August 15, 2012

Using Social Media to Find Grants and Scholarships

When it comes to obtaining grants and scholarships, you want to use every resource at your disposal to the best of your ability. Regardless of whether you’re looking for grants and scholarships for school, a social work organization or something totally unrelated, many of the same strategies apply.

One set of tools that you can’t afford to overlook in your search is social media. Social media has become a powerful and pervasive communication tool that can help you or your organization locate and qualify for the funding you need. And if you don’t use this tool to your advantage, you should at least realize that potential funders may use it to check you out.

1.  Groom your profiles.
If you’re not already thinking about your social networking presence as part of your professional image in general and part of your grant applications specifically, it is time to wake up. Employers, grad schools and organizations offering scholarships will all be looking at your Facebook and Twitter feeds. At the very least, you should edit them to prevent embarrassing yourself or your professional associates. But while you’re at it, why not begin highlighting your professional accomplishments and connecting them to your personal values?
2. Ask your network for leads.
The simplest and most obvious place to begin your social networking search for funding is to broadcast the message that you’re doing just that. Start by posting public messages on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn asking contacts to point you toward relevant resources or offer tips on the application process. Then reach out specifically to relevant, high-value contacts you haven’t heard back from.
3. Search for grants and scholarships on Twitter.
It is fairly easy to use the advanced search tools on Twitter to eavesdrop on the buzz about any subject, and funding is no exception. Search keywords related to funding and your field to find out what colleagues are talking about. Tweeting about your funding search and pointing out resources to other professionals is also a great way to contribute to the conversation.
4. Follow and friend prominent organizations.
Most prominent organizations offering funding will also have active social media outlets, and you should be sure to pay attention to them for news about scholarships and the organization’s work in general. Pointing others toward these organizations or using their profiles as an additional point of contact with the organization aren’t bad ways to make an impression, either.
5. Get personal.
One of the fundamental tenets of social networking that people often forget is that it is about relationship building, not just reading the news. This means that you should be engaging personally with your contacts as well as with strangers during this funding search, becoming part of a larger conversation. When appropriate, arrange face-to-face meetings or phone calls as well, and try to build lasting relationships rather than asking for favors. Don’t forget to send thank-you notes and updates after you receive a grant or scholarship.

About the author. Joshua John currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Virtual Master of Social Work program, which provides social workers the opportunity to earn an online social work degree. He also loves gadgets, movies, and all things Batman. Follow him on twitter: @joshuavjohn.

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