THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) is a prestigious learning and cultural institution working at the frontiers of discovery and promoting vital links between science and society. It is one of the oldest scientific organizations in the United States, celebrating its bicentennial in 2017, and one of the most significant organizations in the international scientific community. Its members include leaders in science, business, academia, and government. Past members include U.S. Presidents Jefferson and Monroe, Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. Today, the Academy President’s Council includes 30 Nobel Laureates, CEOs and philanthropists. The client is currently in the latter stages of a campaign celebrating its first 200 years and hosted a bicentennial VIP gala that doubled as a fundraising event.
NYAS was determined to increase fundraising engagement at its annual gala. While the institution successfully raised funds by selling table reservations and during its auctions at the event, in-event giving was nonexistent, said Senior Vice President of Operations Erica Cullmann. Previously, real-time giving was limited to printed donor pledge cards. During Cullmann’s previous 10 years with the organization, only one such card has ever been returned, and the pledge was never collected. Cullmann wanted to eliminate the time and resources to design and print the cards, as well as the paper waste. “They did not yield any outcome, even though there were calls to action in the script and encouraged people to fill them out,” she said. “They never yielded any actual dollars.”
Most importantly, the client desired to engage gala participants to become individual donors. Traditionally, guests attended the annual gala on behalf of their corporations, institutions or universities, which purchased reservations for them.
“They participate, but they have not given of their own accord,” Cullmann said. “We wanted to start to build the culture of individual gifts and donorship.” The client wanted to cultivate a network of individual financial supporters, or advocates for the NYAS and solicit donations for the institution at their places of business.
The client purchased a Give by Cell subscription that included Mobile Pledge and Screencast fundraising thermometer. Cullmann said the institution was new to real-time giving technology and wanted to proceed slowly and carefully. “Give by Cell was the most elegant, the easiest to use, and the price point was in line with our budget,” she said. Considering this was a risk, I wanted a low barrier to entry as far as budget was concerned. The functionality worked with what we were trying to accomplish, technically.”
Screencast replaced a previous iPad-based interactive content service. At the gala, Screencast was programmed to update in real-time on ipads placed at each table to motivate attendees to meet the organization’s goal. A call to action with the giving instructions was shown on other screens.
At the client’s first gala using Give by Cell’s Mobile Pledge and Screencast fundraising thermometer, $33,000 in pledges was raised. The majority of donations have already been collected.
“Our CEO was flabbergasted and absolutely thrilled–not only from the actual dollar amount [raised], but from an engagement standpoint. The energy in the room that surrounded that particular call to action was so vivacious and exciting. He felt that it added a dimension that we were previously lacking in the program.”
During the event, one guest, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, handed his smartphone to an NYAS employee, asking her to pledge $5,000. She did, on the spot. “This was a donor who had not previously ever given to our organization,” Cullmann said. “It’s a brand new income stream that we never previously had access to.”
The client extended its Give by Cell contract several months in order to prolong engagement and follow-up communications with donors, and tie the event to a larger bicentennial campaign. The NYAS is already planning to include Give by Cell in several other fundraising events, including an exhibit unveiling at the New York World Trade Center, featuring members of the institution’s board, important donors and supporters. The client is also continuing to build their base of donors using data and contact information obtained during the initial gala. It is planning an end-of-year giving campaign with a message of thanks to gala donors, tied to another call-to-action. Going forward, the institution plans on using Give by Cell at its next annual gala and other events.
“We are going to extend the campaign using Give by Cell,” Cullmann said. “We will continue to track those leads, for which we previously didn’t have a method of contact.” .
"Our CEO was flabbergasted and absolutely thrilled—not only from the actual dollar amount, but from an engagement standpoint. The energy in the room that surrounded that particular call to action was so vivacious and exciting. He felt that it added a dimension that we were previously lacking in the program."
NYAS senior vice president of operations