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Social Media to the Rescue

Morgantown High School in West Virginia has utilized the far-reaching effects of social networking to bolster a $6 million fundraising campaign to renovate the archaic sports facilities at the school. By using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in addition to building a Web site, Morgantown High has been able to reach thousands of alumni who have donated towards the project.

By Denver Allen

Fundraising Campaign Coordinator,
Mohigans Athletics Facility Project, Morgantown High School,
Morgantown, West Virginia

In order to renovate the facilities at Pony Lewis Field, which is a $6 million project, we need to raise $2 million to achieve a $2 million match from the Hazel Ruby McQuain Foundation, and a $2 million commitment from the Monongalia County School Board. Our solution was social networking, with the aim of reaching our alumni who are spread out all over the country.

The turf on the field, where the football, soccer, and lacrosse teams and marching bands participate, is over a decade old. The lockers are more than 20 years old, and the stands date back to the original 1927 design.

We instituted the social networking campaign back in October. It's been a method that has been used successfully by different universities and foundations for a number of years. The use of social media is now the quickest way to reach as many people as possible in the least expensive way. With the click of a button you're reaching thousands of people.

The Morgantown High School Foundation provided us with an alumni book that has a extensive list of contact information. We have 4,360 email addresses and 8,000 mailing addresses. We sent out a direct mail piece to alums at the end of 2009, and we did two email blasts, one last fall and one at the end of last year.

We have pages on Facebook and Twitter, and we also post content on YouTube. We've put together a website, which is interactive:

The website features an overview of the project, in addition to project news and artist renderings of what the renovations will look like when completed. It also has tabs for donations and other insightful information, with direct links to our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. The Facebook page provides an outlet for alums to interact and has photos and project and fundraising updates, while the Twitter page provides instant tidbits on the project. The YouTube page has video highlights of TV news stories about the project.

People can donate online via Paypal, which gets deposited in our account. Or they can pay by check. We've also set up a class challenge to see which graduating class donates the most money. Our average gift has been around $37000, and we are about halfway to our goal. We are approaching $600,000.

It helps that I have a professional fundraising background, having led causes at West Virginia University, Akron University, and the University of Pittsburgh. I also run a fundraising consultant business. We've taken a major gift-giving approach, taking time to identify the right donors, cultivating them, and bringing them on board.

I highly recommend social networking as a fundraising tool. We've reached alumni from as far away as Texas, Arizona, and Florida, and it's also a great way to keep in touch with alumni for years to come.

It's important to get as many people involved with this type of project. We've gotten our students involved, who are helping with updating all of the information. And they are learning the benefits of social networking beyond their own use of it.

We hired an independent contractor to build the website and handle the daily operation. A Morgantown student helps with uploading pictures and videos. We've also asked our alums to be more interactive on the Facebook page, such as uploading images and sharing their favorite story as it relates to Pony Lewis Field.

There are a few things that have made our project successful. The biggest thing has been assembling a good, solid database of our alumni. Second, our web site is very explanatory, which makes it easy for people to learn about the project and give. It has also helped that our website is interactive and gets people involved as quickly as possible on the homepage.

The great news is that we will begin construction of Phase 1 of the project, thanks to our fundraising success. We are excited to begin building a new concession stand and bleachers, installing new lights, and getting a new playing surface at Pony Lewis Field. is brought to you by a recognized and established name in the school athletics arena, MomentumMedia—publisher of Athletic Management, Coaching Management and Training & Conditioning magazines.