Whenever I go to conferences, I ask people where they are focusing their current fundraising efforts. The classic favorites are always mentioned—phone, email, and in person. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and company, Facebook also seems to have a place. And for those trendsetters, crowdfunding does too.
But what about Twitter? Does it get the same attention as Facebook and those other fundraising avenues?
The reality is, probably not—but it should. Most people know their school’s phone number used for fundraising, and chances are, when that number appears on their caller ID, it’s ignored. Emails either get deleted, or people unsubscribe from them. Beautiful snail mail print pieces end up in the trash.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but traditional solicitation methods are simply less effective than they used to be. Social media offers hope—if you do it the right way.
If you have time, money, and talent (minimum two out of three), you can make Twitter work for your organization or institution. These are tactical ways to use Twitter and build your pipeline.
1. If you build it, they will come.
Take time to build your Twitter following and understand your audience’s behavior. While managing the @BCAlumni account for Boston College University Advancement, I made sure to listen to my audience first. What were they talking about? What were their concerns? The community had to accept the @BCAlumni account before we could start making asks, or, as I would argue, we would just give them something else to ignore.
Build your audience first. Search for hashtags so you can find people with similar interests. Engage with followers. Ask questions. Listen. Respond.
I can’t stress the “respond” part enough. In the good ol’ days, if you needed help, you’d call someone. Years ago, we started emailing. Now, we tweet—and we better get a response. If you are going to be on Twitter, you should be replying to people in real time. Waiting four days to respond to a tweet is not okay.
2. Use Followerwonk.
Followerwonk, owned by Moz.com, is a nonprofit’s favorite thing: free. (There is a version you can pay for too.) Among other features, Followerwonk allows you to search Twitter bios to help you find people affiliated with your institution.
Simply go to the website and perform a search. Here, I’ve searched for people who have “Boston College” in their bio. (Note: I have to use quotations, otherwise I’ll get any mix of the words “Boston” and “college” in the bio—meaning I might find Boston University kids… and as a BC alumna myself, well, I’m not looking for them. #GoEagles)
On Followerwonk, you can sort the profile results by social authority (i.e. Klout score), how old the Twitter account is, and how may followers they have.
Keep in mind that if I only performed a search for “Boston College,” I’ve hardly found all the BC alumni on Twitter. People proclaim their love for BC differently:
Proud BC alum. BC Eagle. BC ’09. Taking to the Heights.
So, make sure to perform multiple searches. And if your school has an abbreviation that could be confused with others (BC could be Benedictine College or British Columbia, etc.), double check against your database.
3. Use Tweet Deck alerts.
Many schools allow alumni to make their gifts online. They can visit the website, fill out the form, and voila, a gift. Our amazing web team in BC UA (like at many schools) has set up social prompts encouraging alumni to tweet or share that they just made a gift. Using Tweet Deck, I could track whenever an alum used the prompted tweet: “I am a proud Eagle who made my gift.”
The alert in Tweet Deck was simple—it was the first few words of our prompted tweet. If someone tweeted that they made a gift, the @BCAlumni account would respond thanking them. If that’s not an instant gratification, I don’t know what is.
Once you have the alerts set up in Tweet Deck (along with other hashtags), you’ll be able to thank your donors in real time. Remember, no matter how small or big the gift is, a public acknowledgement on Twitter goes a long way.
4. Use Twitter lists and label them properly.
The most underutilized tool on Twitter—hands down—is Twitter lists. Don’t be one of those guys who doesn’t utilize them.
Twitter lists allow you to organize folks on Twitter. While at BC, I made lists for the Boston College classes from 1960 to 2018. Alumni loved this because they could reconnect and find friends who are also on Twitter. I didn’t expect many subscribers, but the @BCAlumni account received many a “thank you” when it came to finding their classmates. Think Facebook groups, just on Twitter.
It was also great for our advancement team. How? Once you know someone’s on Twitter, you have another method of contact. If their email magically disappears, you can potentially still get ahold of them. Plus, tweets that people publish give insight into what they are passionate about. Do they love sports? Are they always going to Paint Nite? Are they politically versed?
