Higher ed fundraising jumps amid recovering economy, social media use

College fundraising in 2010 remained almost flat, according to industry estimates.

The much-anticipated uptick in campus donations, higher-education fundraising experts said, has coincided with massive campaigns on Twitter and Facebook designed to draw donations not just from alums, but also from people who have never stepped foot on campus.

“Social media helps alumni to stay more connected to their alma mater … [and] it allows non-alumni to learn about and connect with an institution,” said Marybeth Gasman, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and author of several books on educational philanthropy. “There are some people who are holding out, but they will soon become the minority.”

Dan Germain, director of Florida-based Talisma North America, said campus fundraising decision makers have adopted more social media use as alums have become more adept at tweeting and sharing items on Facebook.

“I think social media is always important as the constituency of supporters grow younger and younger over time,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that online fundraising is playing a big role right now.”

Germain said social media has allowed colleges and universities to share donation web pages with alumni who can share the pages with friends on Facebook, for example.

Just like Facebook users share links to donations to cancer research organizations, Germain said, alumni can use social media posts to encourage friends and family to join the fundraising effort for a new library or stadium.

“It gives [alumni] the ability to push a cause to their circle of friends and gives them the chance to contribute as well,” he said. “It gives a personal touch to fundraising.”