Money Talks? How to REALLY Discuss Fundraising on Social Media

Some things are just inevitable. Each year, Michael Bay will release a movie in which A LOT of stuff blows up, a handful of celebrities will do something stupid (c’mon Shia, you’re better than that!), and Kanye will say something, um, interesting?

For the social media manager, one who works in alumni relations specifically, it’s only a matter of time until you’re asked to bring fundraising to the front and center. This request can be a difficult to fulfill since, naturally, discussions about giving can be sensitive ones. But it is possible to have these delicate conversations and in this post I’ll share how I did it in my role as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office.

Begin and End with Volunteers

In early April, HBS hosted a dinner to celebrate its fellowship recipients. Shortly after the event, I was approached by my colleague who asked me to curate a conversation via @HBSalumni–and post a Storify shortly after–which would help promote alumni giving and its impact. As a conversation starter, I asked alumni the following question on Twitter.

“Why do you give back to HBS?”

But before I posed this query, I reached out to a colleague in the alumni volunteer office. While I couldn’t, obviously, ask alumni donation-related questions–since this information is not for public consumption–I could ask volunteers why they gave back more generally. So, I asked my colleague to send me a spreadsheet of volunteers and, after receiving it, I checked to see which people were on Twitter. Once I had a handful of names, I began sending these alumni direct tweets with the question above.

Here are just a few of the responses I received.



Once a critical mass of comments had come in, I looked at each one individually to see if there were any opportunities to steer the conversation in a giving direction. In the case of this specific Twitter conversation, my goal was to have the alumni themselves introduce donation-related content. This would take the “pressure” off me to introduce the topic and then I could probe further without any reservations.

Of course, this approach is “hit or miss.” A tepid response to your question, means fewer alumni (possibly) tweeting about giving. On the other hand, the more responses you’re able to generate the better your odds are that alumni will tweet about this subject. Therefore, it’s critically important to find as many alumni volunteers as possible on Twitter to better your chances of getting the type of responses you’re looking for.

Below is an example of the monitor and react approach I followed for this chat.




Granted, the tweets above do not specifically reference giving, but they do illustrate the importance of it (alumni donations= fellowship support) which fulfilled, to a degree, the objective of this chat.

Fortunately, some alumni did discuss giving specificaly, though it didn’t have anything to do with the question I posed. Rather, I relied on content they previously posted (see below).




While this exchange came together differently, I did follow the same protocol as I did with my other Twitter “conversations.” That is, I let the alumnus, in this case Zameer Kassam, introduce the subject of giving organically. I could then take the chat to a place where alumni giving was the focus.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor of GradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS. 

Follow Robert on Twitter at



One thought on “

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