Several EverTrue blog posts in the past year have focused on encouraging fundraisers to take a hard look at social media—not just as a new venue for alumni connections but also as a legitimate fundraising tool. Even as social media became commonplace for companies and businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions still looked at it with skepticism for its utility as a fundraising tool. Without a product to sell or advertise, many questioned, was the marketing effort worth the costs?
Certainly, it would behoove development officers to use social media. As Dan Klamm outlines in his recent fundraising post, the advantages of social media engagement include prospect identification, background information and affinity insights, and increased opportunity for communication. There is no other way to gather this kind of information on a large scale—and to get the fastest updates—about which of your constituents are moving, who has recently gotten a new job, or who has just had a baby. Traditional research might not capture any of this information in any kind of immediate timeframe, so social media provides an excellent source of up-to-date alumni information.
The much bigger challenge within development offices has been integrating social media and other marketing strategies into the traditional office structure. Many institutions consider marketing efforts distinct from any development staff and often outsource marketing work from the production of solicitations and newsletters to the creation of social media and websites. While there may not always be crossover in marketing expertise among fundraisers, outsourcing marketing efforts leads to a significant gap in the mission and effectiveness of a development office.
Consolidating marketing and development efforts within the same office structure is beneficial in three ways:
1) Effective communication of information gathered via social media.
Example: A highly-rated prospect sees an Instagram post about the new basketball court under construction at his alma mater and comments, “Glad to see this! I was just talking to my former teammates at our last reunion about how I’d love to see the gym redone—we’ve had those same bleachers since my sophomore year!” Under a separate Marketing/Development model, this message may never be relayed back to this alumnus’ prospect manager, and his interest in a specific project might go unaddressed.
2) Analysis of the effectiveness of a particular marketing campaign.
Example: The marketing staff at a particular institution has created the same year-end tax mailing each year for the past five years, substituting new photos and dates in the same template. A personalized calendar reminder sent via email would likely increase giving, but if marketing staff are not consistently made aware of the results of their campaigns over time, they are not likely to seek a different course of action.
3) Aggregation and analysis of information collected via social media then turned into action.
Example: An independent school with 8,000 solicitable alumni has 10,000 followers on Facebook, including 2,000 alumni. How can they know which of their Facebook followers are engaged with the school but haven’t made their annual fund gift?
There are manual ways to collect and crosscheck this information to gain insights (which can be very time-consuming), and software like EverTrue’s can help automate the process. Either way, bridging the gap between marketing and development staff within your institution will allow your fundraisers to capitalize on the information access and communication potential that social media and other modern marketing tools provide.