How to Get Buy-in for an Advancement Social Media Budget

I’ve seen many a social media manager (myself included) get hung up on how many likes, retweets, shares, and favorites they get on social media. With the death of organic traffic (we miss you!), it’s becoming harder and harder for brands and nonprofits to get fans to see their posts.

So what can you do?

Well, for companies without the worry of budget restrictions, you pay to play. The for-profit world is combating the death of organic traffic by paying for social media ads so that their posts get the views they need to be successful.


It’s important for nonprofits and independent/higher-ed advancement organizations to follow suit. If you want to compete for your audience and get eyes on your content, you need to establish an advancement social media budget.

Easier said than done, Steph.

In an industry where every dollar has a purpose, you need to get buy-in in order to get budget. Small changes and fresh ideas could make a huge impact on your organization’s bottom line.

Here are some tips to help you win your case—plus what you should spend money on once you’ve got the social media budget.

Remember What’s In It for Them (WiiFT)

“Well, that tweet got five retweets. It was a good one.”

All leadership is thinking is:

What does that even mean?!?!?!

This isn’t just a social media lesson, but a life lesson. If you want buy-in from leadership about initiatives, don’t just talk about how it will benefit you and what you’re trying to accomplish. Talk about why it’s important to the big picture and the overall goals of your institution.

What NOT to say:

“If we promote this Facebook post, we should get a lot more likes and shares.”

What to say:

“I know that one of our strategy goals for 2016 is to increase attendance at alumni events, especially for those 11 to 20 years out. Many of them are on Facebook (to share pictures of their kids with grandparents, etc.) and we’ve seen high engagement from this group over the past few months. With $50 in Facebook ads to promote this event, I think we can guarantee at least 10 extra alumni attendees from our target audience.”

If you speak to WiiFT and understand the needs and priorities of your boss, you are lining yourself up for success.

Get Your Data On

To get buy-in from leadership, you’ll need to show them the data.

In a previous blog post, I talked about the importance of using data to get buy-in to retire the then-existing Boston College (BC) GOLD Facebook page. Without EverTrue providing me with the data, I wouldn’t have been able to win the argument.

To request an EverTrue analysis of your institution’s Facebook page, click here.

Let me illustrate two scenarios below. Which argument would you side with?

“Well, I just think it needs to be done.”


“In the last year, we’ve grown the BC Alumni Facebook page, and now it has more fans than the BC GOLD (Graduates Of Last Decade) Facebook page. On top of that, of the top 100 fans on the BC GOLD Facebook page, 42 of them aren’t in GOLD anymore. These fans have all moved over to the BC Alumni page and into the BC Class Facebook groups. The BC GOLD Facebook page is now redundant and we should retire it.”

The latter is much more compelling.

Find ways to get data. Use UTM codes to track clicks. Create reports or use reporting features from services like Sprout Social and Hootsuite to show your progress.

Report on Results

Each month, I create an Executive Summary for my leadership team to show the progress we’ve made by investing in social media. While I could talk about the tweet that got over 1,700 retweets (that actually happened), it’s better to discuss how that tweet impacted our business.

A great way to do this is by highlighting the top pieces of content on your site (using data from Google Analytics), then discussing the role of social media in driving that traffic.

  • When I share a new blog post on social media, did we see a correlating rise in traffic to the Giving Day page?
  • Do we know we received donations from social media? (UTM codes can help you prove this!)
  • Did boosting the Facebook post drive more traffic to the story? Did we see more shares as a result?
  • Did the LinkedIn ad for that event actually drive more sign-ups?

Social media is a wonderful world of experimentation and hypotheses. If you can experiment with $25/month, do so and report on the results. See if using social media to optimize events allowed you to get more butts in the seats.

By regularly keeping leadership updated on key metrics, you’ll be able to justify your budget as well as gain buy-in for increasing the budget in the future.

What Should I Use the Budget On?


If you succeed in getting the green, first have yourself a little victory dance. It’s a big deal and you should be proud of yourself. I’d even encourage you to put it in your personnel folder to show what you’ve achieved. It’s THAT kind of big deal.

Now, leadership is most likely expecting you to outline how that money will be spent. Here are some ideas.

  • Social Media Management Software. Your first priority is to make your job easier. Live tweeting and posting is not sustainable. Invest in a good scheduling system (shout out to Sprout Social!). You shouldn’t “set it and forget it,” but this will give you time to have more impactful interactions and reply to alumni.

Cost: Depends. Sprout Social is $49/month for nonprofits. AgoraPulse is $29/month. Hootsuite varies, depending on if you purchase add-ons and custom URL builders, but you should spend at minimum $20/month.

One of the best parts of my job at BC Alumni was that I got to take “Instagram walks” every once in a while. For engagement purposes, I would tweet out that a walk was about to happen and ask alumni what they wanted to see. Moreover, as I developed relationships with alumni I would also try to incorporate photos with things they care about.


The impact of this tactic was huge… and free. This isn’t a stock photo. This is something I took on my own, with my iPhone. Photography matters, but you can do it well even if you have a restricted budget.

Cost: If you buy a photo for every day of a month, you would pay about ~$85.00/month on photos alone. A nice DSLR camera can cost around $400.00.

Go for the latter. Get the camera and use your phone. It will save your organization money over time (the camera will get used for a variety of things), and you’ll get Fitbit steps from all that walking. Win-win for everyone.

  • Designer-created cover and header photos. The BC Alumni accounts change their header images every month to correlate with their famous Neenan Calendar. This is an easy way to get engagement, but trust me when I say, you need a savvy designer to do this.

Cost: If you have an in-house designer, you’re set! You just need to collaborate with them so that it’s included in their work. If you don’t have a designer, use sites like Upwork and Fiverr to find a good one. Cost can be around $30/hour.

  • Facebook ads. If you have an event coming up that needs a boost or if you are planning to do a #GivingDay, a Facebook ad is your new best friend. Track your progress and your results.

Cost: Trust me when I say $25 can go a long way on Facebook. Aim for $25/month to start. Once you start experimenting, you’ll know if you need to up it or reduce it. 

  • Boost individual Facebook posts. If you want a specific story (or a major giving opportunity like a Giving Day) to really get noticed, boost the Facebook post. To learn how to, watch this video.

Cost: If it’s a big giving initiative, treat it as such. You should spend at least $50-$100 dollars for the greatest impact on your target audience.

  • LinkedIn ads. LinkedIn ads are great if you have an active and vibrant alumni community. Plus, once you spend on LinkedIn, they are pretty good about giving you free $50 credits for more ads. Watch your email and make good use of these freebies.

Cost: LinkedIn recommends a minimum of $50. After that, it could be free. Just keep your eyes peeled for those emails.

Getting buy-in for a social media budget is going to take a lot more work than “please.” Work hard to argue your case and always show your results.

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.

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