How Wabash College Raised $465k in One Day
Joe Klen, Associate Dean for College Advancement at Wabash College, joins us on this episode of Bloomerang TV to discuss his recent #Wabash430 campaign, which brought in 2329 total gifts and $465,421 in donations in a single day.
You can watch the full episode below:
Steven: Hey, there. Welcome. Thanks for tuning into this
week’s episode of Bloomerang TV, our fundraising and donor management
podcast. Thanks for hanging out with us. Today, I’m really excited to be
joined by our guest. He is Joe Klen. He is the associate dean for college
advancement, over at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Hey, Joe.
How’s it going?
Joe Klen: Going great, Steve. And how are you doing today?
Steven: I’m doing great. Thanks for joining us. This is fun because you
are our first true fundraiser to be on the podcast with us.
Usually we’re talking to consultants, but we’re going to get it
from the horse’s mouth today. So, I’m really excited to have
you. Thanks for . . .
Joe Klen: Well, happy to be with you and joining the conversation.
Steven: Yeah. So, what do you do over at Wabash? What does an associate
dean for college advancement do on a daily basis?
Joe Klen: A little bit of everything, but mostly fundraising. My primary
responsibilities are fundraising and constituent engagement,
relationship building. I also oversee some of our advancement
services and advancement operation, part of what we do here at
So, by way of introduction for Wabash, as you mentioned, we’re in
Crawfordsville, about 45 minutes west of Indianapolis. We have
an alumni base of around 12,000 to 13,000 living alumni. When we
do a direct mail campaign to put it in perspective, we’re
probably dealing with about 17,000 to 18,000 total mailable and
email population around 12,000 good emails on people, to just
put everything in perspective for the folks watching this.
Steven: Nice. This is an all-men’s school. There’s kind of . . .
Joe Klen: We are a college for men. We’re one of the three remaining
colleges for men left in the country. So, it’s a great option
for 18 to 22-year-old men who want a little different option in
their college experience. We are a traditional liberal arts
college and send a lot of our graduates off to business
professional schools, medical school, law school, and so on.
Steven: Cool. I can definitely vouch for it because we have a
Bloomerang employee here who’s an alum, and he’s super smart.
Joe Klen: Great.
Steven: So, yeah. We definitely know Wabash. So, the reason that you’re
here today is Wabash completely took over my Twitter feed about
six weeks ago, a day in April. You guys raised almost a half a
million dollars for a single-day campaign. So, you raised that
money in one day. Can you talk a little bit about that campaign,
your Wabash 430 campaign?
Joe Klen: Sure, sure. Well, it is. It’s been about almost 45 days now.
So, it feels like a long time ago, but we did. We had a great
day on April 30th. We put together what’s become known in higher
education as a day of giving. The way these days have started is
they’re institutions that have really grown out of crowd funding
mostly, the idea that we’re working towards a specific goal in a
specific time period for a specific cause. In the case of higher
education, the cause is raising dollars for the institution and
for students and for programs and for faculty.
So, we knew these kind of days had been going on across college
universities around the country, and we decided we wanted to
research them some more and study them some more. So, that’s
what we did. We found a few examples that were good examples,
both big school and small school examples. We studied those, and
we really took the best elements of each of the ones we studied,
to determine what might be the bits and pieces that would work
well for Wabash.
And so, we came up with a 430 on 4/30 day of giving. The initial goal
was to generate 430 gifts on April 30th, 4/30, and if we did
that, we had a group of lead challenge donors who agreed to give
$43,000. We were pretty confident we would do that. We were
pretty confident we could reach the first goal going into it.
So, we had lined up a second group of lead challenge donors to give a
second $43,000 if we were so fortunate to be in a position to
launch a second 430 on 4/30 goal. So, that’s how we started with
our planning in our day. That’s where the name came from. That
was what the original goal was. There really was nothing
significant to 4/30, the date April 30th, as it relates to the
college. It was the last week of classes . . .
Joe Klen: . . . of the spring academic semester. And so, what we . . .
How we positioned the day is we positioned it as we were one of
. . . It’s the end of another academic year. We have a lot to
celebrate in this academic year. We had a new president this
year. We had a lot of other great accomplishments in athletics
and so on. But as we came to the end of another year, we wanted
to celebrate the great tradition of philanthropy and what it
continues to do for students and faculty and for the value of
the degree for our alumni. So, that’s how we really positioned
the day in some of our marketing communications, and that’s
where we started.
