When I worked for Boston College University Advancement, most people didn’t know what to expect from the social media manager role. To most universities, social media seemed like a necessary evil—they knew they needed to be on it, but they didn’t know how they were going to incorporate it. In fact, whenever I saw the president of Boston College at events, he shook my hand and always asked, “Are we tweeting today?”
Beyond the trivial understanding of “tweeting and occasionally Instagramming something,” social media managers can be real allies for fundraisers. Here are five ways you can collaborate with your social team to raise even more.
1. Use engagement on social media to discover new prospects.
Running a campaign for a new football field? Coordinate with social media to post content about the football team. Then, analyze who’s engaging with that content to uncover new prospects.
A few years ago, Tufts University was looking to renovate Cohen Auditorium. They posted a photo of the auditorium, sans-chairs, on their Facebook page. The Tufts community, alumni, and friends engaged with this photo, mentioning memories they had in the auditorium and what the building meant to them. The savvy social media manager passed along the names of those engaged users to the fundraising team responsible for the project. Thanks to the collaboration, the fundraising team now had a new list of prospects who were interested in supporting the Cohen Auditorium renovation project.
2. Use requests to join LinkedIn groups as an invitation to reconnect.
Alumni can go off the radar for years, even decades. They’ve asked to be on the “Do Not Call” list and don’t update their home addresses when they move. They’ve hit “unsubscribe” more times than you can count.
And then, out of the ashes, your social media manager gets a request on LinkedIn from a Class of 1975 alumnus. There he is. He’s back.
Your social media manager could do two things. 1) They could accept the alumnus and move on with their day or 2) They could alert a fundraiser who would care to know that this person is back on the radar.
As a former BC social media manager myself, I opted for #2. Not only did I record alumni LinkedIn profile URLs in our database, but I kept lists of these interactions. Each week, I forwarded a list of alumni who had joined the LinkedIn group to their corresponding fundraisers. If a fundraiser was on the 20th reunion committee, for example, he got a list of alumni who had joined from that class. Similarly, I would pass along a list of older alumni who joined the group to our Planned Giving team.
Our fundraisers would then reach out to the names on the lists with a simple email saying, “I heard you just connected with the BC Alumni LinkedIn Group. I’m helping manage your class’s upcoming reunion in May. If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you or any classmates have questions, feel free to contact me.”
If you’re skeptical about the success of this tactic, the Planned Giving team did receive donations from many of the alumni I forwarded over. Those soft emails from fundraisers allowed for hundreds of relationships to start and would not have been possible without social media.
3. Train the social media manager on key prospecting terms.
Social media managers see a lot more than you think. We spend our time in the weeds of Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, and get to know our audience.
If one of a social media manager’s responsibilities is LinkedIn, they’ll see alerts about new jobs from contacts. And if one of their responsibilities is Facebook, they’ll know that Joe is a big fan of the hockey team based on his engagement with the page.
While I was at BC, I sat down with our prospecting department. I knew they had goals (had to find “x” new prospects each month) and hoped that the data I saw on social media could be helpful. I asked them for a list of keywords to keep an eye out for as I accepted people into the LinkedIn group or saw alerts come across my newsfeed.
Like the lists I provided the fundraisers, I was able to provide researchers with updated records for alumni who were now in different categories. This ensured that major gift officers were receiving more up-to-date prospect profiles. Moreover, we were able to move several alumni from one giving bracket to a higher one just because I saw they were now a CEO and no longer a VP.
4. Ask your social team to put soft asks in social media campaigns.
No university advancement phone campaign manager wants me to admit this, but I know the phone center’s number. And I ignore it every time.
We bombard our alumni with giving messages via phone, snail mail, and email. The last thing we want to do is give them something else to ignore. If solicitations consume your social media feeds, you’re doing it wrong.
In my first few months at BC, the fundraising team asked social media to support a campaign called Happy Birthday BC. For a month, we shared trivia questions via our Facebook and Twitter accounts and gave alumni the chance to win prizes by answering correctly.
Word got out about our contest, and slowly but surely, alumni began to participate. Using Polldaddy, we were able to design short quizzes with ease. A few things we made sure to do:
- We always asked for the participants to include their name and graduation year. At a school like BC, you tend to have a few Ryan Murphys. The graduation year allowed us to distinguish one person from the next.
- We asked them to provide their email address so we could contact them if they won the prize. We were able generate hundreds of missing emails from trivia campaigns.
- We included soft asks. After you made a guess, a new screen would appear. This screen was customizable. Rather than the generic “Thank you for participating in our contest,” we opted to provide a little more information about the campaign and included a link to give.
My co-worker at the time was a complete wizard when it came to the art of the “soft ask.” Even I was blown away at the numbers: We received 15 new gifts from this tiny little link in a thank you message—for trivia!
The campaign was so successful that we continued to run a number of trivia contests during my tenure. All of them included soft asks in the “thank you for completing this quiz” section. All of them received gifts from alumni.
5. Get on board the Giving Day bandwagon.
If we’ve seen anything in fundraising, it’s that a Giving Day works. Humor, levels to unlock challenge gifts, schools against schools—it brings out the best in all of us. Arizona State University raised $3.059 million dollars in just 36 hours. Let that sink in.
Social media is in integral part of a Giving Day’s success. Enlist the help of your social team to spread the word and amplify the awesomeness of the day. (Check out awesome fundraising tweets from previous campaigns here.) Not only can alumni from across the globe donate with the click of a mouse, but more importantly, they feel reconnected to the community.
Social media managers want to be an indispensable resource for our fundraising teams. We can serve a variety of functions; we aren’t just aimlessly tweeting or posting on Facebook. We are building communities. We are collecting data. We are making your jobs as fundraisers easier.
Want us to help you find more potential donors and cash? All you have to do is ask.
Learn more about the value of social media data for fundraising in EverTrue’s newest whitepaper!
Stephanie St. Martin is the Marketing Content Manager at The Ariel Group. Prior to this, 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.