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#UNH50k Challenge: Content Strategy And CRO When Everything Is On The Line


The University of New Hampshire is in the midst of an exciting month-long challenge to increase alumni giving, and they leaned on Vital to make it happen. It’s the most expedited inbound marketing campaign Vital has ever put together, and converting donors was the name of the game. We Vitalians love UNH. We’ve got our share of Wildcat alums, and even those who received their schooling elsewhere have fond ties to the university. So of course, we were thrilled to be tapped to use our content strategy and conversion rate optimization (CRO) skills to put together an online giving campaign strategy that would give their alumni giving a healthy boost.

As an institution that had relied on traditional forms of outbound marketing like direct mail, call centers, networking and outreach for decades of successful fundraising, UNH was facing a shortfall of 1,000+ donors this year. This alumni participation shortfall could cost them their status as a Top 100 College in US News & World Report. They needed to boost their alumni participation, and they turned to Vital. They knew that we know digital marketing, content strategy, CRO and inbound marketing. Up to the challenge, we opened up our inbound marketing toolbox and put on our content strategy and CRO hats to win back the Wildcat alums.

We designed a campaign web page, optimized a conversion funnel of donation landing pages and a corresponding mailer in record time to kick off the #UNH50k challenge by June 1st. Staring down the barrel of the last week of the challenge, and the results are already speaking for themselves. Twelve UNH programs are fiercely competing for three winning portions of the $50,000 pie, and they’ve already exceeded last year’s online alumni donations exponentially.

Here are some of the content strategy / CRO elements we used to boost conversions:

Content Strategy #1 — Social Media Integration

UNH is already a savvy social media-integrated college. Check out this recent post on edSocialMedia on how UNH students use social media—it features this UNH-made infographic, which is pretty rad. So it’s no surprise that their newest challenge comes complete with its own hashtag (#UNH50k) and tons of social media integrations, like:

Twibbon Avatars For Any Platform

From the #UNH5ok Alumni Challenge page, you can jump right to the social media section by clicking “Spread the Word,” and update your avatar with a Twibbon—basically adding a badge to your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or even Google+ avatar, with the campaign hashtag.


It’s a neat way to support the campaign—you can keep your hedgehog photo, logo, selfie, or whatever you have as your avatar, and still let all your friends know about the campaign.  It’ll take you like 19 seconds. Do it!

Tweets Ready To Go:

If you’re not someone who sits around on Twitter all day like we do, you might have trouble coming up with exactly what to say in your Tweet. No worries, there are a handful of sample tweets already composed that you can click on and, ba-da-bing!, your tweet is posted and part of the hashtag conversation.



These pre-populated tweets, a great content strategy tool, drastically raise the likelihood that someone will tweet by making it as easy as clicking “Tweet This!”

Facebook Cover Photos:

In addition to your avatar, you can also change your Facebook cover photo to support the program you want to win the challenge. There are 12 different program options, already designed, sized and ready to upload to your Facebook account to help out your favorite program.



By including the hashtag on the photo, it ties each and every cover photo back to the campaign. Hashtags are great for campaign content strategies because people know that they can search the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to get more information on the campaign.

Instagram photos

Don’t have a photo ready to gram of your fave program? It’s cool, you can just download one of the program-specific photos and post it along with the #UNH50k hashtag, and BLAMMO, you’ve just spread the word even further. (Insider tip: the very first donation of the UNH50k campaign came from someone who heard about it THROUGH INSTAGRAM! So don’t think your double-tapping doesn’t count.)


And yes, the UNH Alumni Instagram feed is also spreading the word.

Content Strategy #2 — Unique Message: Donors, Not Dollars

One of the most unique aspects of this challenge is that it’s not about marking off a paper thermometer with a monetary goals—it’s about getting the highest number of alumni involved by supporting their UNH programs with donations of ANY amount. They want you to give $1, $5, $12 — and sure, they’ll be happy with $5,000, too — but it’s about getting more alumni engaged. And the competition aspect is really effective at boosting involvement.

Check out the leaderboard as of this afternoon:


As of today, June 23, 2014, COLA is three places ahead of Paul College, who was battling them back and forth for 1st place for the first three weeks of the challenge — and they’re still within reasonable shot of taking back the lead. CHHS and Athletics are barely distinguishable in their race between 2nd and 3rd place, and ONE vote separates Paul College from being back in the top three.

And the fact that YOU can donate $1.00 and make the difference right now between either Paul College or Athletics getting $10,000 for student support makes this challenge DIFFERENT. Good content strategy is about getting people invested in the content, and driven to convert — in this case, donating to their alma mater to bring their program student support funds.

Content Strategy #3 — Make It Personal: “I Donated To…”

Have you noticed these pics floating around Twitter, Instagram and Facebook? Alums received a mailer in early June outlining the challenge, and included was a sign that they could use to spread the word about the challenge:

Content-strategy-unh50k-paul  content-strategy-unh50k-sustainable    content-strategy-unh50k-colacontent-strategy-unh50k-colsa

It’s cool challenge extras like this that can make the difference between someone getting involved and forgetting to get involved while they try to come up with a way TO get involved. A successful content strategy makes it EASY for alums to donate, spread the word and support their program.

Content Strategy #4 — Making It Easy: “Participate — Donate Now!”

You’ll note that on the challenge page, there are three very obvious green donate call-to-action (CTA) buttons. Depending on where you are on the page (learning about the challenge, reading up on the 12 programs, or checking out the social media content) there are big PARTICIPATE — DONATE NOW! CTA buttons. And the leaderboard with its donate call-to-actions will scroll with you just in case, to make sure you can convert and donate from any point on the page.

This is crucial to a good content strategy — that once a visitor arrives, the conversion process is optimized with good CRO.


The participation (conversion) process is made up three very easy steps.

Step 1: Select Your Program


Step 2: Donate Any Amount


Step 3: Pay


Done! That was easy, right? No wonder people are spreading the word! Content strategy that makes it simple (a.k.a. optimized, a.k.a. to CRO best practices) will always win.

Bonus Challenge

Cool story, bro. Anything else? Why yes, actually, there has been a late-breaking challenge that we’re just starting to hear about now. The Dean of COLA has thrown out a challenge to the other deans — a challenge that, some might say, is even more important than the prize money. It’s a challenge of program pride. The winning college dean will provide T-shirts of his program to all the other deans, who will wear those shirts while singing the alma mater song at Wildcat Day CatPack Pep Rally, in front of the entire incoming freshman class.


So, are YOU a UNH alum? You’ve got one week left to make a difference. Participate, Donate Now! And if you want to talk content strategy, we’re all ears. And CTA buttons.

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