Columbia Giving Day: How Storytelling Helped Raise $6.8 Mil in 24 Hrs

Columbia Giving Day

How does a charitable institution raise $6.8 million in one single day?  Ask Columbia University, and their agency, Story Worldwide.

According to CloEve Demmer one of the Trustees behind the event, success relied on making the most out of social media channels by focusing on what they do best and using bespoke messaging that connects with characteristics of the audience in each channel.

Columbia also created an online giving website, an applications and a widget to leverage digital volunteers (digital ambassadors) and peer to peer fundraising through their connections.

Storytelling to Rally Alumnis

What I like most about the campaign is how they tapped into the power of story to rally Columbians behind  the cause.

They used the story of Morris Kaunda Michaels, a Sudanese refugee who fled his village at the age of 5 as a civil war tore his nation apart. 14 years later, Morris arrived at Columbia ready to make an impact.

In his senior year he worked in the lab of professor Sia working to create a neonatal monitoring device at a fraction of the price which identifies life-threatening diseases during the first months of life, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Morris hopes the device will help developing countries all over the world, and he hopes to one day return to Sudan to help his countrymen as others have helped him at Columbia.


Facebook As A Giving Hub

Story developed a content hub on Facebook containing the mission and story of Giving Day told through an animated film, as well as a donation form, leaderboard, YouTube videos and two live streaming round-table discussions with online chat components. Story also provided regularly updated content, ongoing conversation management and rapid-response troubleshooting during the 24-hour fundraising event.

The Results

According to Story WorldWide’s website and a case study found here: The results were staggering.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • 5,356 donations, totaling over $6,855,00
    • 45% of doners reactivated
    • 50% made their first gift
  • Long tail donations beyond the day
  • Exceeded the university’s previous single-day giving record by 500%
  • 1,200,000 Unique visitors to the Columbia University Giving Day Facebook page in one week
  • 597,000 individuals receiving the Giving Day message on Twitter
  • Gifts from 39 different countries and 50 states

Let’s hope they have the same success this year. I’m confident they will.

Now over to you

Do you raise charitable funds? How do you use storytelling to rally people behind your cause?  Share your experience…


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