You’ve seen them. Those alumni who drive to your team’s games in cars adorned with your school’s bumper stickers, who proudly wear hats and sweatshirts purchased at your bookstore – there’s a name for them. They are your college/university’s Champions. Champions are visible and vocal advocates of their alma maters.
While Champions are the most likely people to donate to their colleges and universities and in the largest average amounts, they tend to do so for specific reasons. Champions value the professional and social benefits associated with donating. Champions tend to want their peers to know about their donations and like to see their contributions highlighted in publications or on the brick of a building. Champions have a reciprocating relationship with their institutions. If they are going to give, they expect something back.
Although Champions are vocal and visible supporters of their schools, this enthusiasm isn’t always seen in the form of financial contributions. In fact, less than a third of Champions donated to their institutions last year. Furthermore, 49% of Champions have never donated to their alma maters. This statistic reveals that colleges and universities have a tremendous opportunity to cultivate financial support from a group of people who outwardly support their colleges and universities. This is further supported by the fact that Champions who do give donate an average of $354 per year to their institutions, representing nearly one-fourth of their total charitable donations. Clearly, colleges and universities need to identify ways in which to garner the financial support from the nearly half of Champions who have never given. Crafting communications strategies based on a deeper understanding of what motivates Champions to give is necessary to garner their financial support. Conducting research to attain this deeper understanding of Champions’ motivations, communication channel preferences, and resonant messages is the necessary first step.
The sixth measure in our donor motivation research model that best predicted motivations, attitudes, and behaviors associated with giving was life satisfaction.
The life satisfaction dimension examines the extent to which graduates feel:
In terms of messaging strategy, the life satisfaction dimension should focus on the full lifecycle from student to alum.
In relation to life as a student, message content should emphasize the fact that higher educational attainment is a life-changing experience that shapes future development comprehensively: intellectually, socially, financially, spiritually, etc. The idea here is that the student experience is not only an enjoyable and crucial developmental experience in and of itself, but also that the experience leads to positive future outcomes in terms of relationships, employment, and overall personal growth.
Messaging directed to audiences later in the lifecycle should focus on positive and tangible alumni outcomes. Examples of such outcomes can include specific employment-related outcomes, stories of alumni who met their spouses while attending school, legacy-related stories that appeal to multiple generations, stories regarding how the student experience was associated with emotional and/or spiritual growth, travel and networking opportunities, etc.
In a nutshell, the life satisfaction dimension encompasses a wide range of experience: intellectual, emotional, financial, and more. The key is to emphasize the developmental path from student to satisfied alum.
The fifth measure that best predicted attitudes and behaviors in our donor motivation research model was personal values.
The personal values dimension examines the extent to which graduates:
This dimension has tremendous implications for messaging strategy due to its catchall nature. Pressing global causes such as feeding the hungry, providing shelter to the homeless, working to improve the environment, and supplying medical cures for the sick and uninsured are examples of philanthropic initiatives that would likely appeal to those who give at least in part due to the personal values dimension. Therefore, institutions crafting messages around this dimension should:
The personal values dimension would be also important to consider when crafting messages that focus on legacies. For instance,
We are proud to release research findings pertaining to the attitudes and motivations of more than 50,000 alumni associated with donating to their higher education institutions. “Findings from the Field: The Donor Motivation Study in Practice” is the second in a series of white papers and presented in alliance with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) – http://case.org/.
The first paper of the series discussed Converge Consulting’s national study findings related to donor motivation and presented three segments of alumni respondents that vary significantly in terms of their attitudes and motivations associated with giving to their alma maters: Champions, Friends, and Acquaintances.
Since releasing the findings of the national study, Converge has had the opportunity to work with colleges and universities across the nation, utilizing the study model to enable institutions to classify their alumni into these three segments, identify the best ways to reach them in terms of communication channels, and learn about the types of philanthropies which they support.
The new white paper begins with a review of key ideas and findings from the first paper and then discusses how the donor motivation study has been put into practice at specific institutions throughout the United States. In so doing, findings from each institution are compared to each other and to the national sample. The white paper then explores implications of the findings in terms of marketing communications strategies.
“Findings from the Field: The Donor Motivation Study in Practice” is now available to CASE members online. Member login is required. The white paper is also available here.
