As more colleges and universities launch comprehensive fundraising campaigns, stand alone campaign websites are increasing in number and growing in complexity. These sites are becoming critical communications tools that are an integral part of a capital campaign.
Planning Your Capital Campaign Website
How donors interact and use a capital campaign website changes over time. We’ve identified three key phases for the capital campaign. Your website should be designed to be a primary communication tool in each phase:
Phase 1: Launch and Inspire
The first use case for the website is to launch the campaign with a splash and inspire the community. It is important for the site to set the vision for the campaign and connect emotionally with donors. This connection is best achieved through campaign videos and stunning, evocative photography. The most successful capital campaign websites merge large, immersive images with sharp copywriting to draw donors in and inspire them. The websites from Stony Brook, Harvard, Wellesley, Brown (see below) offer some terrific examples of inspirational videos. Check them all out, as each video takes a different storytelling perspective.
Phase 2: Evaluate and Give
As the campaign evolves, the campaign website must provide depth and specificity for each giving priority so potential donors may explore, compare, evaluate, and learn about various funding opportunities. Donors must be able to see how their donation will impact the school. This need requires content that – in a friendly and inspiring way – details the specific initiatives. The University of Chicago is among the best in providing great depth for a vast array of initiatives.
The campaign site should also illustrate the outcomes and personal impact of donor support. Through our work with alumni and donors, we found that donor profiles for high value gifts are helpful in reaching new donors and providing recognition.
And for the smaller donations, the capital campaign site must answer or provide links to questions about how to give. Also, sites should streamline the giving form to make online giving simple and straightforward. For great examples, check out the UCLA site and the Boston University campaign site.
Phase 3: Inform and Document
Finally, the site needs to capture the activity and milestones in the campaign. This includes donor recognition, achievement of key milestones, campaign events, and current impact stories.
Example Websites for University Capital Campaigns
Let’s look at some example sites for capital campaigns. These recent sites highlight the key features required for a successful site: bold design, inspiring video, crisp writing, and easy donation processes.
UCLA – Give to UCLA
UCLA’s site hits a lot of the right notes for a university comprehensive campaign site. At every turn, the site is using data points to inspire, prove, and drive donors to take action. We liked the clear navigation which uses concise, easy-to-understand labeling to describe the sections, making it especially simple to locate information or take action. The “Find a Fund” page is terrific with progress bars for each fund, an ability to give right from the index page, and a clear dollar goal. We liked the filter set for the funds as well. This page is highly actionable and makes exploring and comparing funds easy. It’s worth reviewing the integrated giving form on each fund page as well. The clean dollar donation buttons make giving compelling and simple.
Noted for: Display of individual funds and driving users to donate
Dartmouth College – The Call to Lead
Dartmouth College's Call to Lead campaign offers potential donors the unique opportunity to choose exactly how their donation will impact the global Dartmouth community. The site features hundreds of initiatives with distinct fundraising goals, all with detailed descriptions that showcase the importance of each and every project. For potential donors that might be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of ways to contribute, the site includes a helpful widget that allows them to narrow down their options based on interest.
Noted for: Offering an incredible wealth of donation options, and providing potential donors with a clear understanding of how their contributions will be utilized.
Wellesley College – The Wellesley Effect
The Wellesley College capital campaign website does a fantastic job of reminding donors why Wellesley is an amazing, unique and special place. The simple atmospheric video is welcoming, intriguing, and evocatively nostalgic. The ease of the transitions for the overlaying panels of images is effortless. The messaging is simple, yet strong. The design leads donors through one message at a time and encourages them to go deeper, watch a video, or "share your voice.” It also does a great job of conveying its message – The Wellesley Effect – by using short alumni profiles and seven-minute video juxtaposing famous alumni with current students.
