Social Media Analytics Comes to College Fundraising and Development

Annual Giving

Whether it’s your university, public radio station, or Red Cross, organizations are looking to increase their edge in fund-raising by telephone and TV pledge drives, letter-writing, or alumni events in target audience neighborhoods to cast the net wider and link universities, their programs, sports teams, and capital fund drives to the wallets of alumni or other givers.

Add now Big Data and predictive analytics to the toolbox of fundraising.

Evertrue, a Boston start-up founded by a former captain of the Brown football team, can evaluate a school’s alumni interactions with the college’s Facebook pages to help distinguish those people likely to give to a capital campaign from those interested in more specific elements of college life, such as athletics or academic programs.  It can also scan LinkedIn to target alumni in specific high-profile industries, such as finance or law.

What’s the strategy here?  Evertrue believes its services complement those tried and true strategies of combing donor data-bases and alumni weekend attendee lists that allow fund-raisers to map their graduates’ locations or graph their social media interactions with their likelihood of giving to the school.  But it can be sticky.  Wealth estimation and monitoring online activity could be seen by alumni as intrusive and worse, a giving turn-off.

Graduway, another start-up, looks to add value to alumni as the university sticks it hand out for a donation.  It helps universities engage alumni by designing private social networking sites for them.  Kind of like LinkedIn for a specific university, it hopes to attract alumni profiles which can then turn into more professional connections with each other and hopefully connect with recent graduates, to both parties’ and the university’s benefit.

Venture capital companies see an investment opportunity here.  Bain Capital Ventures has contributed $10 million to Evertrue in the hope the start-up can expand into linking fundraising profile services to other nonprofits, such as hospitals and social services, generating millions of dollars annually.  Currently Evertrue has arrangements with 300 educational institutions.  Is Penn one of them?

See Natasha Singer’s full story in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/technology/your-college-may-be-banking-on-your-facebook-likes.html

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