Social Donor Management in the Time It Takes to Drink Your Morning Coffee

Every time I go to a conference or a meeting of development professionals and management, I hear, “How do you find time for Facebook?” Each time, I have a small aneurysm from the pressure of holding back a blood-curdling scream of frustration.

Social media is not an option. It isn’t a toy that is nice to have if you can afford it. It isn’t a new fad that we have to wait and see if it sticks. It is here to stay, and you have to manage it if you want to maximize your opportunities.

No one is asking if we have time to deal with email or phone calls. They are communication methods—as is social media. The real question is:  What is the cost of ignoring all of those alumni (parents, teachers, students, and friends, too) who are talking to you on social media every day?

Rather than spend a lot of time justifying this stance, let’s walk through my morning routine and see how—in the time it takes you to have your first cup of coffee—you could collect a great deal of useful information.


How to Make Time for Social Donor Management

  1. Each morning, I turn on my computer. While it is loading up, I check my desk phone for messages. There are rarely any there. Do people even talk on phones anymore?
  2. Next, I start clicking open my programs:  First, Mail. Then, Firefox. Next, Chrome. Finally, Evernote. As my browsers are loading, I glance at my email. I’m generally pretty caught up, as I use my phone to read through my emails on the half-mile walk from parking to the office.
  3. And I open a few more. Now that my browsers are ready to go, I use the Firefox browser to open my personal email, personal Facebook, and Griffin (our database of record). In the Chrome browser I already opened, I go to LinkedIn, my professional Gmail account (yes, I’m running three email accounts at the same time), my professional Facebook account, and my Google Calendar. After logging into all of these sites, I am finally ready to begin. It probably took longer to type all of that than it does to actually get loaded.
  4. I normally start with LinkedIn, as it is my personal favorite social media tool for work. It gives me valuable information about capacity based upon career, which I can easily get access to when I check my school’s LinkedIn alumni group for new members and comments. I make note of anything interesting in my Evernote file that I might want to dig deeper into later. I also spend some time scanning my LinkedIn newsfeed to see if there are any trending business articles that I think would be of interest or benefit to our alumni. All of this takes less than 15 minutes.
  5. I then switch over to my professional Facebook account. After checking for any announcements or birthdays that require congratulatory messages, I go to our school’s Facebook page to see who has been active. This is made very easy, since you can click on the “Notifications” link in the Admin Panel. This will show you all of the activity since you last clicked the link. When we have a popular post, I can see who has “Liked” it. While it requires little effort on the part of the alum to click the “Like” button, I know that each of these people took the time to read my message. I place a lot of value on that information, as it is information I don’t get from my print material. And while I may know who opened an email, I don’t know whether the content was received favorably or not.
  6. I make note of these people in Evernote, so that I can track which names are showing up in multiple places and who is paying a lot of attention to our posts. These people become prospects for further research and greater cultivation. They are self-selecting as candidates for more involvement. Again, I probably spend 15 minutes maximum on Facebook first thing in the morning.
  7. When I get an email from someone on campus about a cool activity happening or an award won, I put it up on Facebook (I can quickly paste the link with a quick sentence—2 minutes of time).  The same is true if I have a great meeting with an alum and learn something cool that would be fun to post.


Because I’m doing this tracking on a daily basis, I’ve got a lot of research material at hand when I am planning a trip and deciding who I should see. I also use these tools in the reverse direction when I need to find out more about someone that calls in or who gives regularly but we know little about…but that is the subject of another conversation.

While you’re still sipping that coffee… learn more about about social donor management in Episode 1 of our EverTrue TV series!


Jeremiah Stevens is Director of Alumni Relations and Giving at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and a frequent speaker for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

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