A reprieve for Sweet Briar College

On the heels of the announcement last March that Sweet Briar College would close due to “insurmountable financial challenges,” I wrote a brief post about alumnae efforts to keep the college open. They launched the #SaveSweetBriar campaign and set up a crowdfunding site in an attempt to raise $20 million toward a goal of $250 million to keep the college open. Continue reading “A reprieve for Sweet Briar College”

Can crowdfunding #SaveSweetBriar?

On the heels of Tuesday’s news that Sweet Briar College would close its doors at the end of this academic year due to what the school called “insurmountable financial challenges,” alumnae of the 114-year-old institution have launched a crowdfunding campaign to try to save the school.

Screenshot of the crowdfunding site to save Sweet Briar College
Screenshot of the crowdfunding site to save Sweet Briar College

The crowdfunding campaign is looking for $20 million toward a goal of $250 million to keep the college open. It’s an ambitious goal for any type of fundraising campaign, but it’s a level unheard of for crowdfunding. The initiative’s eight-figure goal is greater than the capital campaigns of some colleges.

Most crowdfunding efforts tend to seek support for smaller projects during a limited time frame. For the Sweet Briar effort, the tight time frame is in place — 90 days — but not the modest fundraising goal. I’m not aware of any higher education crowdfunding effort of this magnitude.

Will the #SaveSweetBriar campaign work? Can crowdfunding scale to the multimillion dollar level?

The good news is that early donations have already cracked six figures — over $400,000 as I write this. But only time — specifically, 90 days — will tell us if this campaign succeeds.

New book on #highered social media: Social Works

'Social Works' goes live Feb. 25.
‘Social Works’ goes live Feb. 25.

Months in the making, a new book about social media in higher education marketing — perhaps the book on the subject — is about to hit the marketplace.

Social Works: How #HigherEd Uses #SocialMedia to Raise Money, Build Awareness, Recruit Students, and Get Results will officially be available in print and ebook formats next Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. (There’s also a launch party scheduled for the following day in Boston. I won’t say much about that, though, because I’m jealous that I won’t be there.)

Social Works is a collection of 25 case studies from colleges and universities large and small, public and private, all of which have embraced social media to help them accomplish a wide array of goals, from fundraising to student recruitment to alumni engagement and crisis management.

Edited by Michael Stoner (@mstonerblog), the president and co-founder of mStoner Inc.Social Works demonstrates, he writes, “that social media has the maturity and reach to be an integral component of campaigns focused on building awareness, recruiting students, engaging alumni and other key audiences, raising money, and accomplishing important goals that matter to a college or university.”

I was thrilled when Michael approached me about being a part of this project. He asked me to write a chapter on using social media for crisis communication, based on our staff’s response to a gunman on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus in May 2011. (I blogged about that experience immediately afterward. The case study goes much more in depth.) I was happy to oblige. It’s been a great experience and a truly collaborative effort with Michael, his team at mStoner and Eduniverse, and many of my colleagues in higher education.

To give you a taste of what’s in store, download a sample chapter from Social Works. This chapter, by Justin Ware (@justinjware), describes how Florida State University leveraged social media to raise more than $186,000 in an online-only campaign.

Furman’s ‘no-call’ fundraising campaign: will it ring up more donations?

Furman University has launched a new alumni fundraising campaign that takes a new approach to the typical phone solicitation. With DoNotCallMeAtDinner.com, Furman promises alumni that if they make a donation before May 15, “we promise not to call during dinner, or any other time for that matter, for the rest of the academic year.” It’s a clever approach.

Furman engaged Greenville, S.C., marketing firm HillMullikan to come up with the approach. According to the firm’s website, “The campaign was designed to create alumni awareness and increase participation with Furman University while raising funds through online donations. Like most universities, Furman has a Spring Call-a-Thon that yields results but is perceived as an annoyance to many donors.”

The site‘s centerpiece is a Mac vs. PC parody video — not the most creative approach (it’s been done before, again and again), but not overly annoying. More impressive, from an alumni pride standpoint, are the testimonials of donors who answer the question, “Why do you give back to Furman University?”

How well will this campaign work? I guess we’ll have to wait until after May 15 to find out.