University Of Wisconsin Alumnus To Donate Scholarship Money For Every New Twitter And Facebook Follower

September 20, 2011

Facebook likeA new scholarship program available for the short-term at the University of Wisconsin-Madison could yield up to $50,000 for students. An alumnus of the school and his family are donating $1 every time a person "likes" the school--or the Wisconsin Alumni Association--on Facebook or becomes a Twitter follower.

The program runs through Oct. 3 and is sponsored by Will and Jenny Hsu of Minneapolis as well as Will's parents, Paul and Sharon Hsu of Wausau, Wis. The program is called the Bucky Challenge and is part of the Great People Scholarship, a student-aid program at the school that has generated more than $25 million to date and assisted about 500 students this fall, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison News. Donations and endowment monies fund the scholarship.

"We're trying to make sure people stay connected," Will Hsu told The Badger Herald. "In the last few years, Jenny and I have watched Facebook and Twitter and some of these other types of social media take off... Our challenge could motivate people to get more involved with the University."

Hsu, a 2000 graduate, is a senior finance manager at General Mills in Minneapolis and a frequent blogger and Tweeter. In just four days, the challenge has already raised $8,000.

"It's a success from Day 1, right out of the gate," said John Lucas, Wisconsin's social-media coordinator, to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kate Dixon, spokesperson for the WAA, said that the use of social media in the Bucky Challenge fosters strong school ties and expands the gift's effects.

"It's an easy way for people who are fans and followers of UW to give back to the university," she said.

Via various social media platforms, UW-Madison has more than 750,000 followers. Although many colleges and universities use Twitter and Facebook, they struggle to parlay their social media reaches into meaningful results, such as increased applicants or donors, noted The Chronicle of Higher Education. However, the Bucky Challenge adds a new dimension as it links fundraising with online interaction.

"The Bucky Challenge is unique because it pairs a vital institutional goal with the perfect reason to engage with audiences who may not have had a lot of contact with the institution," said Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations, in the UW-M News. "Not only are we supporting students, but we're expanding the university's potential audience for the future."

This approach, however, could backfire noted Andrew Shaindlin, author of the blog "Alumni Futures," to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Shaindlin explained that it could reinforce to alumni that the school only contacts them for donations or it could imply the school doesn't need their smaller donations anymore.

"Is it worth it to have one more Facebook fan if it costs you the $98 that you won't now be getting from that person?" he asked.

But UW-Madison officials don't seem concerned. In fact, as The Badger-Herald reported, the school plans to increase projects that marry social media and institutional goals.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"The Bucky Challenge: Connect With U-W Madison, Help Students,", September 15, 2011, Chris DuPre

"U. of Wisconsin Donor Offers $1 for Each New Twitter Follower,", September 19, 2011, Josh Keller

"UW Connectivity Funds Scholarship,", September 15, 2011, Katie Caron

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