Work Smarter, Not Harder: Repurposing content for Fundraising

Marketing and Advancement teams must work together to repurpose content and better serve constituents.

February 23, 2016

Last year at Gettysburg College, we drafted 250 articles for our homepage and magazine, produced 60 videos, and conducted more than 200 photo shoots.

That’s a lot, but Gettysburg is not an anomaly.

Every marketing office is producing content at a rapid pace. Relevant content in the right form at the right time can be a very powerful tool, specifically for fundraising and stewardship—and ultimately for moving the needle for your institution.

But do our donor relations partners, major gift officers, and annual giving staff know that this quality content exists? And if so, how are our colleagues in Advancement using this content to engage their donor prospects?

The first step, of course, is to understand what your audience wants. You can do this by monitoring analytics, conducting focus groups, and periodically administering surveys—particularly among your alumni base. At Gettysburg we have invested in this data collection over the last five years, and it’s paying dividends.

What we’ve found again and again is that nothing beats a well-crafted, emotionally driven piece of content. You don’t always have to lead with the “big gift” or “donor challenge goal.” If you tell a really good story that demonstrates the impact your reader can have by making a gift, often that’s all you need.

For example, step outside the world of higher education for a moment and watch this Kleenex ad.

The beginning of the ad makes no mention of tissues. It’s captivating, warm, and focused on the narrative—you might not even realize they’re selling you a product until the very end.

Now, put this credo into practice.

A few years ago, we worked with our annual giving team to design a fall mailer focused on student outcomes. Instead of starting from scratch—researching, contacting, and interviewing new students—we turned to our website. There, we found engaging stories highlighting service, STEM, and our historic location—stories that were originally crafted for Admissions and College Life, but had not yet been targeted to our donor base. After chopping 1,000 words and snapping a few new photos for the piece, it hit mailboxes and we held our breath.

The result? The mailer won a Gold Award for CASE DII and proved to be one of our most successful fundraising appeals to date, doubling both our average gift size and our total amount raised.

That’s change our Development folks can believe in.

You can do the same, but don’t stop there. Take that great content and let it ride—target your donor base through a Facebook ad, stitch together your appeal’s images and call to action for a 15-second Instagram video, and invite these featured students to your next regional campaign event so they can share their stories with donors in-person.

Finally, if you really want to maximize your content and deepen the connection with your alumni, get on the same page with your fundraisers.

Take the time to understand each office’s strengths and weaknesses; recognize institutional goals and opportunities; and truly get to know the colleague across the table from you. Discover what makes her tick. Grab a coffee when a phone call would due. Connect the dots, build bridges, establish trust, and earn victories—together.


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