The Lamp

A Holderness School journal committed to critical reflection and fostering conversation around issues connected to independent schools and education in general.

One Day Together: How Holderness Joined Hands Globally in 18 Hours

Liz Kendall, Assistant Director of the Holderness Fund

 Courtney Williamson, Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications


“We conceived the idea of engaging with voters through a medium that spoke to them.”

-Roger Fisk, Broadbase Fundraising Strategist for Barack Obama's 2008, 2012 presidential campaigns.


A “Flash Campaign” was how it first started. Sometime in October 2014, the words passed between us as a campaign idea for the Holderness Fund. Strong communication components would be needed along with thorough planning. Together, we developed a plan to engage the broad base of Holderness School donors for a single day.  Subsequently, this engagement woud increase the amount of donors contributing to the Holderness Fund  while providing a space for dialogue between alumni, parents and friends.

Examining trends in education, we noticed flash campaigns were nearly exclusive to higher education. Single-day social media campaigns weren’t found in our secondary school fundraising rule books. Among higher education, we noted that Skidmore had raised $75,000 in their day-long flash campaign, Columbia University – three years into their annual Giving Day – raised more than $11 million via 10,000+ gifts in their most recent campaign. Muhlenberg, Tufts and countless other colleges and universities found similar success in the model; and, in reading their stories, we sensed that Holderness School, with its intensely loyal alumni and worldwide community, was ready.


We started with an essential question: How can Holderness School best interact with its donors? In seeking an answer, preliminary tasks developed:

Awareness and support needed among Holderness School faculty, staff, students and trustees. We believe authenticity and enthusiasm are the heart of our community.

Full support from class agents – alumni volunteers who encourage their classmates to make a gift to the Holderness Fund – and engaged alumni.

A handful of pledges secured in advance of the day; these gifts, many of which were shared via social media and email, encouraged others to give and arrived from alumni, parents, and trustees.

With this proposal and these preliminary objectives,  communication and planning began.


The concept became more than a flash fundraising campaign for Holderness, but a day of celebration.  We could now interact with donors via changing communications platforms and help them interact with one another. Our goal was to engage the broad base of Holderness School donors in a single day and increase Holderness Fund participating in support of our annual goal of $1.5 million by June 30, 2015. We also worked to provide and encourage an online space for dialogue between alumni, parents and friends, and encourage giving to Holderness as a conversation topic.  Why give to Holderness? became a question that echoed through our offices, hallways, and inboxes. “One Day Together,” and “Join Us,” were born as themes for the day as we offered the experience of a global and virtual Holderness reunion.


1879, the founding year of Holderness, emerged as another theme. We encouraged community members to make a gift of $18.79 or $187.90 (among other monetary amounts).  In keeping with the 1879 theme, we decided on 18 hours on February 18th with a goal of 187 donors.


Understanding that visual storytelling and personal contact were key Holderness values, we created a 2-minute video of our community – students, faculty, and staff –  coming together in support of the event. We also worked to actively listen to our community. In addition to the countless discussions in Livermore, senior leaders, advancement student workers, administrators, faculty, staff, trustees and class agents facilitated and participated in conversations.

Our advancement student workers led thank you note signings. The senior leaders provided the student perspective. Faculty members listened to us and to our unofficial spokesperson, Bruce Barton.


We wrote, met with, and called our 95 class agents, seeking their assistance in alumni engagement as we believe alumni connect best with their former classmates. Input and suggestions were plentiful.  Every few weeks, we’d return to the drawing board, create a new idea or cancel an old one. Support and excitement grew as we sent emails to 4,000+ members of the community and began spreading the message through our Facebook pages. The idea of “togetherness” spread faster than we thought as support for Holderness grew.


Added encouragement arrived when the class of ’76 sparked an email chain 30 messages long with many alumni connecting for the first time since graduation. When class agents from the classes of ’63 and ’05 encouraged their classmates to give in amounts of 1963 and 2005 instead of 1879, we recognized that class spirit would be a key to the day.


“I see Holderness as an oasis of civility in today’s world. Those leading the school see it the same way; our job is to provide the resources to let them succeed,” wrote class agent John Putnam ’75 in an email to his classmates.           


Surgery couldn't keep trustee Grace Bird P '07, '13 from showing her support on the Day of Giving.

Surgery couldn't keep trustee Grace Bird P '07, '13 from showing her support on the Day of Giving.

