Good News from Swinburne University of Technology

July 2, 2020 Eve Heidemann

Support Our Students Appeal

In early April, Swinburne University of Technology made the decision to launch an emergency Support our Students Appeal in response to the challenges students were facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a landmark effort to engage alumni support, the annual mid-year appeals have raised 207% more than the 2019 appeals.

PLEASE NOTE: All figures in this submission are based on a 2019 vs. 2020 comparison from January - June respectively.


When the COVID-19 hit, Swinburne was faced with two key challenges: a global community that was hurting and a shrinking budget unable to meet their emerging needs. 

Instinctively in a time of crisis, we were reluctant to lean on an already burdened community for donations. On both personal and professional levels our relatively small supporter community was worried and facing uncertainty. 

When we made the decision to roll out an emergency fundraising campaign much earlier than the traditional tax-time appeal (alumni appeal and workplace giving appeal), there was an overwhelmingly positive response. That is, the passion of alumni, staff and donors to the causes that matter to them most did not waiver.

Having limited resources (and no automated receipting!) meant that we were forced to streamline work processes and cut red tape in order to work more efficiently to deliver great outcomes for our students and community in this time.  


Despite the urgency of this fundraising campaign and the pressing need for students in this time, we first developed a strategic plan that included clear communications, clear data segmentation and a refined channels strategy that would deliver our compelling messages with greater reach, but at a lower cost. Current donors received a mail pack supported by the email campaign. Lapsed donors, staff, and alumni (non-donors) received the email campaign only. 
Using our 2019 tax-time appeal as baseline, this campaign achieved the following excellent results:
  • Increased engagement and support from younger donors. The number of gifts received across all age demographics was similar. That is, those aged between 55-64 years. (historically our largest donor base), was similar to those aged between 25 – 34 years, 35 – 44, and 45 – 54 years.
  • The campaign activated an 828% increase in new donors.
  • Funds received is currently 135% over initial target. 
  • Despite the hardship that many of our alumni, staff and friends are facing, the average gift size increased by 67%.
  • Donations came from more countries than ever previously recorded (19).

Under usual circumstances we would not seek to include all contactable alumni from our database of more than 200,000 constituents in our appeal communications. For the first time ever, we contacted all (emailable) alumni in our appeal communications – choosing not to segment further but rather put a blanket call out for the need for support for our students.

We also did only one mail pack, and all follow up communications to current donor segments were via email and phone to maximise ROI. Despite bucking usual direct mail trends, this delivered exceptional results. 

A new addition was also the opportunity for all to provide a message of support to students; this empowered those who were not in a position to give to make an impact in a different, yet no less significant way. We received hundreds of messages demonstrating the strength and compassion of the Swinburne community.

We found this to be an extremely complimentary approach that made best use of limited resourcing to deliver maximum impact in such a critical time.


Check out our dedicated Student Emergency Appeal page. Or watch this video: The Swinburne community is supporting our students through COVID-19.

Find out more about Swinburne University of Technology:


Previous Article
Good News from Guide Dogs Victoria
Good News from Guide Dogs Victoria

Next Article
Good News from Monash Health Foundation
Good News from Monash Health Foundation