As a social media manager, you should be sharing these insights with your coworkers. Give your research team the Twitter handles of alumni (so they can have that contact method). If someone is passionate about your school or organization on Twitter, tell your reunion team—the user may make a great volunteer.
So how do you make a Twitter list? Go to your Twitter profile page. You’ll see “Lists” all the way to the right.
Once there, on the right, you’ll see a section called “Create a new list.” You’ll need to name the list and give it a description (under 100 characters).
You will then have a privacy option to control who can access the info. Public = Anyone can see the list. Private = Only you can access the list. Regardless if it’s public or private, however, people will know they have been added to a list and what the list is called. So, for the love of all that is decent and holy, do not call your list “Prospective 1M Donors.” Just don’t.
5. Engage VIPs.
If an important donor has a Twitter handle, you should set up a Tweet Deck alert for them. But, to guarantee you won’t miss their tweets, you can purchase a program like Encore Alert that will email you when a VIP tweets or a hashtag is mentioned. That way, you’ll be instantly notified of opportunities to engage with those donors; even if it’s a random thought, engagement from your account can start the relationship.
You can also set up Google Alerts about that person—tweeting about their success is always a good move.
6. Put a twist on an old favorite and set up a battle.
I love my alma mater, but every year we get the same challenge: We are X% filled on the thermometer and need to get that number up to 100%.
Columbia University broke the mold with their Giving Day, and other schools followed. They enticed a “battle” between graduates of different schools to see who could “unlock” the next bonus level of giving.
Everyone loves a battle. Remember in middle school when there was a contest to see which classroom could bring in the most pounds of food for the food drive? And you brought in potatoes? You were bound to win that pizza party. You could taste victory.
In the same way, you should be pitting constituent groups against each other on Twitter. Set up a “March Madness” style battle to see which class, person, or school can get the most donations. Have UTM codes tracking everything, and you will be able to see how many donations come through Twitter and other online mediums.
You should absolutely promote the challenge on Facebook and other marketing channels (and make sure you track all channels with corresponding UTM codes), but as a test, see how many donations you get from Twitter.
7. Have an anonymous donor set up a Twitter milestone.
Anonymous donors are always setting up milestones—“if you do this, we’ll match it with this.” See if they are willing to do a Twitter milestone. The American Red Cross had a great example of this with a celebrity donor:
From this tweet, the American Red Cross received $159 from one donor. However, if you need new donors, you could ask an anonymous donor to match gifts and promote it on Twitter. I have to give credit where credit is due, so here’s what BU did:
Obviously, promote it on Facebook and use other marketing tactics to make sure people are aware. If it’s a daylong event, you should create tweets leading up to it that say, “Be on the lookout for this tweet.” Think about radio stations—they tell you when to call into the show to win tickets. You should let people know when this specific tweet is going to happen so your followers will look for it and act. If that gets buzz, you know you have something special and brand new.
8. Track and share progress.
Twitter is the ultimate newsfeed. I find more information faster on Twitter than I do waiting for the 6 o’clock news. So, if you are running a campaign, share progress updates on Twitter.
Don’t be afraid to get creative when posting these updates. For example, use fun, shareable images. We all remember the “Old Spice Guy.” Can your organization do something like that? Would they do something like that?
A coworker of mine cleverly came up with a “10 second dance party” every time we reached a new milestone in the senior class gift campaign. Students danced. Teachers danced. The bartenders at the infamous watering hole danced. All of this was recorded and filmed—and the students were eager to see who would be dancing next.
Twitter takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. You have to keep it at. As a social media manager, you are the front line of a digital fundraising field, and you have to know when to ask and when the donors (your followers) aren’t ready. But, as I hope I’ve shown above, if you dare to be different and give Twitter the attention it deserves, amazing things can happen.
Which schools are rocking it on Twitter? See this post for some of our favorite fundraising tweets!
Stephanie St. Martin is the Manager, Digital Content at d50 media. Prior to d50 media, she was the Social Media Manager for Boston College University Advancement, i.e. the person behind @BCAlumni on social media. When she’s not in the digital marketing trenches, Steph can be found writing, playing/hosting trivia, and driving around the USA in hopes of seeing all 50 state capitol buildings. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter if you dare.