Vassar College Crowdfunding Success Story

February 20th was a big day at the Vassar College Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development (OAAD). Not only did they raise nearly $150,000 in a single day of crowdfunding, but, as Senior Director Willa McCarthy explains “it was a blast!”
Not the first words that come to mind for most major fundraising initiatives.

A very complete case study about the enormously successful campaign is available here but the highlights include 1229 donors with participation from every class since 1945!

OAAD is a Launcht client and in an effort to help us here at Launcht learn the secrets of this campaign’s success–and pass them on to other clients– McCarthy was gracious enough to speak specifically to how Launcht’s software and people-power contributed to that success.

First, McCarthy noted that donors are looking more and more for an Experience when they donate. Her office sought to build a way for alumnae/i to donate online, but in doing so “to create an experience, to make it more fun than just clicking bubbles on the screen and waiting for your letter in the mail.” As anyone knows, online giving can become almost too complicated to bother—McCarthy was interested in reducing that friction and making the whole experience more interactive.

With Launcht’s specially built software, OAAD was able to build a site that allowed a number of donors, rather than a number of dollars, to be the goal of the 24-hour fundraising event. Visitors to the site were able to see the donor counts changing in real-time, which gave them a reason to come back to the site: the satisfaction of seeing their donation—whatever the amount—increase the total number of donors. As McCarthy said, “very little is as compelling as seeing what happens…it really galvanizes a spirit of community.”

The February 20th campaign was originally designed with hopes of bringing in 500 donors to the Annual Fund. Once that donor-goal had been reached, a generous three-generation Vassar family pre-agreed to donate $175,000. The campaign reached its 500 donor goal within the first four hours. With 20 hours to go in the campaign, the OAAD upped the ante to 1000 donors, and the donations kept pouring in, via crowdfunding and telephone, and they are still trickling in now, by mail.

McCarthy and her team opened the campaign up to the off-line crowds as well, due to the concerns that some donors expressed about giving online. She was quick to point out that through the entire process of the campaign—from planning to the post-campaign debriefing about how to move forward with this experience—Launcht has been “with us, the entire way.” She mentioned being online and emailing with Launcht staff until 10:30 at night as everyone prepared for the big day. “Launcht was really a partner in our learning process and it was great to feel that level of above and beyond rapid responsiveness as our needs and goals changed.”

McCarthy’s advice for people organizing similar sorts of fundraisers is to set up as much in advance as possible. In future crowdfund-based campaigns, she plans to use more phone staff to field the calls of people–mostly older alums–who are not comfortable with online giving, and to think about broadening the donor base. “We had parents and current students who wanted to donate, but we kept it just alumnae/i for this campaign. In the future, we might change that.”

If the combination of crowdfunding and traditional fundraising works as well as the OAAD campaign, it makes sense to include as many people as possible. Who wouldn’t want to have a blast contributing to a community they love?

Learn more about University Crowdfunding solutions from Launcht.

About Bethany Taylor

Bethany is a writer, part-time librarian and seasonal gardener and is very excited to write for Launcht as it works towards democratizing the ways that good projects make their impact on the world. Her other writing appears at granitebunny.blogspot.com and www.hothousemagazine.org.
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