Your parents are people too. (With a little on social + fundraising.)

Earlier this month, I was a general session speaker for the 27th Annual Parent Fundraising Conference. My topic was getting results with social media and the audience included fundraising and communications professionals who are specifically focused on the parent constituency within colleges and universities.

I had the pleasure of joining the conference attendees for lunch prior to my session (otherwise known as the good news part of being the after lunch speaker). Before sharing sandwiches with these parent program professionals, I didn’t realize the extent of their work. Many are part of development and advancement units and others are located within student affairs. Some are major gift officers while some coordinate parents’ weekend events.

I have to think that the growth of parent programs within higher education is a result of the generation of parents who hover. Some of you reading this are hovered around and a few of you reading this are the hoverers. Regardless, we know that parents of high school and college-age children want to be involved, neeeed to be involved, and WILL be involved. Accepting that and moving on.

To prepare for my presentation, I put together some material around the use of social media by people who are 45 – 65 years old. I also identified some case studies about using social for fundraising. Here are some of the broad themes I used in my slide deck.

Parents of college-age students use social.
We know that more than 66% of adults online in America are connected to one or more social media platforms. For the third year, mStoner partnered with CASE and Slover-Linnet to conduct a social media survey. The 2012 results tell us that 51% of CASE members who participated in the survey are using social to connect with parents of current students.

It seems Facebook is the channel parents are most likely to use.
For an older demographic, Facebook is the social channel of choice. With 845 million active users, 46% of those on Facebook are over the age of 45. Since almost half of Facebook users are over 45, using this channel to connect with parents makes a lot of sense.

Parents seek out video on the web.
The explosion of video on the web has not been lost on parents and a recent Pew Report tells us that 54% of online adults who are between 50 and 64 have used a video sharing site like YouTube or Vimeo.

Parents use Twitter too.
Twitter is not just for celebrities. Although the numbers aren’t as high, a Pew Report reveals that a greater percentage of people between 45 and 64 are using Twitter. In the 45 – 54 age range, the percentage of Internet users who use Twitter has increased by two percent in two years, rising from 7% to 9%. Even more interesting, the increase is from four percent to nine percent among those 55 – 64.

Parent giving to higher education is on the rise.
Parents often feel more connected to the institutions their children attend than they do to their own alma maters. According to a recent story in CASE Currents, “Parents of alumni view their donations as giving back to the school that helped propel their children into fulfilling careers and lives.” And, according to the Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education Survey, in 2010, parents gave nearly $540 million to U.S. higher education and this was a 49% increase from 2001.

But parent engagement (not fundraising) is the primary goal for social channels.
According to the 2011 social media survey sponsored by CASE, mStoner and Slover-Linnet, only 24% of respondents indicated that the extent to which raising private funds was a goal of their social media initiatives was “quite a bit” or “extensively.” For now, at least for CASE members, social is important for engaging parents but not necessarily tied to fundraising goals.

One of the case studies I used during my presentation was The Bucky Challenge at University of Wisconsin-Madison. During a campaign challenge period, students, parents, alumni and friends helped UW-Madison rack up almost 20,000 new social media connections. And, the challenge earned nearly $20,000 for need-based scholarships.

Andy Shaindlin’s post, The Bucky Challenge: Case Study in Social Media Fundraising, offers a useful summary and analysis along with his thoughts about the positive and negative aspects of this social media + fundraising campaign.

What’s interesting to me is that The Bucky Challenge was a fundraising challenge started by an alum and his parents. The family pledged to give $1 for every new Facebook and Twitter follower that the university got during a fixed time period. Parents of current students and alumni are a key constituency for higher education.

What are your social media + fundraising success stories or challenges? Share. Please.

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