True blue pledge
Develop an online giving program for students to contribute to scholarships and community goals relevant to them individually.
True Blue Pledge as a series of marketing and donation options to improve student opportunities on campus through scholarships and program improvements. In nine months we raised over $280,000.
Client: Utah State University, Student Alumni Association
Team: Josh LeFevre, Cade Robinson, Britnee Bromley, and Rebecca Fitzgerald
Project: 2013–2014, Fundraising, social innovation design
Duration: 9 months
Tools: Illustrator, Excel, Mind, After Effects,
My role: Business strategist, design researcher, implementation team, marketer
The Design Brief
The Student Alumni board, of which I was apart, at Utah State University was asked to explore ways to improve student giving. In particular financial donations for scholarships. We were given several Ivy league universities and analogous programs we were striving for.
Our SAA board spent three months researching and deliberating reasons why students felt they couldn’t give financially. We sent online surveys to two-thirds of the undergraduate population and received nearly a thousand responses. We conducted a few interviews and held a dozen focus group meetings with students from a variety of backgrounds to discuss the idea of giving back to USU. We discussed when they felt they could contribute financially, why they would want to do so, where they would want their donations to go, and so forth. Our process helped us gain a more complete understanding of the students’ attitudes and desires revealing the gaps in their perceptions.
After analyzing the survey data, interview transcriptions, card sorting, and meeting notes, we learned that students were reluctant to give because they were poor, didn’t think giving back was important, or had an “I’ll give when I’m older” mentality. In addition, we learned that most students didn’t understand the full cost of their education; they did not realize that the tuition and fees they paid was insufficient to cover all that was required to facilitate their university experience. They did not recognize the crucial role past donations had played in covering the cost of their own education.
Our team designed a give-back program for undergraduates and called it the True Blue Pledge, echoing other “True Blue” slogans used throughout campus. We designed it to resolve students’ concerns about giving and to give them the freedom to decide how their donations would be used and by whom. Students could donate to Aggies Helping Aggies (a scholarship program), a class gift, or to a variety of USU programs or organizations.
We developed the True Blue Pledge through many rounds of evaluation and iteration. Each iteration revealed holes or missing factors that were vital to the program’s success. For instance, in one of our first iterations we missed the boat on making the donation system mobile friendly. In another iteration, we realized that while our visuals were important in attracting viewers and users, they were ineffective when content and purpose were not clear.
One board member and I worked with graphic and video designers to develop marketing content and strategy. Marketing tools included physical posters along with digital ads and videos, which were posted on digital marques on the main and satellite campuses and online, including USU websites, Facebook pages, and Instagram accounts. Below are the campaign videos, one of the posters, and the donation form. (Please note: At the time, the links embedded in the videos sent users to the online donation form; currently, the destination has been changed from the original.)
-Above is 1 of the 5 different lawn signs that were around campus.
After all the marketing resources were developed and produced, our board worked with USU administration and various student groups to spread the message about the True Blue Pledge. We sought support from student organizations, USU recruitment personal, and university staff to have a unified launch of this program across the entire university population. My assignment was interfacing with the USU Admissions Office and the USU Advancement Board to give them the information and resources they needed to help us promote the program.
Reflection & Results
While our board was running the program (from mid-2013 through April 2014), we raised over $280,000 in 9 months from over 7,200 undergraduates. This was an incredible 170 percent increase over the donations from the previous 2 years. The program is still running and finding much success.
Throughout the process I gained insight into how design isn’t a one-step solution but takes time, research, and continual tweaking until the final product is the correct fit. In the end I felt that taking the needed months to organize and design the True Blue Pledge led to a program that was subsequently supported by administrators, students, and staff.
I learned that simplifying the giving process, educating students about the need, and providing a strong sense of purpose among students regarding the importance of giving back to the Utah State University provided significant returns.
As a result of our design and marketing process, the end product was even better and more successful than what I had in mind when we began.