Steven: Okay. So, you got this day of giving model that a lot of other
colleges and universities have done across the country, put your
own spin on it. You launch it Monday, or midnight on 4/30.
Joe Klen: Right.
Steven: What did the campaign look like? I know from your summary, you
mixed in a lot of direct mail. Social media was a big part. You
did some phone calls. What were the bits and pieces? What did it
actually look like on 4/30?
Joe Klen: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting what you mentioned. We
didn’t do any kind of direct mail. There was no pre-sale.
Joe Klen: So, the one thing we did . . . The couple things we did in
advance, in addition to having the lead challenge donors on
board to give us the . . . be in position to donate the $43,000
if we generated 430 gifts, we reached out to a group of people
that we consider to be virtual volunteers on social media. We
engaged about 170 people we felt were connected to the
organization on social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook, and
who had good networks of people.
Our ask of them, in advance of the day, was, “Hey. On the actual day,
4/30, we’re going to try and reach this goal. What we’d like you
to do as a volunteer, as an ambassador, is make a gift and reach
out to three or four of your friends personally and ask them to
make a gift, and then spread the word wide and far across your
social networks.” We felt that if we had 175 people do that, we
would be well on our way to reaching the first goal and probably
on our way to working towards the second 430 donors in a single
I should say the goal of 430 donors in a single day . . . 430 gifts
in a single day, for an organization our size, is a lot. We
don’t have any gift processing days, where we would have 430
gifts in a single day. We have those days at the end of the
calendar year, at the end of our fiscal year. This 4/30, we were
10 months into our fiscal year. So, our fiscal year ends at the
end of June. So, we don’t normally have big giving days at the
end of April, big gift processing days.
Joe Klen: So, that’s what we . . .
Steven: So, you . . .
Joe Klen: That’s in advance of the day. That was really where we spent a
lot of our time, was reaching out, investing time, and talking
with our online ambassadors, those people who would be our
volunteers, spreading the word on the day and making a gift.
Steven: So, you really didn’t do any promotion to the donor base or the
alumni base saying, “Hey. On 4/30, we’re going to do this
thing.” You just sort of . . . Midnight, you kicked it off.
Joe Klen: Right. Right.
Steven: And we were talking earlier about that. It’s kind of ingenious
because it really led to the success. Right? It seems a little
counterintuitive, but it got people really excited and kind of
took people by surprise.
Joe Klen: Right.
Steven: Can you talk a little bit about that kind of psychology and how
Joe Klen: Right. Well, one of the examples we had studied, they had
learned from another institution that keeping it as a surprise
element, a little bit of a surprise element, worked well for
them. So, we studied that example. We said, “You know, this
might work for our base. Maybe let’s not presell this too much.”
It’s very easy for people to turn off something if they know
it’s coming, especially if it relates to giving . . .
Joe Klen: . . . and philanthropy. Right? Is this just another ask that an
organization is making of us? And so, the sequence of how we
launched this is at 4:30 in the afternoon on April 29th, we sent
our email constituent base a message saying, “Tomorrow’s going
to be a great day for Wabash College, and check your email in
the morning for a message from the president of the college.”
Then, at 4:30 in the morning on 4/30, so 4:30 A.M. Eastern Time
on 4/30, we sent a message from the president that said, “Hey.
Today’s a great day for the college, and a group of alumni
leaders primarily have stepped up to leverage their giving if
430 gifts come in today.”
That’s how it started. Those were really the only two emails that we
had prepared in advance. Everything else, we wrote on the day,
hadn’t done in advance of the day. We did actually on the day.
Now, to our ambassadors, a couple days before, those 175 people
I mentioned, we did send them some sample Facebook posts and
tweets and texts and collateral that they could use in advance
of the day, on the actual day, two days before.
So, again, we were trying to keep it a little bit of a surprise, more
of this . . . have a little bit of spontaneity to it, so that
when we were on the actual day, even though we had engaged 175
people to be ambassadors, that it felt like it was gaining
Joe Klen: It really did, as the day went on. But to get it started, we
had to start somewhere. And so, we started by engaging a group
of people and getting them going. Then, we sent our emails out,
and from there, it picked up some momentum and some steam as the
day went on.
