University of Missouri-Kansas City case study
“We felt this was a perfect opportunity to touch our prospect base in a different way than we’ve ever done.”
—Emily Wurtz, Director of Annual Giving
In the fall of 2016, Emily Wurtz, director of annual giving at the University of Missouri–Kansas City (UMKC) Foundation, was planning the fiscal year-end campaign when she was invited to the Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) Digital Philanthropy and Millennial Engagement Conference. While attending the conference, Wurtz heard how RNL’s latest product, RNL Digital Dialogue, boosts donor engagement by targeting digital ads in the channels potential supporters use every day—online.
Since UMKC was already planning a direct mail campaign, Wurtz knew RNL Digital Dialogue would be a perfect complement to reach donors and increase exposure to the campaign. “Traditionally at UMKC, we’ve been a little conservative in what we’ve tried, and we haven’t tested new areas to help with our results,” Wurtz said. “We felt this was a perfect opportunity to touch our prospect base in a different way than we’ve ever done.”
Engaging Donors Digitally
The goal of the fiscal year-end campaign was to increase donor reach and average gift size. Because this was a new venture, the UMKC team wanted to test performance. UMKC identified 57,000 prospects and split the list based on if they had an email address for the prospect. Roughly 32,000 contacts were to receive the direct mail piece and digital ads, while the remaining 25,000 would receive only the direct mail piece.
With the campaign goals and university branding in mind, RNL developed ads that encouraged making a donation now and incorporated the school mascot and students. “I loved how the ads looked, designed very well and professionally. The ads looked very UMKC, and a lot of times when you outsource design work, you don’t get that. I was really impressed how everything came together,” Wurtz said.
For one month, targeted display ads were shown to the digital group ads in specified geographic areas.
A Successful Campaign
The one-month campaign yielded 500,000 impressions and showed dramatic increases for the group that received digital ads compared to the direct mail-only group:
- Digital group: 2.02%
- Direct mail-only: 1.76%
Average gift size
- Digital group: $323.11
- Direct mail-only: $157.73
In addition, the 657 gifts received from the digital group accounted for 75 percent of total dollars raised. “The response rates we saw were really impressive,” Wurtz explained.
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