How Carnegie Mellon University is reimagining its successful GivingCMUDay

Carnegie Mellon’s take on Giving Tuesday, #givingCMUday, has been an undisputed hit. Over the last five years, it has grown from raising $330,000 from 1,300 donors in 2016, to nearly $1 million from 4,600 today. In this webinar, GG+A’s Adrian Salmon and CMU’s Mary Ann McCollough talked through CMU’s plans to create the same energy, participation, and support for Giving Tuesday on Dec. 1, 2020 in a virtual world. “It’s all about the donors – creating opportunities – honoring the donor intent,” said Mary Ann about the key to their success.

In this webinar, “How Carnegie Mellon University is Re-imagining its Successful Giving Tuesday (#givingCMUday),” GG+A Vice President Adrian Salmon spoke with Mary Ann McCullough, Director of Annual Giving for Carnegie Mellon University, how her team is creating a virtual day that ignites the same spirit and participation as previous years. #givingCMUday has grown exponentially in the last five years, raising nearly $1M in 2019 from 4,600 donors. “It’s all about the donor – creating opportunities – honoring the donor intent,” said Mary Ann about the key to their success.

Our webinar participants had several questions for Mary Ann. Here we share her thoughtful answers:

  • Do you expect for support to decrease because the classroom experience will diminish?

Absolutely not.  Needs and priorities are shifting but support is definitely needed. Students will continue to need financial aid for their education and living needs such as the Food Pantry. In working to create a safe and secure environment, the university needs additional funding to purchase materials and equipment. Our role in Annual Giving is to demonstrate the need through impact reporting and strong messaging in solicitations. As a result, our work is more important than ever.  And we believe our constituents will rise to the best of their ability to support the institution they truly believe in.

  • Can you break down your donors to the giving day?? How many are current students, under grad alumni, graduate alumni, parents, etc.  How much is the incentive?  Does just one alum put up the money for it?

We target and track many segments including students who represented 22% of donors, undergraduate alumni at 22%, graduate alumni at 17%, and parents both current and past at 10%. Our challenges and matches vary by segment with 1:1 dollar matches up to a limit or unlocking challenges given number of donors. There are a variety of sources for the matches and challenges and some are actually funded by several donors together.

  • How did you track success from the social media efforts?

We track click through and open rates for all social media platforms used and compare to previous years.

  • How many constituents are solicited in total?

We solicited over 140,000 constituents.

  • What are your top subject line tips?

Keep them meaningful, direct and clever in order to cut through the clutter. Personalization is very helpful and using the word YOU adds personalization.  Emojis are intriguing and gain attention. And whenever possible – test!

  • Can you talk about your A and B testing criteria?

We test all types of communication elements – subject lines, copy in an email, signators of a direct mail letter, etc. Our basic criteria is reviewing results of number of donors and dollars as those are our overall goals.

Please listen to a recording of the webinar here:



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