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Advancement’s new vocabulary: “Tweets” and “likes”

By Mike Wiese, associate

Should your organization consider using social media to engage young people’s support and involvement? The answer is yes. While in the past this generation may have primarily been reached through a printed letter, newsletter or advertisement, today’s young people are more apt to communicate via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest and other such platforms as well.

Before considering specific tools, let’s understand why social media as a whole works. Young donors like social media because they want to be personally connected with things and people that they care about. Relationships matter to them and they want to stay in touch. If young people are passionate about your mission and want to be active on your behalf, you need to communicate via their tools and let them use those tools to spread the word. Social media is the most effective way that young people share word of mouth endorsements.

Here we offer pros and cons of the two most used forms of social media today—Twitter and Facebook—along with one suggested way your organization can begin utilizing these tools to build relationships with younger donors. As the previous paragraph suggests, however, many younger donors are seeking, first and foremost, not a repository for their funds, but a connection and a relationship. Social media allows them the opportunity to stay in touch with your organization and to be active on its behalf in other ways as they establish their own habits of charitable giving that may benefit you in the future.



• More than one quarter of online adults between 18-29 use Twitter—nearly double the number of users age 30-49.*

• In a short message (tweet) you can let followers know about an activity to generate attendance.

• Followers can easily share information, ask questions, get questions answered and pass your information on (retweet) to their followers.

• You can follow other experts to learn from them and share with them.

• One can monitor keywords (through hashtags) to see what others are saying about your organization.

• Account set-up and use are free.


• Messages are limited to 140 characters.

• Time is required to build community and post meaningful tweets.

• Tweets need to be meaningful and in line with specific marketing objectives and brand.

• Although you can include a link to visual items, Twitter is not good for visual content.

Example: A group of constituents follows your organization on Twitter. On the morning of a major event, you want to remind your followers that the event is later that day. You send a tweet to your followers, some of whom retweet to their friends that they are going, and invite those friends to come with them.



• Users include over 1.1 billion individuals—67% of all adult internet users—from a broad demographic.*

• Visual content can be shared easily.

• Facebook is interactive and allows people to respond to your posts (through comments and likes).

• Content can be linked to websites or other social media sites such as Instagram (sharing photos) and Pinterest (“a tool for collecting and sharing things you love”).

• Ads can be purchased that align to a profile of people who are likely to be interested in your organization.


• Setting up a “Facebook Fan Page” and getting fans for your organization requires time and resources. (People become fans by liking your organization’s page.)

• Posts need to be meaningful, informative and to support your marketing objectives/brand.

• Pages must be kept up to date and regularly monitored.

• Facebook ads require a budget.

• Having reputation management policies in place is important if someone places a negative post on your page.

Example: After your event you post an informative update and photos on your Fan Page to let your fans know what happened. Fans respond to the post by “liking it” and sharing a comment. Some fans post your message on their personal profile page to share with their friends.

Major companies are shifting large portions of their communications budget away from traditional media to social media. If you haven’t already, you may wish to consider adding a social media component as part of your next advancement plan. The two examples listed here just scratch the surface of what is possible. AAI is prepared to offer additional ideas for faith-based nonprofits who wish to incorporate social media into their overall advancement strategy.


*Statistics according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Post-Election Survey, November 14-December 09, 2012.


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Supporting advancement through communications

What vehicles does your organization use to communicate with its constituencies? How do you use each of them? To share about campus life? To inform of upcoming events or opportunities to get involved? Simply as a means of staying in touch? The answer is likely “all of the above”—and perhaps more.

On some level, we hope that our communications foster in our constituents a sense of goodwill that translates to ongoing support of our mission. Sometimes new professional print pieces are called for—to introduce a capital campaign or reveal a program initiative, for example. But AAI encourages organizations to think more intentionally about how their existing communications tools can also effectively support their advancement goals.

Communications refers broadly to all the ways an organization brings matters to public attention, including

• print media (newsletters, bulletin, inserts, annual reports),

• comments made by the CEO at various events,

• electronic media (website, e-newsletter),

• social media.

We also define the word support in broad terms. AAI often reminds clients that there are at least five primary ways constituents offer support: through money, time, participation (as a resident, student, client, etc.), prayers and advocacy. Finding ways to appeal to each of these is the aim of effective communications.

Let’s examine some concrete ways various communications can give more attention to advancement.

Highlight development. Consider including a personal message from the development department in each issue of a newsletter. At the very least, make sure to include contact information for your development director; this should also appear on your website.

Re-think the “wish list.” Many publications include a wish list of new/used items. Consider also listing projects to which persons may donate time or skills. Examples include reading to residents, offering transportation, stuffing envelopes or providing labor for a simple renovation. Sharing prayer requests demonstrates to stakeholders a level of transparency and invites their sympathy, support and/or celebration for specific situations you face.

Reveal your strategy. Do you have a current strategic plan? Keep it in front of your constituents and, at appropriate stages, invite participation for special projects like landscaping, scholarships, or creating a benevolent fund. Would an honored class like to donate toward a need or hold a working reunion at your annual auction? Perhaps a major donor would be willing to match any gifts that come in within a certain time frame.

Tell your stories. What made a recent gift so special? Why do three generations of one family volunteer to serve together at your annual fundraiser? What’s the story behind a unique silent auction item? How is one recent graduate making a difference in a new setting? When did the tradition of resident-led Bible studies begin? Who spoke at this year’s appreciation dinner and what key points do you wish all constituents could hear? How did a distant alumna decide to send her student to spend his senior year at your school, and what has that student’s experience been? You get the idea. A good story can describe an otherwise ordinary event in ways that interest and inspire. (See Associate Dan Hess’ tips for crafting such stories.)

Note preferences. Are a lot of your constituents opting to receive communications from you electronically? Take that as a sign of internet savvy and, if you haven’t already, consider setting up the capability to receive online donations through your website. You can also seek feedback from constituents via your website, Facebook or Twitter. What would they like to hear about in future correspondence?

We recognize that none of the ideas mentioned here are particularly earthshaking. And most are easily implemented. If you are already including many of them in your communications plan, keep up the good work! But if not, we encourage you to be more intentional about selecting content for your various publications. Does each item somehow serve to reinforce your mission and purpose, and invite stakeholder support? If not, consider our ideas; they will make a difference.

Read more about AAI’s communications services, including written communications plans, here. If you would like objective (and, for a limited time, free!) feedback on how effectively your organization’s publications are currently supporting advancement , contact AAI associates Sherilyn Ortman or Dan Hess.