How Salem State University Launched Its First Ever Giving Day

October 10, 2018 Jayne O'Leary

“We had been struggling with Giving Tuesday for a number of years, and our leadership just kept coming back to it.  I learned that other schools were doing their own giving days to greater success and thought it would be a nice way to transition out of our comprehensive campaign with a ‘pride’ event that could focus particularly on unrestricted giving,” said Lori Boudo, director of annual giving at Salem State.  With that, we launched into our first Viking Warrior Day campaign.

Salem State University is located in historic Salem, Massachusetts. The university maintains a growing, vibrant community of families, students, educators, alumni, and staff, with a diverse culture steeped in pride. As a one-time major maritime port, Salem and its namesake higher education institute has seen the ebb and flow of change. At Salem State, we use that change to build upon our resilience and commitment to each other and the greater good. After all, our university logo is the Viking and we needn’t look too far for inspiration.

And so the research began, and the best way to do that was to look at our peers. We found that Purdue University had a great Giving Day model that we could leverage for ours.

Using the webpage templates in our alumni engagement solution, we mapped out and created a landing page and parts that would feature attention-getting banners, video and social media feeds and a countdown clock.

As our Viking Warrior Day approached, we created stylized emails, targeting audiences that were community wide and specific.

The email plan was to not overburden the greater community. Instead, we created a buzz and then followed up with messaging directed at unique groups that was concise and evocative, with a strong connection to our history and pride as SSU Vikings.

The Viking Warrior Day landing page, with subsequent parts and targeted emails, was our maiden voyage. Once we had the messaging published and landing page active, we created scheduled releases of FTI (formatted text and images) parts, marking individual milestones that our donors helped us reach – seven in all!

The university’s alumni relations department developed four unique events that the SSU community could participate in. We featured the events on the sidebar of the Viking Warrior Day landing page, along with a specific mini-donation form featuring the same branding. We fed the data, in particular email information, back into our fundraising database for further use.

Since we had a single Vikings Warrior Day landing page, there was no need to have any of our users experience the confusion of multi-page navigation. Everything about the day – events, giving and goals – were found in one container with email support to access the page easily.

Our advancement services team had to navigate the collection of gifts in a short turnaround and accurately feed the data back to our events technology team to update the milestone pages as they were about to publish. That meant gift processing and reporting had to happen much later in the evening and very early in the morning. As a team we knew that we were in the same boat, and it was all hands on deck.

Last year, in little to no time after deciding to launch our giving day, we were suddenly only four days away from sending our first email. Thankfully our staff members are used to acting quickly, bring unique talents and optimism and can move swiftly through difficult currents.

As we plan our next Giving Day and set the countdown timer, it is with great relief that we now have 204 days and counting until our next Viking Warrior Day. Since this is now a known route, we do not have to traverse the waters with unknown expectations. We now can collaborate with other university departments and develop events, emails and giving campaigns with our established Viking brand, all with a sufficient amount of time.

The Salem State University Institutional Advancement team that helped to develop the 2018 Viking Warrior Day – Giving Day program was made up of staff from annual giving, advancement communications, advancement services, alumni relations, events technology and website management, along with collaboration from other university departments including marketing and creative services, student life and human resources.

Please feel to reach out to me, Jayne O’Leary, events technology and website management, if you would like to see samples from 2018 emails and pages. However, since we now have our 2019 Viking Warrior Day set for Thursday, May 1, 2019, you can also wait and see for yourself.


Previous Article
Proven #GivingTuesday Strategies for Higher Ed Institutions
Proven #GivingTuesday Strategies for Higher Ed Institutions

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated ...

Next Article
Giving Days Down Under: Five Key Steps for a Successful #GivingDay
Giving Days Down Under: Five Key Steps for a Successful #GivingDay

At this point, nearly every university in the US has run or is considering starting a giving day. Of course, …