Raising the Profile Raises the Dollars: Dillard University Increases Alumni Participation by 500%


Dr. Walter Kimbrough (@HipHopPrez on Twitter, Medium, and Instagram) is possibly the most active college president on social media. As the head of Dillard University since 2012, Dr. Kimbrough has made a point to use social platforms to be transparent, share news from campus and the classroom, and be an advocate for social change.

With thousands of students, alumni, and DU fans connecting with Dr. Kimbrough daily via social media, Dillard has raised its profile dramatically in the last five years.

That awareness and the constant stream of success stories coming from Dr. Kimbrough’s and the university social accounts have helped Dillard quintuple annual giving participation from 4% to 21% during his five-year tenure and attract regular interest from charitable foundations, as well.

We talked to Dr. Kimbrough about the value of having a university president so active and accessible on social and the positive impact it’s had for his advancement team. Here’s what he had to say.

Social media an effective way to raise the profile of Dillard

“For a small institution, it’s been a great way to be able to expand our message at no cost. It’s a playing field-leveler. I can get the same kind of coverage that LSU or Tulane can get by having a broader social media presence.”

Social empowers alumni to participate in great things happening on campus

“It changes the game. You get people energized by telling stories in real-time. It builds momentum when you have you have lots of successes to share over and over and over again.

We’ve seen that from the alumni giving perspective. When I first got here, our alumni giving was four percent. Last year we were over 21 percent. In five years, that’s a quick turnaround.

Alumni get to repost. They get to retweet. They’re engaged and telling the story of what’s happening, so it’s easier to get other alums engaged, as well.

We’ll also be approached by foundations who see the work that we’re doing and they’ll say, ‘We want you to apply for this grant opportunity because you’re a good fit for us.’”

Transparency helps the advancement team get creative with its own outreach

“I envision myself as a part of that broader advancement team.

If I’m really helping to set the table about the things that are going on, they can do the follow-up appeals. They can come up with completely new and creative programs.”

Dillard has used social-first outreach to drive its first two #GivingTuesday programs. In 2016, the university raised $60,000, doubling its original dollar goal. This past December, it raised nearly $200,000 in a day, also close to twice the target.

A strong social presence gives university leaders a way to connect with students, alumni, and families in authentic ways

“It has to be consistent. It can’t just be press releases and sanitized statements. It has to show some personality because people are looking for that and they’ll connect with that.

College presidents are viewed as thought leaders. It’s scary at times when you get out there, but I think that’s part of leadership. Different people have to find their way. They might not be as open or outspoken as I am, but there could be some quieter ways that they’re involved in that kind of work. Exposing students to ideas will help them be involved in broader movements on campus and across the country.”

Follow Dr. Kimbrough Twitter, Medium, and Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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