What You Missed at the CASE D1 Breakfast Panel

CASE D1 kicked off its Connecticut programming with a bang at last week’s breakfast and panel “Enhancing, Measuring, and Leveraging Engagement Through Social Media,” both hosted by University of Hartford. I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in the panel. Michael Stenko and Cristina Dieguez-Kou put the program together and it was exciting to hear how cohesively we were all thinking about the topic of social media and how it pertains to donors and constituents.

The panel started with a high-level view of communications strategy and social media from Trinity College’s Caroline Deveau. Her work revolves around the Trinity experience and determining which channels are best suited to broadcasting the college’s message. The success of Trinity’s one-day giving program highlights how the communications team effectively worked together with the rest of campus to disseminate the institution’s message and achieve its ultimate participation and giving goals.

Caroline was a perfect segue to Sarah McMaster, who joined the breakfast from Mount Wachusett Community College. Sarah took Caroline’s high-level communications strategy to a micro level, walking through how she measures the success and failure of communications campaigns with data. For Sarah, it is important to measure and learn from each digital and analog campaign. It’s also extremely important to share the numbers with her executive team to earn their buy-in.

We continued down the donor funnel with my presentation. What does a communications strategy mean when it comes to an individual donor? How are all of these stories measured not just at a high level but on the level of the individual Facebook liker? Schools are sitting on mountains of data from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but are looking at aggregate numbers rather than those that represent individual user engagement.

Identifying your most engaged followers on social networks can provide invaluable information to help identify prospects and build stronger donor pipelines, but that level of insight can require a very manual process for many institutions. Still, it’s crucial that you don’t ignore the power of social media to answer questions like: Are our most engaged followers giving? If not, why? If yes, are they meeting their giving potential?

Social platforms are also epicenters for community conversations, and these can be just as important data sources as event attendance and volunteering. It is what you do with that data that makes it different from other metrics in your database. For example, rather than using social media for direct asks, you can create content around specific initiatives and gather data around who specifically is liking those posts. You can then use that data as a lead list for the campaign or initiative.

Carolyn Russell, who runs the annual fund at Greenwich Academy, concluded the panel by showing how Greenwich had used the tools and thinking discussed previously in the panel to implement a strong strategy. She shared the academy’s thought process and the progression of prospects through the Greenwich funnel as they are segmented and engaged through various channels. Greenwich takes a holistic approach to its fundraising, alumnae relations, and communications strategies, which has proven more effective than the school’s past strategy. The academy now views social as an additional data channel and provides that social data to its fundraisers to enable them to meet constituents where they are today—on social media.

See the presentation for yourself by clicking here to view the panel slide deck.

My three takeaways from the panel:

      1. Include your executive team in your social strategy and metrics.
      2. Everyone—those in Major Gifts and Leadership Gifts, the Annual Fund, Prospect Research, Alumni Relations—should be involved in conversations regarding social media. If they are not active or engaged with what is going on, you’re missing big opportunity.
      3. Social can be really fun. The data is tremendous and schools are doing incredible things on social media.


BONUS TAKEAWAY: You need to pay for Facebook. Our CEO Brent Grinna worked with several institutions to calculate the ROI of using Facebook ads for prospect identification, starting with his alma mater Brown University:

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