Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?! (Part 2)

Social Media and major gifts … REALLY?!

Part 2 … the part it plays.

What part does social media play in major gift development?

Social Media can play a role in cultivation!

As we dig in, it is important to remember that social media cultivation, no matter how well it is done, will not replace ‘traditional’ major gift development efforts.   Rather, it will augment the cultivation process.    Earlier, I listed the common major gift development stages; identification, research, cultivation and solicitation. To varying degrees, there is place for social media in all of them.


Those who interact most passionately with your organization’s social media presence are great candidates for giving.   Basic wealth data might then be used to further define the level of giving appropriate for the donor’s situation; and, in turn, the most appropriate cultivation method.


Social media resources can also be used to help identify areas of interest to donors.  Traditionally the gift development officer learns about a donor’s area(s) of interest over coffee or dinner, but social media can help streamline that conversation by noting areas of interest.  Observing likes, followings, or participation in niche groups/platforms can do this.

Social media, along with the great World Wide Web, is also a powerful tool when trying to identify wealth.   From antidotal information like family vacation photos from a Tahiti Resort and ‘check-ins’ at exclusive clubs; to more concrete information like home ownership and luxury item purchases.

Social media can also help find interpersonal connections.    It can help draw your connection map between the prospect and key staff, other donors, board members or volunteers.   All this represents a dynamic transition in who to cultivate as a prospect and how it can be done.


Cultivation is the Intentional relationship-building steps in which the donor and organization learn about each other to determine if and how they can work together to meet complementary needs.

Traditionally, this is the major giving officer working one-on-one with the donor to match passion with purpose.   By the very nature of this process time and access are often the greatest boundaries the major gift officer faces.   An effective use of social media allows the cultivation process to be spread around, and done in a way that may be unnoticeable to the donors and prospects.

A common part of the cultivation process is  Social media allows the sharing of data and stories of interest to the donor and prospects.  As such it can be assigned various staff, assuming they are familiar with social media etiquette.   Using a connection map you can identify others (volunteers, board members, etc.) who can also assist in the process.

Using social media in this way has the added benefit of real-time, empirical statistics on how the donor interacted with the information. This can help shape what information is shared in the future and in what way.

What might social media cultivation look like in a major gift development plan?

  • General social media actions that resonate with the donor
  • Social media actions targeted to specific groups within your general ranks through the use of SM Personas, or ‘Tribe’ identification
  • Very personal, singular references in your organization’s social media actions and/or responses by your organization to actions by your donor.


Solicitation is the least likely phase of development to utilize social media.   However, there are times when it may be possible to promote an “ask”.  Given the right prospect, an organization might be able “tag” the donor in a post, make the “ask” and explain the opportunity it would fill.  But be VERY careful in doing this! Doing so without clear indication that it would be well received would jeopardize not only the gift, but also the entire relationship.

In most major gift solicitations, there is a lapse between the time the “ask” is made and when it is accepted.   During this intervening time-gap, social media can be utilized to highlight the need that would be met by the gift.    That is, the organization’s social media platforms can strategically place/reference stories that highlight the specific need into their feed.

In part 3 we will look at some specific issues and best practices that result from using social media during your campaign.

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