CASE DV/VI Preview: "Using Social Media to Help Create and Sustain Excitement in a Fundraising Campaign"

Kansas State's Innovation & Inspiration campaign has raised over $900 million.

Kansas State's Innovation & Inspiration campaign has raised over $900 million.

Social media is a vital part of any modern fundraising campaign—both for a campaign's launch and keeping it going.

For large universities, coordinating social media strategy across campuses, schools, and departments can be incredibly hard. It's Marisa Larson's job to do that as Development Communications Coordinator at the Kansas State University Foundation.

Kansas State launched its $1 billion-Innovation & Inspiration campaign in October 2015. Larson is presenting on the KSUF's use of social media in the campaign at the joint CASE DV/VI Conference in Chicago this month. We asked her to give us a preview of her presentation.

How did the KSU Foundation put together the social media aspect of its Innovation and Inspiration campaign? How did it coordinate among so many stakeholders?

We identified the campaign goal for social media and worked from there. Our goal for social media was to help create buzz about the campaign just prior to public launch, elevate that buzz during the public launch event, and maintain the buzz as much as possible throughout the campaign. The other goal for social media during the length of the campaign was to generate a feeling of connectedness, pride and accomplishment among all our followers. We know that social media is not going to generate gifts, but we use social media to help build rapport and a feeling of warmth toward the university so that when our development officers do ask for gifts, people have a good feeling about K-State and know about all the good things happening on campus.

We coordinated with the stakeholders in several ways. We held several town hall meetings prior to and after the public launch of the campaign. The meetings prior to the launch were to share all aspects of the communication plan with our fellow communicators across campus. We gave them all the co-branding guide that we put together and listened to their feedback.

The co-branding guide showed how to use the campaign logo, gave samples of how to integrate the campaign onto websites, into social media, and into campus publications. Our staff also presented at various campuswide communicators’ meetings, e.g. social media roundtable, web editors, publishing editors… As for the social media plan, I created a timeline and sample posts that I shared with all the campus communicators. The week of the launch, I was in daily contact with the campus communicators to encourage them to post using the campaign hashtag (#KStateInspires) and answered any questions they might have.

How did you measure the success of your social media campaign? What kind of results did you see?

We used several analytics tools to measure the success of our social media campaign. Our campus partner, K-State Division of Communications and Marketing, has a subscription to Nuvi. We were able to use this tool to measure our followers, engagements, and virility of our posts during set dates. We also used Twitter, Facebook and Google analytics.

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How can other institutions learn from your work and replicate your success?

I think the key to our success was starting well in advance, creating a plan, and getting buy-in from other stakeholders by letting them have input on the plan—then communicate, communicate, communicate. Having a timeline and set expectations, along with sample posts and ideas, also helped. 

One of our campus partners said that the general nature of the hashtag (#KStateInspires) allowed them to make posts that were specific to them (e.g. Libraries) yet included in the overall campaign.

Here’s what Sarah Hoyt, writer/editor for Hale Library, had to say about the campaign. “I appreciate that the Foundation helped get us started with a focus, examples, graphics and the hashtag. The key, though, was that their parameters were general enough that we could make it work for our own purposes, too. Their campaign goal dovetailed with our goal to tell the little-known stories of the libraries, its researchers, employees, professors and its students. Because our aims weren’t mutually exclusive, participation has been easy and rewarding."