When February 18th arrived, it was nine below zero and Weld Hall wore a heavy, icy coat. Shortly after Phil made his 6:00 a.m. gift to kickoff the day, trustee Grace Bird P ’07, ’13 wowed the Holderness community by sharing a photo of herself on Facebook. Posing in the hospital, post-successful-ACL-operation, Grace held a “One Day Together” sign and encouraged others to give. Images from trustees, alumni and former faculty followed in quick succession. Stationed in Weld, the early morning hours saw students completing payback, grabbing breakfast, and arriving for morning study hall.


We answered questions via email and social media, shared images, thanked donors, awarded t-shirts, and recorded and organized gifts. Judith Solberg and Lauraine Paquin worked closely with Jo-Anne Strickland to record gifts. A little before 9:00 a.m., the Business Office shared that roughly 150 gifts totaling $28,000 had been made.

Olivia Leatherwood '13 participates in the Day of Giving from the University of Miami.

Olivia Leatherwood '13 participates in the Day of Giving from the University of Miami.

Alumni took to Facebook and shared memories of OB, classes, and dorm and campus life. A competition was born between members of the classes of ’91 and ’92 on which class could gather the most gifts – final tally: 1991 - 11, 1992 - 28.  And, we, as Holderness School, were able to interact with friends, alumni, parents, and trustees. Class agents checked in regularly, curious of their class participation and reached out to those who hadn’t given.  Class agent Alex MacCormick ’88 encouraged 65 classmates to give. When the Advancement and Communications staff met in Weld a little after 11:00 a.m., we had well surpassed our goal of 187 donors.


Gifts arrived from American college campuses, Guatemala, China, Austria, Korea, Bermuda. More than 20 alumni, trustees, parents and former faculty sent us images of themselves celebrating the day and holding signs reading “I am True Blue,” “I gave,” or “One Day Together, across the years, across the miles, across the mountains. The importance of together stands strong.” We were particularly touched by the actions of three dozen members of the classes of 1978 and 1992, giving in memory of classmates who had recently passed away.


Wednesday meant that our athletes could be involved. The Nordic team’s Lakes Region Championship victory at home that afternoon brought Holderness great pride, energy and enthusiasm. Between calling trustees and potential donors, Robert Caldwell photographed members of the team and loyal Nordic fans holding signs reading “I am True Blue” and “One Day Together.” Jane Pauley led the table in Weld as part of the afternoon push, and Amy Woods reached out to current parents to spread the word. Both beyond campus and within Livermore, it was a true community effort.


We joined our student workers at a thank you card signing table during dinner in Weld before heading to Livermore for a take-out dinner and six hour planning session. We continued to interact with and thank our donors. With late-night exhaustion growing on us, we were reminded of an entirely new opportunity we hadn’t planned for: our west coast Holderness community. The last of us headed home around 11:00 p.m. For the final hour, we reached out to our community. This time from our living rooms.

While the Day of Giving was officially 18 hours, we received gifts from January 16th through March 14th, with 83% of gifts received on February 18th.  All told, we raised $143,907.29, or 11%, of the 2014-2015 Holderness Fund goal and half of expected annual gifts. We remain grateful to the Advancement student workers who led students in signing more than 600 thank you notes during lunch and dinner on February 18th, 19th and 20th. We were particularly intrigued by the gifts made by more than 80 donors giving for the first time in more than 5 years. For some, it was the first time in 20 or 30 years. For an additional 67 donors, it was the first gift they had ever made to Holderness School.


As for our essential question of how to best interact with our donors, an 18-hour social media and email flash fundraising campaign for the Holderness Fund bringing together 8 decades of alumni (1944 to 2014) on a cold day in February became the answer. Joining the 460+ alumni were current and past parents, trustees, faculty, staff, students, grandparents and friends contributing more than 600 gifts for the betterment of Holderness School.


Since February 18th, we’ve been asked often about the specifics of how and why the day succeeded. The most honest answer is that there is no single answer. Instead, we believe the success is attributed to both the caring and loyal Holderness community as well as the individual interaction that occurred. Before the day, we reached out to as many members of the community as possible, determined to educate and engage. While the day did occur online, it was the in-person outreach both here on campus and beyond that made the difference, allowing us to join hands for one day, together.

Zijie Wen '15

Zijie Wen '15