Guest blog by Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation.
School is in session! Are you signed up for Alumni Relations 101? You should be!
Maintaining strong connections with alumni after they’ve stopped roaming the halls is crucial for forming a robust volunteer and fundraising base – https://doublethedonation.
While you should still use traditional methods like phone calls and direct mail to communicate with alumni, your university should also formulate a comprehensive social media strategy geared toward developing stronger relationships with former students.
Many of your alumni, particularly recent graduates, are using social media as a way to stay in touch with each other after they throw their mortar boards in the air and go out into the real world.
1. Use Facebook to ask for donations.
Fewer and fewer alumni are whipping out their checkbooks to donate to their alma maters. Instead, they prefer the ease and flexibility of online and mobile giving.
If you want to connect on a deeper level with your alumni, you have to offer them a way to give to your college that appeals to them.
Facebook is the largest social media site, so it makes sense for you to start placing a donation tab on your profile to diversify your fundraising appeal strategies – https://doublethedonation.com/asking-for-donations/. This way, alumni who find themselves on your Facebook page are able to donate without opening a new browser page or searching for their checkbook.
Additionally, offering ways to give on Facebook lets your alumni to share their donations with their networks. If Sally Psychology Major makes a contribution to your alumni fund, she might share that information in a post. Then, Ingrid English Major will know that she can donate via Facebook and might be inspired to give.
The inherent shareability of Facebook lends itself to stronger alumni relationships. You’ll be able to grow your network, raise money, and strengthen the existing connections you have with graduates.
Just make sure that your donation page looks great on mobile devices! 86% of 25- to 34-year-olds (some of the most engaged alumni!) owned a smartphone in the second quarter of 2014.
If you aren’t thinking about mobile-friendliness when developing your social media engagement strategy, you’re missing out!
2. Use social media to determine what your alumni want.
Many people, your alumni not excepting, use social media sites as a way to express their preferences and vent their frustrations.
For example, an alumnus might complain about annoying telemarketers on Twitter while another might express her love of marathons on Facebook.
What does this information have to do with your college, though?
By taking a hard look at what your former students are posting, tweeting, snapping, and instagramming about, you will be able to respond more effectively and relevantly. Maybe your alumni are getting excited about text giving. If they take to Facebook or Twitter to talk about it, that’s your college’s cue to try text-to-give!
When you engage in social listening, you are better able to connect with your alumni the way they would prefer.
Check out these top 10 ways you can engage alumni and supporters with social listening – https://attentive.ly/10-ways-social-listening/.
3. Encourage alumni to participate in crowdfunding.
If your university hosts fundraisers like walk-a-thons or yearly alumni marathons, you can use a crowdfunding platform to encourage participation and raise more money.
But how does crowdfunding relate to social media and alumni relations?
Well, since crowdfunding relies on your supporters sharing the page with their social networks, using a peer-to-peer fundraiser can help your university garner new support and strengthen your existing connections.
It’s been shown that the top 5% of your social influencers reach 85% of your entire network. With stats like that, it is incredibly vital for your university to use crowdfunding as a way to ask for donations and interact with your alumni base.
Who knows, you might just find your next major gift donor or find a valuable alumni volunteer!
4. Use Twitter as a way to give updates and alumni shoutouts.
Everyone likes to be in the limelight every now and again. Use Twitter as a platform to sing your graduates’ praises. You’ll not only get to interact with standout alumni, but you might gain a few extra followers in the process.
The accomplishment doesn’t even have to be directly related to your college. If an alumnus recently landed a great job or married their college sweetheart, use Twitter as a congratulation station.
Twitter is a great platform for quick messages and celebratory remarks. Not only will your alumni enjoy being praised, but you’ll be able to connect with more of your graduates and develop those relationships.
You can also use Twitter to “live-tweet” your next fundraising event! Whether you’re giving updates on the bidding at your charity auction or tweeting out the winner of a raffle at the alumni dinner, you can use Twitter to keep people in the loop and connected to your college or university.
Not sure if an auction or raffle is the right event for your “live-tweeting” campaign? Consider the following questions:
- Will your event be just university alumni or include current students and faculty?
- What’s your budget for the event and how much will you need to raise in order to cover your costs?
- How much have you raised in the past from similar events?
- What is the average age of your target audience and will they be engaged in social media?
- Where are your alumni located?
If you’re looking to target as wide an audience as possible, you may want to consider a product fundraiser instead like selling engraved bricks for a new building that is being constructed which will allow you to acknowledge your alumni via social media regardless of where they are located.
5. Use Instagram to demonstrate the progress of your capital campaign.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or in the case of Instagram, a thousand likes.
If your university has launched a capital campaign to help pay for a new library or student center, use Instagram as a way to connect with your donors and alumni by showing them progress of the building.
You can even show before and after pictures to demonstrate how the project is coming along. Take a cue from home improvement shows. People love to actually see the transformation that’s taking place.
Everyone likes to see tangible results of their fundraising efforts, and what better way to show your dedicated alumni those results than on an image-based social media site like Instagram?
Demonstrating capital campaign progress on Instagram and other social media sites is the perfect solution for universities who feel like their connections with alumni leave something to be desired. Alumni will appreciate the updates, and you’ll be able to keep everyone in the loop.
Many of your recent graduates and older alumni are already on social media sites. Whether they’re posting, tweeting, or snapping, your alumni are interacting with each other on social media.
Is your university part of that inner circle?
If not, then consider following the above five steps to strengthen your relationships with alumni. While there are countless other ways, digital and otherwise, to interact with your graduates, using social media is one of the most cost-effective.
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.