Best Social Media Idea of the Month: Cornell Crowdfunding

I have seen the future, and it is crowdfunding. 

Well, I should back up there. I have seen the future of what work projects are looming just on the horizon for we higher ed social media managers, and crowdfunding is going to be a major aspect of them. Every development officer has been to a professional development conference or watched a webinar (what is it with development people and webinars?) at some point over the past year, and crowdfunding is buzzier than a gol' dern hornets nest at those things. Fundraising is the lifeblood of many universities and social networks continue their inexorable march to gobble up every waking second people spend online, so it makes sense that their sights are finally squarely focused on social media as a means to increase donations.

Becoming involved with development projects can be a bit intimidating, which is why Cornell University's wildly successful crowdfunding examples hands-down wins the Best Social Media Idea of the Month award for September - for providing us all a wonderful playbook from which to learn lessons and draw inspiration.

My original post goes into all this in detail, but Cornell's two successful projects so far have been to raise funds for a campus garden and for an LGBTQ leadership academy.

The main takeaway for me is how the projects are so hyper-specific. Crowdfunding in higher ed is strongly affinity-driven, and selecting the right types of projects that have hyper-motivated alumni groups ready and willing to support them directly is a key part of a successful strategy. So is having a built-in leadership group from past presidents of affiliated student clubs, etc.

Best of all, two Big Red staff members heavily involved in the efforts are keeping blogs that are chock-full of great insight and insider info: Andrew Gossen's Higher Ed Crowdfunding and Keith Hannon's Social Matters. If you're interested in exploring this at your school, it's very, very worth your while to check those blogs out.

Since crowdfunding is going to become a part of what we do sooner rather than later, now is the time to brush up on successful strategies and really study how and why it will work (or not work) in higher ed. It's going to be important for people in our position to advocate the right steps to make these initiatives successful, since development officers are not always blessed with understanding the distinction between using social media as one tool in a thoughtful and deliberate communication plan versus an "if you post it, they will come" mentality.  (Jennifer Krywosa goes much deeper into this on her blog... be sure to give it a read!)

A lot of legwork will need to be done on the front end to get key alumni influencers and leaders on board and ready to share these projects with their friends and families and empowered them with information, contact lists, copy, etc.

Many thanks and congratulations to Cornell for these great projects and showing us all how to do it right! 



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