2014 Conference Social Media

Digital Fundraising on the Social Web – Part I

dollar bill folded like a heartAshley Budd of Cornell University gave social media folks the ammunition they need to go back to their campuses and get the buy in they need from advancement offices – that social is not just “fun” or “cute.” It’s a serious – and we mean serious – fundraising tool. There could be tens of thousands of dollars lurking behind usernames on Twitter.

The asking part can be icky, but it doesn’t have to be, she told attendees. And it shouldn’t be, because after one campaign ends, another will soon enough begin—and you want to retain those donors.

Budd went through four of her school’s 12 personas:

  • Kathy – tracked, but unengaged – high-power CEO – no interest in giving. She’s not returning phone calls.
  • Scott – known, tracked, super fan
  • John – unknown, engaged (wearing swag), young entrepreneur w/ potential—she later explained that it’s often a social media post or maybe a first-time visit to Homecoming that gets these folks on the radar.
  • Beth – unknown and unengaged, off the grid, we want to pick her out of this crowd and start engaging her.

“I bet most of you aren’t doing this,” Budd challenged, adding that most advancement offices might only people sort by what they gave, or if they gave.

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Budd focused for a bit on Kathy – who was known, but unengaged. She had a gift officer always looking to engage with her – but those traditional methods are not working. Budd explained that her office saw a tweet about Kathy taking a new job—a pretty good one. They let her gift officer know and mentioned that, maybe, they should respond. The officer replied, that “yeah, you’re the eighth person to tell me this; she doesn’t respond.”

The social media team engaged anyway with a big ‘ol pride-filled tweet: “The big red family is proud of you.” Kathy favorited it and responded. The also immediately connected with her on LinkedIn.

Two years of silence, broken.

Budd said they made a note that social media person engaged first, to give credit to the person who had the foresight that there was something here. Then, the development office introduced her to some speaking engagements to get her involved on campus.

She gave a major gift—on her iPhone—within in months.

What Budd reasoned was that Kathy—and people who fit this persona—does not have time to stop and take time to answer our calls.

“She DOES love us; we just weren’t where she wanted to be,” Budd said.

Budd’s presentation went on to cover crowdfunding as a way to capture those unknown, untracked people who might have the giving power that the Kathy’s have, but still need to be groomed–because they matter, too. We’ll cover that in Part II of Budd’s red-stapler-winning presentation.

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico is an independent writer and marketer. She's been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story through a variety of mediums as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a monthly creative nonfiction journal, which produced its first conference in August 2015. She loves road trips, board games (Scrabble is her fave), greasy spoon diners, cheese and words.