“Pie Your Professor” Highlights Concordia University, Nebraska’s Day of Giving

Secretly, all students wish they could shove a pie in their professors’ faces.

For the alumni at Concordia University, Nebraska, that desire became a reality.

We recently interviewed Seth Meranda, Director of Marketing at Concordia. He discussed how a Facebook Live stream had their community glued to their screens and reaching for their checkbooks during a “Pie Your Professor” fundraising campaign during their Day of Giving.

Here’s how it all went down.

Concordia’s Day of Giving

The Day of Giving was an advancement effort from Concordia.

At their university, marketing is under the enrollment team, but they still work with many different departments across the campus. That’s what this day was all about: leveraging faculty, coaches, and other staff. Concordia is a place known for its community, and they wanted to bring it together for one big day of giving.

Hence the name.

Developing a Strategy for Alumni Engagement

Seth and his team came up with lots of giving options so students, parents, and alumni could easily participate.

They knew that for their Day of Giving to be successful, it had to reach a large audience, wherever they might be. Donors, alumni, everyone. They tried to figure out little areas where people could engage with giving. They didn’t want it to be just one big day. Instead, they encouraged donors to find a niche within the day’s various challenges.

Seth’s team connected with certain alumni that fit into specific segments, which even allowed them to rally their class into challenges. It was important to figure out what would resonate with potential donors, so they had a good amount of variety available in these challenge.

But one of those challenges stood out among the rest.

The “Pie Your Professor” Campaign

Concordia utilized a Facebook Live video to show a close-up of someone holding a pie with a professor’s name and photo. The person would wait for the gift challenge to be funded before then finding the professor on campus and “pieing” them live.

The theater and drama were incredible, so we had to ask Seth: How did the idea come about?

For a long time, Concordia knew they wanted to engage the social media aspect alongside the Day of Giving. It was going to have to be something engaging, with staying power.

Facebook Live became a top solution. They could spread it out throughout a longer period of time, and they could tie challenges to it.

They slotted the “Pie Your Professor” initiative in the afternoon, when most professors were in class, coaches were getting ready for practice, and the president was in his office. As people traveled across campus with their pies, they knew how many donations were coming in, which triggered each segment.

They also chose people that alumni would be very familiar with: from high-ranking professors all the way up to the president of the university. It was a perfect team that everybody wanted to see get pies in their face.

Engagement Lessons Learned for Next Year

There’s an opportunity for raising the stakes next year.

They went in not knowing exactly how the whole thing would go off. They were hoping to get through a couple of professors and thought that would be great. The fact that they made it through their entire list shows that they have great supporters. So next year, they may raise the ask.

One of the difficulties was getting through campus to all the professors and coaches in their time window, so they’ll probably also look at either extending the window or raising the stakes and doing fewer professors.

Up till a few weeks ago, “Pie Your Professor” was the most watched video they’ve had on Facebook. And they have a lot of great videos out there.

The fact that it was live, and that they established such a reach while it was happening, has opened up a world of new ideas for the university.

Did They Reach Their Day of Giving Goals?

Seth’s goal was simply to make some sort of impression with their challenges. One challenge was young alumni; another was the pie-in-the-face event. They didn’t want to fall flat on their face with any of them.

They didn’t set out any monetary or engagement goals. It was their first time doing it, after all.

“We just wanted to try it,” Seth said, “get our hands dirty, and figure out what we were doing to learn from it.”

Monetarily, it was much better than they imagined.

Advice for Colleges and Universities Looking to Launch Days of Giving

“For us,” Seth said, “it was trying to stay as close to our brand as possible.”

Concordia is a faith-based community that has engaging faculty, and their students get to know faculty on a one-to-one basis. This was something they wanted to make sure they reflected during the Day of Giving.

It’s natural for their students to engage with the president and faculty on a day-to-day basis.

Maybe not to pie them, though…

This post is based on a podcast interview with Seth Meranda from Concordia University, Nebraska. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.