3 Ways to Use Social Media for Higher Education Fundraising Success

As an institution built primarily for the Millennial demographic, higher education organizations need to go where those people are—social media.

That doesn’t mean you’re just reaching out to Millennials. You’ve got donors, alumni and staff to consider, as well. But social media is a valuable tool for your higher education organization. Follow these three guidelines to let social media work for your higher education fundraising success.

1. Forget Direct Fundraising (For Now)

Let’s pretend you’re walking down the street when you see a stranger. You approach that person and ask them if they’d like to contribute money toward your NPO’s mission. More times than not, you’d be rejected.

What gives? Don’t get us wrong, you have a great mission. But that’s not what this rejection is about, is it? As an experienced fundraiser, you know that fundraising dollars don’t roll in unless you have a relationship with those people first.

The same applies to asking for funds on social media. Even if the campaign is amazing, you need to establish trust first.

In this case, there’s a social media sharing rule that your organization should use to help build that trust—The 40/40/20 Rule. Forty percent of the time your organization should be sharing your own content, 40 percent of the time you should be sharing other people’s content and the last 20 percent can be used to make a call to action (asking for fundraising dollars, donating time, etc.).

The bottom line is that it’s not always about direct fundraising on social media. Sometimes there’s groundwork that needs to happen (especially when you’re trying to gain enough trust to garner donations). Establish the right voice and really aim to connect with both students and alumni on social channels. If you start by building relationships, the rest will follow (with a little push on your part).

2. Minimize Your Approach

“We want to do it ALL,” you say in reference to fundraising on social media. But what you really mean is that you want to be able to raise the most funds.

So let’s back up. It’s often a matter of simplifying your approach. What do you need?

A Clear Call to Action
Donors need to understand what it is that you want them to do. Too many steps will become a deterrent toward donating. But if you keep the call to action simple and succinct, you’re more likely to increase donations. Try a matching gifts program. As an example, tell your followers that you’ll donate a set amount for every tweet you receive with a certain hashtag you created. Have a brainstorming session and get creative with how you want constituents to donate.

A Path to Success
After you’ve determined your call-to-action, it’s time to figure out how to get there. You’ll need to consider how long you want to run the campaign and what social channels you’ll be using.

And if you’re wondering how this is even possible, check out this real-world example from Wabash College in Indiana. Despite being a small school, they achieved HUGE results all in 24 hours. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

3. Promote Like Crazy

Finding a balance between too much social media promotion and not enough can be tricky. Too much push and your followers will be annoyed and you’ll risk turning them away for good. But too little and you risk not getting your fundraising campaign off of the ground at all.

That’s why you’ve done all of the pre-work. This is the time for your relationship building to take your social media marketing to new heights. You built up the relationship, you developed a plan and now it’s your chance to shine. Those relationships will take you to new heights because those people will want to help spread the word. You just have to give them the opportunity.

Just because it’s a social media campaign doesn’t mean you have to stick to only promoting on social media. Send to alumni and students with an email marketing campaign or direct mail piece. Get the hype out there and direct them to your social pages.

Use hashtags. Encourage people to share. Use multiple channels. You’re on your way to using social media for your higher education institution’s fundraising success.


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

July 25, 2014

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