The University of Wisconsin-Madison is using social media interaction to generate incremental fundraising for student scholarships.
For a limited period, an alumni donor will contribute $1 per click for each of the following four actions:
- a new "Like" on the University Facebook Page
- a new "Like" on the Alumni Association Facebook Page
- a new follower of the University Twitter feed
- a new follower of the Alumni Association Twitter feed
In an email exchange with Chronicle of Higher Ed reporter Josh Keller (who blogged about the topic), I mentioned the following pros and cons of this approach:
Potentially Positive Aspects
Creatively combines university fundraising priorities with online engagement.
In alumni relations in general, and in online interaction especially, we cannot easily see clear connections between individual interactions and measurable outcomes. Do Facebook likes lead to volunteerism? Do Tweets lead to giving? This makes limited inroads with that problem.
Provides additional visibility for fundraising among key audiences.
Even if I don't click to support the Bucky Challenge, I still hear that funding student scholarships is an institutional priority. This generates awareness for development.
Produces a few more Followers and Fans on Twitter and Facebook.
If you believe that having more is good, then this helps.
Generates scholarship funds from a donor match for Internet clicks (which are "free").
[If you believe that having more Fans and Followers is good, then this helps]
Potentially Negative Aspects
Leaves some money on the table.
I might be prepared to donate $100, but then discover that clicking the Like button triggers a donation from someone else. Some donors may think this gets them off the hook for further giving.
Reinforces common complaint that "You only contact me when you're asking for money."
Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are among the few places where most universities don't ask alumni to contribute. That will change eventually anyway, but for now the school is in uncharted waters with fundraising on third party sites. In this instance, alumni aren't being asked to give directly. They're just being asked to click a button, something most of them will do anyway.
More Followers and Fans: not necessarily beneficial.
Doubling your Twitter count can give a false sense of "increased engagement." But what is the outcome of having all those additional people click that button? Do they see our tweets? Do they like them? Do they read our Facebook updates? Do they think the updates are relevant? If they do, does this lead to a specific result (giving, advocacy, event attendance, volunteerism)? We have almost no idea. And almost none of us is committing resources to find out the answer. We're just telling people to "please click."
[What is the outcome of having all those additional people click that button?]
UW-Madison deserves credit for a simple, understandable way to increase scholarship funding incrementally (they're at $14,000 as of this writing). However, we can't measure the effort's financial success without knowing their dollar goals and their "engagement" goal for Likes and Follows.
Smart move: Limiting the time period in which people can click to have their participation count. The sense of urgency this creates may increase an individual's willingness to participate, even if the urgency is manufactured.
Biggest risk: Equating the instant gratification of a new fan or follower with the long-term value of a truly engaged alumnus, who donates up to their potential, attends events, volunteers, and promotes the institution. It doesn't hurt to have people clicking on social content, unless you rest on your laurels and declare success simply because you have bigger numbers on Facebook and Twitter.
What's next?: With the recent announcement of Facebook "Gestures," (such as Listened to, Read, and Watched) doesn't it make sense for Donated to join the list? Not a bad idea. You heard it here first!
Meanwhile, what do you think of the Bucky Challenge? Is it generating genuine engagement, or one-time donations below the donors' potential?
Leave a comment.