Using Social Media to Reach Donors

Matt Stauffer

(Part 1 of a 5-part series: What I Learned From the Industry Experts on Using Facebook Well: An Interview with Michelle Widman of Brandglue)

A few weeks ago Michelle Widman, the Project/Community Manager at, agreed to sit for a phone interview with me. Brandglue is a social media firm that call themselves the “News Feed Optimization Agency”, and whose client lists include heavy hitters such as YouTube, Intel, Microsoft. Brandglue works with companies and organizations to help them optimize their customer interactions on Facebook. I’ve summarized what I learned from her and am posting it piece by glorious piece this week.

When we opened up our conversation, Michelle asked me the primary goals of campus ministers using social media, and I focused mainly on how we use social media to interact with our students. She had a different idea about how we can use social media. Here are some of the things she shared:

Social media isn’t just for students

Since the majority of campus ministers use social media primarily in the context of college, whether it’s with our students now or as students (if we’re younger), we tend to view social media narrowly as a tool to reach students and communicate with them. There’s more in there for us, though: as time passes, our donors will more and more be people who, like us, are familiar with social media.

Make lifetime connections

Suggestions like this might seem overwhelming–it’s hard enough to keep track of students and all of the changes Facebook keeps making, and now we have to reach alumni? It’s not that difficult, Michelle says: students transition in and out of our ministries so fast that we’re really just using social media to communicate with everyone: students, alumni, and donors. When a student graduates, there’s no switch on Facebook that suddenly disconnects you–in fact, I’ve seen social media keep me much more closely connected to our alumni.

Breakdown of social media

Students and alumni/donors do tend to use social media in some different ways–for example, Twitter has a much higher usage among graduates than among current students–but one thing they share is their use of Facebook. Even though Linkedin has some potential for creating new connections, it’s practically useless for staying connected to existing connections; for that, you’ll want to focus most of your energy (and time) on Facebook, with limited work on Twitter if any at all.

Two-way communication

Social media is a two-way street. You can invite your students to events and groups, but you can also receive invites to their events and learn about their lives. Similarly, you might use social media to keep up on your donors’ lives and stay involved, but they’ll also use it to see what you’re doing.

“In this new world,” Michelle told me, “businesses, including ministries, are becoming more transparent, and social media is the space for that transparency and interaction.” Let your alumni and donors see what you do with your life and your time; let them see your status updates that you intend for your students, or the photos you upload from last night’s large group or whatever else.

Coming up next: Fan pages and how to use Facebook well from an industry insider (Brandglue interview part 2)

By Matt Stauffer | Posted: May 02, 2011
Category: Fundraising, Social Media | Tags: , , , , | Permalink | Post a comment | Trackback URL.

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  1. […] expanded our social media reach from just students to donors and narrowed our range to just Facebook (for the moment) and focused on Pages and interactions. Once we have decided to focus on our Pages, […]

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