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It is very important that you track your campaigns with Google Analytics campaign tracking. However, an issue that many higher education marketing professionals face is that it can be very difficult to create trackable URLs in Google Analytics and then be able to organize them. Take a look at the following article in Smashing Magazine in which I explain how you can create a WordPress plugin to create and organize Google Analytics campaign tracking URLs, shortened versions of the URLs, and trackable QR codes.
In three recent studies of donor motivation at colleges and universities from the Midwest to the West Coast, we have found a wide range of response related to how alumni feel about the effectiveness of social media in terms of reaching them with messages from alumni associations and foundations.
Champions, who are the hat-wearing, vocal advocates of their alma maters, are the only segment (representing 31% of alumni nationwide on average) who feel that social media is an effective communication channel. The other segments, Friends and Acquaintances, have indicated that they do not feel that social media is effective.
So, what does this mean? When developing a multi-channel communications strategy, it is most likely best to focus your social media efforts on Champions. However, as social media usage escalates and acceptance of it likely increases, it would be wise to start thinking about how social media can be utilized to communicate with all of your alumni segments.
Tomorrow (12/16/11), Converge Consulting will be hosting a #FAC Friday After Class live chat session on the Converge web siteat http://www.convergeconsulting.org/fac/ in which .eduGuru’s Michael Fienen will be releasing the findings of .eduGuru’s nationwide survey regarding content management system usage in higher education. .eduGuru’s survey of more than 500 institutions examined which schools are using what content management systems and also gathered feedback from users about the systems that are supporting the web presences of our colleges and universities. In an effort to provide resources for institutions that need a new CMS to design, redesign, or realign their university’s site, the findings will cover current trends regarding CMS usage at colleges and universities in the United States. Particular emphasis will be placed on discussing levels of customer satisfaction with specific content management systems as well as the features that specific systems offer.
Michael has been working in web development for more than a decade. He currently wears many hats, functioning as the Director of Web Marketing at Pittsburg State University, CTO at the interactive map firm nuCloud, and working as a consultant with organizations around the country. He is a respected speaker at conferences on subjects ranging from video, to mobile, accessibility, and content strategy, and also writes for the award winning higher ed web development blog .eduGuru.
Audience members can participate in #FAC Friday After Class either through the comment feature onhttp://www.convergeconsulting.org/fac/, or by using the Twitter hashtag #FAC during the event. The session will last for approximately 30 minutes.
Andrew Gossen hosted an intriguing session of #FAC Friday After Class today. Parts of the discussion focused on issues related to staffing, budget, and departmental coordination. Much of the conversation also revolved around questions concerning specific social media applications and how this rapidly expanding universe of tools can be kept up with, much less be evaluated to determine if and how they fit into an overarching institutional marketing plan. Andrew had some great input on these topics.
Here are a three great quotes from Andrew that should steer decision-making around how social media fits into overall marketing strategy as well as how to identify which tools should be adopted:
This is all sage and simple advice. It is so easy to get distracted by the shiny, new tool and feel like we have to adapt our strategy to accomodate the newcomer in the marketplace. Andrew reminds us that we should choose the tools to help us accomplish our goals, not vice versa. Also, always framing social media efforts within the context of the unchanging institutional goals (more and better applicants, increased alumni engagement, etc.) is a surefire way to help us evaluate new tools and approaches with a solid rubric.
For more excellent insight, please watch the replay of the #FAC Friday After Class event here.
Seth Godin wrote a recent blog post in which he poses six questions that should be asked when analyzing a web site:
Seth concludes that these six metrics differentiate successful from unsuccessful companies in terms of their online marketing efforts.
If those questions seem strange or not applicable, they probably won’t be for long. As higher education institutions continue to operate more and more like private sector organizations, these are exactly the types of questions and metrics that will form the basis of evaluating online marketing efforts. Extrapolating these principles to online marketing in higher education, it is time to ask some related questions:
In simple terms, colleges and universities are wasting time, talent, and treasure in terms of online marketing if the following questions cannot be answered readily and accurately:
With all of these questions, you might be wondering where to begin? Visit our web site or call us for a consult. We can help you answer these critical questions. To give you a head start, please access the Analytics presentation (embedded below) that we led for DePaul University last week for a diverse and talented group of online marketing professionals from across the institution who understand that the questions above speak to ROI and serve as the barometer for success.
If you can track it you can measure it. We can help.