Five SIX Ways to Use Social Media to Shake Up the Pyramid

How often do you get a digital marketer and a researcher together to talk about how online engagement leads to better prospect discovery?

Yesterday, we did just that when our Founder and CEO Brent Grinna sat down with Joseph DiDomizio, Director of Digital at the University at Buffalo’s Office of Donor and Alumni Communications, and Andy Lasselle, Research Analyst for the Oregon State University Foundation.

During the broadcast, we showed ways these institutions are disrupting the traditional giving pyramid by using social media insights and engagement data to discover more prospects, secure more annual donors, and drive attendance to events.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the full broadcast here.


Read on as we break down the highlights into bite-size takeaways.


1. Get a Better Understanding of Top Donors (Watch the excerpt)

When gift officers know exactly how prospects in their portfolio are interacting with Facebook content, great things can happen.

Monitoring sentiment pays off!

At Oregon State, Andy and his team watch how assigned prospects engage with controversial topics like a building name change or OSU’s status as a sanctuary university for undocumented students. Are they “liking” these posts or are they reacting with an angry face? It pays to know!

On the lighter side, OSU also tracks its most engaged super-fans. In fact, they celebrated the first alumna to cross into “10,000-like” territory. Not only did the university push out a great story, but it also secured a major gift from this donor and her family.


2) Engaged Prospects are Hotter Leads for Your Gift Officers (Watch the excerpt)

This might be my favorite slide from the entire presentation.

Engaged prospects are 76% more likely to respond to cold gift officer outreach

Andy and the OSU research team ran a test: does digital engagement lead to better prospects?

The results were conclusive.

Engaged prospects were 76% more likely to respond to “cold” outreach from an OSU gift officer.

Not only were these prospects more likely to write or call back, but Andy and his team also qualified them at higher giving levels than the control group. Eight of the 10 prospects who then met with gift officers moved into an OSU portfolio, as well.


By connecting social engagement to capacity, Andy and Oregon State are finding new major gift prospects more quickly and efficiently than ever before.


3) Use Social Posts to Send Warm Leads to Your Annual Fund Team (Watch the excerpt)

Okay, so maybe this is my favorite slide.

How to use Facebook to send leads to your annual fund

Joseph talked about his work at UB where he’s using Facebook to target “custom audiences” of alumni with specific content. His team collects anyone who likes or comments on that content, then passes that information to the UB phonebank. Those recently engaged alums will get a phone call with the chance to support the very same program they liked on Facebook.


It’s a relevant appeal to a warm potential donor at the very moment they’re thinking about the university.

(Our friends at Boston University used a similar strategy to achieve a 75% conversion rate at their own phonathon.)


4) Shift to Social and Maximize the Impact of Your Events (Watch the excerpt)

The old way of doing things is to record how many people came to your happy hour, reception, or reunion.

The new way of doing things is to use platforms like Facebook Events and Eventbrite to spread the word farther so you know who’s coming, who’s interested in coming, every assigned or rated prospect in attendance, who’s an engaged LYBUNT or SYBUNT, and more.

Buffalo publishes all its events on Facebook where alumni, parents, and friends can respond to or share the invite. UB then uses that info to fuel prospect discovery, annual fund outreach, and even to re-market similar events to past attendees or people they know are interested in going.

Re-target interested event attendees


5) Discover Your Digital-Only Engagers (Watch the excerpt)

Every institution has them: thousands of alumni interact with your institution on Facebook or LinkedIn, but who haven’t yet made a gift, attended an event, or volunteered.

The old “give, go, volunteer” way of tracking and scoring engagement doesn’t deliver a complete picture of how alumni and parents stay connected with your institution.

Cornell University took a dive into everyone who either posted a comment or reacted to five posts on its pages in a year. They discovered 8,000 alumni who were connecting with the university digitally — engagement that was previously going undetected!


6) BONUS Use LinkedIn to Find Wealthy Prospects (Watch the excerpt)

We’ve written about Buffalo’s “prospect research blitzes” before. It’s when their whole research team sets aside time to run searches in EverTrue looking for new, high-capacity prospects.

UB’s research team uses career information from LinkedIn, neighborhood income data, home values, engagement, and giving history to quickly collect a pile of new potential prospects. After qualifying them, they pass along the names to gift officers for direct outreach.

On a recent blitz, UB found 80 new major gift prospects in just 30 minutes.

That’s a lot of information to digest during a single broadcast! Thanks for sticking with us.

What strategy stood out most to you? How is your advancement team using social insights? Leave a comment and we’d love to continue the conversation.

In the meantime, here are the slides from the webinar. Be sure to check out our next broadcast, coming soon.

And, as always, if you want to see EverTrue in action, we’d love to give you a demo.


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