Noted for: Creating a magical sense of place and engaging alumni to tell their stories
Stony Brook University – The Campaign for Stony Brook
We’re proud to have worked with Stony Brook University on their capital campaign website (along with our partner SimpsonScarborough), so of course it is one of our favorite examples of a great higher education fundraising site. The engagement strategy including using video to connect with visitors. To inspire and draw donors into the big stories at Stony Brook, we incorporated authentic photography with an editorial slant. The priority pages do a terrific job of providing easy access to content without being too text heavy. The site eschews standard priority labels – e.g, scholarships, buildings – for suggestive language that hooks donors and pulls them into a larger story. The site design reflects the bold, strong ambitions of the campaign.
Noted for: An emotional, inspiring campaign video and bold site design
The College of the Holy Cross – Become More
We worked with College of the Holy Cross on their capital campaign site as a part of a comprehensive digital strategy implementation. The incorporation of immersive images, large storytelling components, and dynamic page elements gives visitors a clear sense of the school and creates a strong connection. The campaign overview is particularly engaging and dynamic using large images, bold headlines, and parallax scrolling. The main navigation is simple and direct, encouraging donors to dive quickly into a priority. Users can easily scroll through the priority pages using the priority based navigation and the “Get Involved” section does a good job of talking about more than just money, driving donors to engage via social media channels.
Noted for: Use of news stories and overall immersive design
University of Arizona – Arizona Now
We like the urgency and immediacy of the Arizona Now comprehensive campaign website. This site takes a different approach to navigation by grouping the priorities for the campaign by audiences: students, faculty and research, and the school overall. We also liked the casual inviting language.
Noted for: Different navigation structure
Harvard University – The Harvard Campaign
This site is fairly a straightforward presentation of content, save for the Story Map which offers a visual-web interface to explore Harvard by school, people, and topics. The One Harvard video is also a real standout for creating a sense of place and presenting a historically divided school as one cohesive institution. It does so with a great sense of emotion, excellence, and sophistication.
Noted for: Use of video and interactive web
University of Chicago – Inquiry & Impact
From a content perspective, the University Chicago sites is one of the most deep campaigns sites around. First off, the homepage interface gets a big thumbs up for its ability to draw people into rich stories on the campaign theme of inquiry and impact. The site has a deep archive of the feature stories that showcases the excellent research and student impact happening at the university. In addition, each priority offers deep, detailed content about all of the initiatives. If you’re thinking about creating your capital campaign website with deep content, this is a model to review.
Noted for: Deep, on-message content
University of Texas Austin – Campaign For Texas
We loved the opening image and message – it is direct and compelling. And, the president’s message, with its personal and inviting tone, is one of the best presentations of a leadership letter. The casual, jacket-off photo and the “One Last Thank You” headline leading into the letter create a feeling of intimacy between the institutional leader and potential donors. The site effectively uses animation to make static data points more interesting and eye-catching. From a structural point of view, this site is a good example of how to organize lots of content into a single page format.
Noted for: President’s Letter
Brown University – Brown Together
While we liked this site for its bold vision and graphics, we especially liked it for the design of the people page and minimalist design of the icons. The campaign video stands out from other videos for its specific focus on the student experience at Brown.
Noted for: Bold, fresh design elements
Boston University – The Campaign for Boston University
By highlighting the rather engaging video in the hero position on the site, the campaign does a great job of showing the overall Boston University experience and, through the use of inspirational quotes, making the case for giving. The integrated donation form on the homepage is simple and concise which encourages donors to start the process rather than linking to a second page.
Noted for: Use of video
Planning for Your Comprehensive Campaign Website
On average, campaign websites take between three and six months to complete depending on the inputs. Planning for visual content like video and photography is the most time-consuming portion of the project. Before you get going, consider these five key questions:
- Does your college need a capital campaign website?
- Are you building a giving site or a case statement?
- Who will create ongoing content for the capital campaign?
- How will you recognize donors and track progress?
- How will you handle social media?
Get our insights on preparing and planning for capital campaign websites or find out how we can work together on yours.