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The Social Giving Landscape – Do These 3 Findings Apply to Your Campus?

By Brad Schleicher October 8, 2017

Recently, hosted a webinar focusing on how social media can help boost university giving days. Noelle Seybert of Pepperdine University gave some great insights into the strategic planning and tactics that help to shape the fundraising campaigns at her institution. If you didn’t have a chance to view the webinar, the on-demand recording is now available.

But before you embark on your own social giving campaign, it’s important to understand the social landscape with respect to philanthropy and advancement in higher education.

As highlighted in the webinar, the underlying challenge in higher education giving is that despite high alumni social engagement and positive sentiment towards its alma mater, philanthropic giving remains low.

That leads to the question, how do we disrupt this pattern? Increasing fundraising to reflect the observed level of alumni engagement and sentiment won’t happen overnight, but here are 3 key takeaways based on industry data points to better inform your social giving strategies throughout the school year:

    1. Success through Personalization: According to the Pew Research Center, 22% of American adults have contributed to a crowdsourced online fundraising project. Donations are typically made to help a person in need, like a friend or family member (68%) as opposed to for a school (32%). As Institutions build content for its social giving campaigns, taking a generalized approach to messaging all its alumni won’t be enough. It’s crucial that messages to potential online donors are personal, authentic, and specific to the areas of the institution that that matter to them. In the webinar, Seybert spoke of how she mobilized social ambassadors (comprised of current students and alumni) to engage various alumni communities differently on the channels those alumni preferred.

    2. Substantive Conversations Can Pave the Way to Future Donations: According to the 2016 Millenial Impact Report, education ranks as the most important social issue for adults between the ages of 18 and 36 (aka Millennials) followed by health care and employment/wages. There is an opportunity for campuses to engage with recent grads on social channels to build conversations that could develop into opportunities of giving (through time, money or other efforts). In the webinar, Seybert spoke of how she published “Reasons Why I Gave,” to highlight alumni’s memorable undergrad experiences, which helped drive other alumni to donate and share their stories.

    3. Single Moments of Giving Can Influence Engagement: Giving Days are an increasingly popular way to energize the alumni base around a single moment of unified engagement and philanthropy. Some institutions set up their own Giving Days around a date that is historically relevant to the campus, whereas others align their Giving Day with #GivingTuesday. According to, in 2016 #GivingTuesday was associated with $177M total dollars raised online, 1.64M Total Gifts, with a mean gift size of $107.69. There are pros and cons to either approach – ride the wave by aligning with #GivingTuesday, but know you’ll have to compete with other giving asks or choose a day that is specific to your campus, but know you may have to put in some effort to get that date on the radar for your alumni base. In the webinar, Seybert explained in detail about the advanced planning that went into Pepperdine’s Giving Day, but ultimately, led to success and campus-wide alignment.

To learn more, check out the webinar recording and stay tuned for future posts about higher ed Giving Day strategies.