Case study

UQAM’s School of Management Sciences

The overview

Established in 1969, with the merger of five Montreal educational institutions, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is the largest of the network of provincially-run public universities (Université du Québec).

Founded in 1991, the School of Management Sciences (ESG UQAM) is renowned for having trained many of Quebec’s business leaders including Jean-Marc Eustache, co-founder of Transat A.T. and Réal Bouclin, founder of Réseau Sélection. Building on the excellence of its practice-oriented teaching, ESG UQAM is focused on innovative pedagogical approaches, and flexible pathways that take into account its diversified student base. The school currently has over 15,000 students enrolled in its business programs.

The challenge

With a 17% increase in student enrolment over the last 10 years, the School of Management Sciences at UQAM had an increasingly important need for space. In 2018, plans for a new pavilion were drawn up for “Espace Lab” – an incubation hub for business innovation and research, to be housed in an architectural heritage site on Sanguinet Street in Montreal’s burgeoning Quartier Latin neighborhood.

With an estimated cost of over $6 million to renovate and transform the location into a state-of-the-art resource for students, teachers, and leaders of the business community to explore creative solutions together – a fundraising and marketing challenge presented itself for ESG UQAM.

The School of Management Sciences came to Phil looking for help in developing, implementing and assisting in the execution of a crowdfunding strategy and the related social media messaging campaign with the goal of maximizing participatory culture in this visionary project in a relatively tight timeframe.

Although UQAM’s Foundation was embarking on a much bigger campaign to raise funds for the university as a whole, including the new pavilion, ESG UQAM wanted to assure that an opportunity was available for the broader community to share their interest in a collaborative way. By encouraging an organic connection, primarily through the innovative use of social media, Espace Lab was positioning itself as more than just a new building with this campaign.

The execution

Crowdfunding has seen significant growth online over the past decade, and it is an innovative way to create a groundswell of community support from a diverse group of individuals all the while achieving a fundraising goal.

Rather than buying a product, paying to attend an event, or donating to a cause through traditional fundraising campaigns, crowdfunding allows donors to more fully experience and engage in a project through development updates or by providing input on the outcome, features that are not necessarily available to those who do not support the project through this strategy.

Once the theme of the campaign was decided upon, 8 ambassadors were identified that offered their insight on the project and leveraged their networks to solicit participation in the campaign. Testimonials were used to create content for social media channels, and exclusive opportunities were allotted to donors who met donation targets identified in the strategy.

By thoroughly auditing the existing campaign’s website and social media channels, we were able to identify essential modifications that would permit a more fluid user experience and a more successful outcome, including:

  • Creating a vanity URL for the campaign
  • Including a button to share the page on social networks
  • Using a campaign slogan and custom visuals on the website and social media channels
  • Offering multiple donation amount options and what rewards are offered
  • Giving donors the opportunity to leave comments and encouraging them to do so

These modifications resulted in significant engagement on ESG’s social media channels. For instance, the Facebook page saw over 80 000 reaches in total during an eight-week period. In the same time frame, the page had more than 600 reactions, comments and shares as well as over 4000 clicks on posts. Videos and other visual elements were particularly impactful, with thousands of impressions and people reached each time.

Transparency was key in providing the audience with authentic messaging throughout the campaign. Consistent updates were provided on donation goals, enabling crowdfunding participants to see if objectives were being met. The content calendar that Phil prepared for the ESG team included our recommendations for graphics, text, and tone for more than 90 posts, segmented for an audience of more than 60 000 people across 5 different social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube). Participation in GivingTuesday allowed ESG’s campaign to be part of a wider philanthropic movement gaining traction locally and around the world.

The outcome

ESG had a specific goal to increase community engagement and awareness about the role the new pavilion would play within Quebec’s thriving business community. According to the data compiled by UQAM 33% of donors to this campaign were new donors. This campaign helped successfully position the business school as a creative hub for innovation in Montreal.

The dean of the School of Management Sciences, Komlan Sedzro, declared during an interview with Finance et Investissement that “the new space is an ecosystem for us, where we want ideas to collide and illuminate.” By showcasing the latest research, young minds eager to learn, experienced teachers, and innovative business creators, the campaign framed ESG as a magnetic pole – attracting the brightest students but also enticing essential support from the private sector and the community at large.

Surpassing their financial goal of $50,000 in a tight time frame of 45 days, the campaign succeeded in increasing engagement from a broad source of supporters.