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Maximizing Higher Ed Giving Days with Social Media

By Brad Schleicher September 11, 2017

As many colleges and universities strive to maintain consistent enrollment numbers, fundraising and alumni giving is more important than ever to the financial future of many higher education institutions.

According to Noelle Seybert, Social Media Manager for Pepperdine University’s Integrated Marketing Communications team, traditional strategies to court big donors and close major endowments are still crucial, but providing avenues for alumni and even current students to contribute small gifts can be just as important. Giving Days are an increasingly popular way to energize the alumni base around a single moment of unified engagement and philanthropy. While some universities tie their Giving Day to #GivingTuesday, others anchor the day to other meaningful historical events to the campus.

Pepperdine University, despite being heavily tuition-dependent, was intent on finding new ways to grow its alumni giving strategy and Seybert saw huge potential in social media. “I knew we had a variety of positive, highly-engaged alumni communities across different social channels,” says Seybert,”we just hadn’t developed a strategy for engaging them as a part of the giving process.”

After formulating a social strategy and enabling Social Ambassadors across Pepperdine’s five different schools, Seybert focused her efforts on the institution’s annual Giving Day to engage those alumni on active social channels that had yet to participate by sharing reasons why other alumni had given and thanking them for it.

According to Seybert, one of the best aspects of the social-focused Giving Day strategy was that it made the act of giving personal and relatable. “The social component was great because the best stories about Pepperdine were being told by the alumni that experienced them,” she said. “It made our Giving Day about much more than the dollars it was generating.“

Seybert was thrilled to see the new social giving strategy contribute to fundraising successes. On its spring 2017 Giving Day, Social Media was the second largest source of Pepperdine’s online giving/fundraising referrals.

But despite any success, it’s important to remember that developing a social strategy for Giving Days or any fundraising effort shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can be a challenge for universities to break through all of the other causes that are asking for money online and convert views into dollars, so any message to potential online donors must be personal and authentic. Sure, It’s tempting to think of “social media” as one uniform communication channel for a particular age group, but the reality is that each social media channel requires its own strategy and content should be customized to each channel. “One of the biggest strategies to reinforce is that developing and distributing content isn’t as simple as copying and pasting a single message across every channel,” says Seybert. “Going forward, we want to better enable and empower our Social Ambassadors so they can show successful engagement across different communities and platforms.”

Want to learn more? Join Noelle Seybert and the Higher Education team for our upcoming webinar, “Maximizing University Giving Days with Social Media,” on Thursday, September 28 at 2:00pm EDT/ 11:00am PDT where we showcase:

  • Best practices for incorporating social media into your fundraising strategy
  • Tactics for leveraging social media technologies during Giving Days
  • Suggestions for influencing staff social media adoption across multiple schools/campuses