throughout the day…and hopefully make an additional gift if they’re engaged!
Don’t be afraid to innovate and try new things. Giving Days are a great platform for my two favorite words “pilot program.” Because the campaign is only 24 hours, it is special and should be treated as such. Giving days are a great place to test new ideas on a small scale and build them out once you see the response of your audience. At Columbia, we used Columbia Giving Day as an innovation springboard. Numerous pilot programs and technologies were created and then reused in everyday giving because they started on Giving Day.
By "gamificating" our ambassadors, they were encouraged to post, share, and get likes/comments on their status updates. We gave away prizes to our top ambassadors to reward them. We actually found that in year 1, our top ambassador was an international non-donor who made his first gift on Giving Day. After the success of the program, we later transitioned it to the Alumni Association who has continued to build and see success with engaging volunteers across the US and internationally in this way! Throughout the year, ambassadors are supplied content from events, graduation, as well as other top performing social posts keeping them engaged as they promote on behalf of the school.
More about Jake Strang: With over a decade of fundraising experience, Jake Strang currently serves as the Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, PA. He is responsible for overseeing annual giving, alumni marketing, and volunteer programs for the school. Prior to his current role, he spent four years with Columbia University as the Senior Associate Director for Annual Fund Programs. While there, Jake oversaw a number of Annual Funds, special initiatives and worked on the core team for the first five Columbia Giving Days. He began his fundraising career with Ruffalo Noel Levitz as a student caller for his alma mater, the University of South Carolina. He later was responsible for managing the phone programs at both South Carolina and Columbia University. Strang holds a Bachelors of Science in Marketing and Management from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business and Master of Science from Columbia University in Fundraising and Non-Profit Management.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.