Social media crowdsourcing can raise millions for colleges

'That's a new model—suddenly you're getting donors to be fundraisers for you"

See EAB's take on this story.

Colleges that crowdsource are expanding their donor bases and raising significant amounts of money in short campaigns, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports for the Washington Post.

Phone calls and direct mailers often don't work with younger alumni and can end up alienating them if they get annoyed. Yet as budgets decrease, schools rely more and more on charitable donations of all sizes to fund endowments, renovations, and scholarships.

"The quality, the affordability, the accessibility of education in this country is heavily dependent on private philanthropic support. And that's a dependence that is growing," says Kestrel Linder, co-founder and CEO of higher education-specific fundraising platform GiveCampus. "The irony is most people don't view schools as charities, and they don't treat education as a philanthropic cause."

While total charitable donations are up overall, fewer people are giving, according to the Council for Aid to Education

Social media fundraising: Disruptive innovations in university fundraising

Hamilton College administrators used crowdsourcing earlier this year for a 24-hour Leap Day fundraising challenge.

"We wanted to engage a new generation of alums who need to be communicated with in a very different way," says Dick Tantillo, VP for Hamilton's communications and development.

Hamilton ended up raising $900,000 from 2,868 people, four times the number of alumni who donated to a similar campaign without a social media aspect four years earlier.

"The real trigger was that with social media, donors themselves became advocates for the whole enterprise," says Fred Rodgers, director of annual giving. "People were making gifts and then posting to social media that they had done so, and that had an enormous snowball effect. That's a new model—suddenly you're getting donors to be fundraisers for you." 

Student and young alumni fundraising

College of the Holy Cross also saw success with a recent 43-hour online donation drive, which raised almost $2 million.

A cohort of 1982 classmates pledged to give $500,000 to the school if 2,500 other alumni also donated. The group shared the pledge on Facebook and Twitter, and a total of 6,226 people ended up donating.  More than half of the funds donated came from alumni who graduated after 1990—and a majority of the gifts were given via mobile devices. Additionally, 122 new donors participated, 75% of whom graduated with the last 10 years.

Now the school is looking at using the platform to run a senior class fundraiser and get students used to donating before they leave campus for good.

"To really move the needle and increase overall support, schools need to engage new donors," Linder says (Douglas-Gabriel, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 4/19). 

EAB's take

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin , Advancement Forum

Everything old is new again. Many university fundraising shops started decades ago as volunteer-driven operations. As fundraising grew in scale, mass solicitations took hold, and peer fundraisers played a smaller and smaller role in annual giving.

Today, technology and the web have brought peer fundraising at scale back within the grasp of more colleges than ever. These personalized asks cut through the noise, inspiring gifts from alumni who ignore the usual annual giving appeals.

College and university advancement leaders have an opportunity to capitalize on volunteer engagement year-round. Giving days are just the start. Learn more by registering for the first part of our upcoming webconference series, "The New Rules of Engagement: The Case for Investing in Volunteer Engagement."


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