How Social Media Can Help Alumni Relations

Social media and nonprofit work are a pretty good fit. It’s often said that “fundraising is about relationships” and so is social media. Boom. Perfect match.

But why? What about social media makes it the Joanne Woodward to the nonprofit world’s Paul Newman?  More importantly, how do you use social media to advance your organization’s goals? There may be no better example of this match made in heaven, than how social media can be integrated into stewardship. To illustrate what is possible when social media meets good donor stewardship, let’s first read this brief story from Jeffrey Schoenherr, Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Harvard Law School, on what he points to as a recent example of good stewardship during a rough economy. (Taken from this May 2009 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education)

A colleague traveled to New York City to visit a donor who had recently lost his job in the financial industry. As a follow-up to their visit, my colleague contacted several other alumni in the industry and asked if they would be willing to talk with this alumnus about career opportunities and offer advice. My colleague also sent the donor information about alumni gatherings in the city so he could attend and build his network. That assistance has led the donor to tell my colleague that when he finds his next position, he won’t forget about how his alma mater helped. Who knows, maybe we just helped to put him on the fast track with a company.

How might we apply social media to that story to make the effort even more effective?

LinkedIn: We’ll start with the obvious. LinkedIn is about making professional connections and not much else (generally speaking). The colleague working in alumni relations could start with a simple search identifying fellow alumni who are in a related field to the displaced worker. Next, they could search the companies where those fellow alumni are employed (via LinkedIn and other resources, such as company websites) to see if there are any current openings. When an alumnus is found with an opening at their shop, reach out and make the e-introduction between them and the displaced alum. It’s nothing more than good old fashioned networking with a technological twist. And it could make all the difference for that displaced alumnus, which would, in turn, reinforce their support for the institution they’ve already given to.

Twitter: Have you ever heard the phrase “Tweet up”? It’s a meeting of Twitter friends IRL (that’s “In Real Life”) who share common interests and/or professional pursuits. In a city as diverse as New York, you can probably find a different “Tweet Up” taking place practically every hour. What are the displaced alum’s interests beyond work? Is there a volunteer mission they feel strongly about? A hobby that might connect them with others? If the displaced alum is already on Twitter, connect them with a group(s) of people who might – either directly or indirectly – help them land their next job. If they’re not on Twitter (or any social media), read the next and final tip…

Teach them to use social media: Michigan State University’s Alumni Association does a lot of nice work using social media. One great example of that work are the social media training sessions they conduct for alumni. Not only are they providing alumni a valuable resource in teaching them the basics about social media, but they’re introducing them to the tools through their own networks. It’s a great way to instantly grow your base of social media fans and followers who, thanks to the workshop, will find value in their institution through a social media connection. Especially if they’re able to use the tools and techniques learned during the workshop to advance their careers. If that’s the case, then one of those well-attended workshops could accomplish what could otherwise take months or years through basic, social media conversation management.

Some fundraising pros equate good donor stewardship with quality customer service. The above examples offer tips for how to use social media to provide the best customer service experience possible for your donors at all levels.

Like what you’re reading? Find more info on new media and philanthropy at BWF.com.

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3 thoughts on “How Social Media Can Help Alumni Relations

  1. Pingback: How Social Media Can Help Alumni Relations « The Social Side of … | Educations Club

  2. absolutely agree. LinkedIn has been a tremendous technological resource not only for me as an individual, but also a great way to connect others. LinkedIn groups are growing. While I’m still fairly new to Twitter, I believe it holds the same possibilities if you can identify your alums and friends of the college (partner organizations, businesses, foundations, etc).

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