You Could Be the Reason: Case for Support
I've written copy for all sorts of brands and for a wide variety of applications — from taglines to website copy to brochures. But for the past nine years, I've done so exclusively for Saint Louis University, where I'm charged with creating communications that deal with fundraising and alumni engagement. Here, some highlights.
After wrapping up a years-long comprehensive fundraising campaign, we debuted new messaging for major Annual Giving appeals and donor stewardship efforts in fall 2022.
The aim was to position the donor at the center of our messaging, conveying how important a donor's contributions are by emphasizing how much they make possible. Ideally, this helps the donor feel some ownership of SLU's success.
By featuring real SLU researchers, faculty and students, this messaging campaign also allows for a bit of short-format storytelling, which puts a human face on the University and makes real those the donor is helping. Further, it allows us to convey to donors and alumni what’s happening at SLU: interesting research like at the WATER Institute, innovative programs like the Billiken Teacher Corps and what our students are up to on campus.
The Be the Reason campaign will continue for the foreseeable future, and will eventually feature donor profiles and digital advertising.
In 2021, I worked with development officers to create longer-form case statements for two fundraising priorities that were part of the university's comprehensive Accelerating Excellence campaign.
Saint Louis University celebrated its bicentennial in 2018. I created the 200 Years, 200 Reasons to Celebrate SLU campaign as a way of applying this milestone to fundraising. Beginning in late 2017, this messaging was used for Annual Giving's major direct mail pieces. Print pieces and follow-up emails featured beautiful aerial photography of SLU's campus and highlighted several (out of 200) of SLU's accomplishments from throughout its history. Social media posts were created from the same art and list of accomplishments, and social ads encouraged alumni to donate. A space on the online gift form allowed donors to contribute their own reason for celebrating SLU with a donation.
This campaign was created with the goal of increasing smaller annual donations to SLU by adding an appeal in July, an otherwise slow fundraising month. Now in its fifth year, the successful effort features a limited-edition SLU Christmas ornament for every $25 gift made to SLU in the month of July. The messaging remained the same, but each year featured a new graphic design and a new ornament.
Ornaments were mailed to participants with a coordinating printed thank you postcard.
This video was designed to increase annual giving rates among SLU's young alumni -- or as SLU calls them, BOLD (Billikens of the Last Decade).
A shoestring budget dictated the use of existing b-roll footage shot by a video production company SLU had worked with extensively. Video was chosen to generally show what students experience throughout a typical school year. To tie the disparate footage together, I created the concept of displaying the message/fundraising ask over new footage of feet walking through recognizable campus locations, then wrote the script emphasizing that it wasn't very long ago that young alumni were in the shoes of current students.
In an effort to increase continuous monthly donations, it was important to convey the cumulative effect of this form of giving. The direct mail piece explained the power of a seemingly small monthly installment as the total donation grew over time, which was emphasized as the print piece physically unfolded. Additionally, the appeal featured a SLU pennant on the back, a fun addition meant to underscore the message with its geometric shape.
An animated version of the appeal was created for use in follow-up email appeals and on social media.
When looking to replicate the success of the Christmas in July appeal, the Annual Giving department created a similar campaign -- this one with socks and during the typically low donation month of February.
The campaign was entirely digital. Alumni were asked to vote for the sock design on social media, and the fundraising ask was distributed via email and digital advertising (both display and social media ads). The socks were mailed to donors with a coordinating printed postcard and using a coordinating mailing label.
In the world of higher education, the alumni participation rate -- the percentage of graduates who donate to the school -- is king: It's one of multiple factors that go into a school's U.S. News & World Report ranking.
While increasing alumni giving is always a goal, the Annual Giving department wanted to better explain to alumni why this was so important. The print appeal and coordinating animated video featured cheerful graphics and a step-by-step explanation.