Online Fundraising Finally Catching On At .edu

May 12, 2015       Mark Hrywna      

More colleges and universities are experimenting with social media as part of their fundraising efforts than last year, according to a recent survey, although for the vast majority, it still represents 5 percent or less of their total. Institutions also are using more images and video than text but

Some 57 percent of respondents to the 2015 CASE Social Media and Community Conference used social media to fundraise — compared with just less than half (47 percent) in 2014 — and 59 percent reported experimenting with new social media fundraising strategies.

Nearly 1,000 respondents provided feedback for the sixth annual survey, conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Huron Consulting Group in Chicago and St. Louis-based mStoner.

“We’re seeing a steady growth in the use of social media by practitioners who work in educational advancement, especially fundraising and alumni relations, who see these tools as increasingly important to their work,” said William Walker, interim vice president of advancement resources for CASE.

The use of text decreased from 65 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2015 while use of images grew from 30 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2015. Use of video jumped from 6 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2015.

Of the 15 percent of institutions that held crowdfunding campaigns, half earn more than $10,000 per year. Of the 42 percent that held a day of giving, 84 percent considered it a success and 37 percent raised more than $50,000.

“Many institutions are experimenting with crowdfunding, days of giving and other new social-media-based fundraising strategies,” said mStoner President Michael Stoner, who expects more institutions will use social media in the future as part of fundraising efforts.

More than one in five (22 percent) use social media ambassadors recruited to help promote social media initiatives. These are often alumni.

About a quarter (26 percent) of respondents rate their use of social media as very successful or a model for success, and are more likely to plain, have goals and measure outcomes. Institutions are focusing their attention on Facebook, Twitter and institutional websites that aggregate social media, according to the survey. A third of respondents (34 percent) calculate engagement scores for alumni and donors and indicate that they are focused on building sophisticated ways of measuring engagement.

Measurement is becoming increasingly important as advancement professionals are asked to show a return on investment, according to Jennifer Mack, senior managing researcher at Huron. While survey results indicate a trend toward measuring what is effective, Mack said there is still more opportunity for growth as the majority of institutions surveyed use number of followers, website click-throughs and anecdotal evidence as their top forms of measurement.

The CASE/Huron Education/mStoner social media survey was conducted Feb. 19 to March 26, asking advancement professionals at education institutions about their social media use.