Steven: Yeah, I love the motto. I mean, those influencers, I saw them
on Twitter all day. They were doing challenges. They were
getting people excited. And obviously, couple that with the
surprise element. This really worked for you. What were the
results? I mean, you blew away the goal. Right?
Joe Klen: Yeah. We did. So, by around . . . I’m just looking at my notes
here. So, forgive me for veering off here to the screen for a
second. So, shortly before around 10:00 A.M., we had reached 430
Joe Klen: So, four or five hours . . . No, six hours into the campaign,
we had reached it. So, around 11:00 in the morning, we launched
the second 430 challenge. Then, around 3:00 in the afternoon, we
launched a third challenge. We had another donor step up during
the day, saying, “I’ll give a third $43,000.” We set the goal at
1832 gifts on the day, which is respective of the founding of
the year of the college. So, it correlates to the . . . 1832 is
when we were founded. So, we were going to then strive for 1832
gifts in a single day.
By 9:00 P.M. on 4/30, we had reached that benchmark. Then, we sent
out one more email around 9:00 P.M., just saying, “Hey. Let’s
see how far this can go into the evening,” and it kept going. It
kept going well into the early morning hours for our west coast
constituents. There were a couple gifts that funneled in on the
days after online. People wanted to be part of it. They weren’t
able to make a gift on the day, and there were a few that came
in via direct mail after the day. So, at the end of the day, to
answer your question, we received 2329 gifts.
Joe Klen: 2214 unique donors. 963 of those people were making a second
gift on the year. And so, again, we were 10 months into our
fiscal year. So, they’re making a second gift on the year. But
some really . . . I think numbers for organizations out there
who might consider doing this is . . . We had 374 first-time
donors ever, and so their lifetime giving before the day was
zero. So, they hopped on board with a gift on that day.
Then, we reacquired about another 350 donors who had been really
lapsed. They weren’t onboard last year, but they had given two
to four plus years ago. And so, from just a participation
perspective, an engagement perspective, the day worked really
well for us.
As you mentioned, I think in your introduction, we raised just under
half a million dollars, including the three $43,000 challenge
gifts and the outright giving from the donors on the day. It was
a great effort. In a year . . . Again, just to kind of put it in
perspective, the college . . . We raise about $8 to $10 million
Joe Klen: With an annual fund, it’s about $3.3 to $3.4 million in a year.
But to have a half million in a day is really a lot of . . . It
was a lot of fun. People have asked me, “What number stands out
to you the most about the day?” Well, I speak to some of the new
donor numbers, but really the numbers aren’t as important as
just the sense of spirit and excitement that the day generated
for our constituent base. There was a good feeling on campus. We
had scheduled some events on campus for the day, to create some
excitement on the day. Then, we streamed some of that stuff on
People engaged in social media didn’t even know we were going to do
that. So, there was some surprise even to that. But it just
created a lot of excitement and momentum. People felt really
good about being connected to the organization that day. That
was some of the goodwill we really felt going on. You probably
saw on your Twitter feed that day.
Steven: Oh, yeah.
Joe Klen: People were just talking about it. That was just, I think . . .
In some respect, as a nonprofit, as an organization, that’s, I
think, some of what can be important with this day, just
creating a lot of excitement and momentum for our cause on that
Steven: Well, good job. I hope you took the day off on 5/1 to . . .
Joe Klen: I didn’t. I was here. I was here bright and early and just had
to keep going because there were a lot of . . . I will tell you.
When you do a day like this, you can imagine. We were fortunate.
We didn’t have any hiccups in our online e-commerce system or
anything like that. We had two issues with gift receipts, but
there were a lot of email followups and things to do on the next
day, people with questions, those type of things that you would
normally have when you get . . . when you would have a big
fundraising effort like this.
Steven: Great. Well, I appreciate you sharing all your secret sauce
with us. If you’re watching this, and you’re in higher ed., you
got to follow this model because it worked great for these guys.
Joe, this was awesome. I’m not going to take up any more of your
time because I assume you have a little bit of followup to do
with all those gifts.
Joe Klen: We’re still working on it. We’re still working on some things
as we get near the end of the year.
Steven: Well, good. Well, congrats on your success and thanks for
hanging out with us for a little while. We’ll post all the
official results here on our blog post. You can see some of the
details there, but we’ll close it there. So, thanks for
watching. Check out next week’s episode if you enjoyed this one,
and we will catch you then. So, take care now.