Using Social Media to Promote Giving

Posted on 06/15/2019

In today’s increasingly digital world, social media is a critical resource for communicating with constituents. From retail stores to political campaigns, organizations that seek to engage the public must have robust social media strategies. Educational institutions are no exception—indeed, the advancement team’s task is to meet people where they are to engage them with the school’s mission.

Annual giving programs can leverage social media to enhance their direct appeal efforts, broaden their donor base, and tell compelling stories about the impact of philanthropy. But one of the challenges they often face is that they don’t “own” the institution’s social media accounts. Instead, to deliver content to followers, they have to depend on campus partners who have differing interests and priorities.

For example, the alumni relations department may oversee the school’s alumni Facebook page and use it to promote regional events, or the university relations office may manage the institution’s Twitter handle to reach prospective students. Being responsible for reaching different types of audiences, these partners may be hesitant to include fundraising messages as part of their overall social media content.

To take advantage of the limited real estate, annual giving programs must be intentional in their use of social media as part of the larger strategy. Here are a few quick tips for making the most out of your social media presence:

  1. Tell stories. Social media channels provide many opportunities to demonstrate the importance of philanthropy through compelling storytelling. Host a Twitter #AMA (ask me anything) with a lab team researching an exciting topic, share a series of Instagram stories profiling a day in the life of a scholarship recipient, or go live on Facebook to share a commencement or convocation ceremony. Often, one compelling visual or story can be more meaningful than an infographic full of data.
  2. Build a sense of urgency. Social media attention spans are short, so annual giving programs can leverage these tools to drive immediate action. Post reminders about key dates, like giving day, the end of the calendar or fiscal year, or other milestones. Social media content is a great way to remind constituents that a key deadline is looming.
  3. Recruit advocates. User-generated content speaks volumes more than organizational posts—think about the recent “Share a Coke” campaign. Recruiting and training social media ambassadors, whether they are influential posters or just dedicated volunteers, can maximize the impact of the message.
  4. Spark conversation. Encourage engagement by strategically planning content that sparks interest and elicits a response. Ask questions, post polls, and invite followers to share memories. Host a throwback photo competition or ask alumni to share a piece of advice for incoming freshmen. As an added bonus, inviting users to engage in the conversation enables you to collect important feedback and data.
  5. Don’t lead with an ask. Social media isn’t meant to be a tool for solicitation, but it can complement other solicitation strategies. For example, profile a student who recently signed a solicitation mail piece. There’s no question that giving days and crowdfunding campaigns can be exciting social media touch points. But, in most cases, focusing too much on an ask can lead to decreased engagement.

It’s not always easy to put together a social media strategy for annual giving, especially when annual fund teams depend on campus partners to share content on their channels. Teams can overcome this challenge by telling compelling stories, inviting conversation, and recruiting an army of advocates. Creating a comprehensive social media strategy takes effort, but it’s worth the investment to compete for attention in today’s increasingly interconnected world.

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