In fundraising today, social media has become a constant conversation. Are we using it enough? How can we use LinkedIn more? Should we start on the next social network?
In a previous blog, I wrote about how social media and development teams can collaborate to raise more. However, there’s one arm in the development tree branch that you wouldn’t imagine having strong results with social media: planned giving. For years, we’ve believed that older alumni aren’t on social media—that they prefer traditional, formal contact methods.
Before you make another assumption, take a moment to read these two statistics from a study published by the Pew Research Center in January 2015:
- 56% of all adults 65 or older use Facebook. This represents 31% of all seniors.
- Adults 50 and older make up about 51% of all LinkedIn users.
If you’re working in a planned giving department, you can’t ignore these facts. Here’s how your planned giving team can utilize LinkedIn to raise more.
Reach out to Alumni Who Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a unique space in the social media hemisphere; people see it as a place for networking and connecting with others. Because of this, fundraisers should take advantage of LinkedIn as a touchpoint with alumni. While I worked at Boston College (BC), we ran an alumni LinkedIn group and used it as a tool for prospecting. (Please note: I can only speak to what happened while I worked there. If the policies changed for the BC LinkedIn group, as I’m no longer an employee, I’m not privy to those conversations.)
Here’s what took place when a person requested to join the LinkedIn group:
- I, as the social media manager, would receive the request. Our rules were that you had to be an alumni of BC or a second-semester senior.
- I would look up the alumna/us by name in our database. Usually, in LinkedIn, there is a spot for education, so this helped me to determine the correct class year.
- If I located them, I would copy and paste the LinkedIn URL into our database.
- If I could not locate them, I would message them asking for their name at graduation (maiden names were in the database; married names were on LinkedIn) and their graduation year.
- If they were from a graduation year 45 years or older, I would pass along their name to the planned giving team.
This list was nothing more than a Word document. I would put the date at the top of the section (so the fundraiser knew what date the alum joined the LinkedIn group) as well as include the database ID and class year.
It looked something like this:
September 13, 2015
12345678 – John B. Smith – 1965
12348765 – Clare B. Smith – 1967
Every two weeks, I would email the list to one of our planned giving fundraisers so she could reach out to the alumni. She would send a simple message, personalizing it depending on the person’s interests.
Are they in a reunion year? Are they local and able to attend an event? Do they need information about planned giving?
By tailoring the messages to each individual, she not only saw an increase in responses (they want to connect with BC, after all), but also in new gifts detailed in wills.
Monitor Who Likes, Comments, and Shares on LinkedIn
If your social team is sharing content on LinkedIn—achievements by professors, strides in research by students, or stories about the impact of giving—you should take note of who is liking, commenting, and sharing these posts. Do this with content about events, too.
Why? It can give insight into what stories resonate with which alumni. Moreover, if an alumna mentions that she’s sad she won’t be able to attend an event, be sure you or another fundraiser personally follows up with her about future opportunities.
Planned giving events at BC were a huge hit, but some alumni could not travel to them. As a result, we would try to record these events or provide handouts via email to alumni who spoke up on LinkedIn saying they wanted the information.
Bonus Tip: Educate Your Users
As a fundraisers, you know what planned giving does—but do your alumni? If you’re trying to get more exposure for planned giving, use social media as an educational platform. Many development organizations, like the Harvard Law School, have specific pages on their website that explain the intricacies of planned giving. To bring traffic to your planned giving page, link to it in a LinkedIn post or share it directly with prospects in an email.
Remember, younger alumni may be starting families and starting to write their wills. If you can educate them early on that a legacy gift is an option, you’ll be helping your school for generations to come.
For more tips on turning LinkedIn into a lead-generating machine, check out Keith Hannon’s post “Why Your Alumni LinkedIn Group Demands Your Attention.”
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.