Like Champions, Friends are proud graduates of your institution. However, Friends are not as easy to identify visually. They might not attend all of your school’s games or place bumper stickers with your institution’s branding on their cars.
Among the three donor persona segments (Champions, Friends, and Acquaintances), Friends are the most philanthropic in an overall sense. Unfortunately for colleges and universities, Friends tend to be more committed to donating to other organizations which they support. Thus, their alma maters are not their top philanthropic priorities.
In terms of motivation to give, Friends tend to donate out of a sense of obligation whereas Champions donate out of a sense of passion. Where Champions tend to value the benefits and recognition associated with donating, Friends don’t care about seeing their name on a brick or about peer recognition associated with their giving. They would rather receive a thank you note from a Dean for their financial support.
Despite the fact that Friends are philanthropic in nature and supporters of their alma maters, 56% of them have never donated to their colleges and universities. Furthermore, only 7% of Friends’ total philanthropic donations are allocated to their alma maters. On average, the Friends who do give donate an average of $197 per year. 24% of Friends gave to their alma maters within the last twelve months.
In our national study of donor motivation, Friends were the largest segment, totaling 36% of the 2050 respondents. Clearly, the Friend segment represents an enormous opportunity for colleges and universities in terms of fostering engagement and giving. In terms of communicating with Friends, messages should focus on ways that the institution is making a difference in the community and in the world. Messages and appeals targeted toward Friends should highlight programs that help the homeless and faculty who are working on cures for cancer. Overall, Friends want to see how their alma maters are working to solve the big problems related to health and human welfare.
To learn more about the Friend segment as well as Champions and Acquaintances, please download the following white paper.
Unless you’ve been hibernating for the last few years, you have probably noticed that a lot of people are engaging in social media. Approximately 1/5 of the world’s population is on Facebook. Twitter has more than 100 million users, and new networks with their loyal followings are popping up as I type. Still think that social media is just for kids? Think again. Even the Pope is an active Twitter user who has 49,000 followers.
Although specific social media applications have different followings in terms of demographics and are used to communicate for different reasons, the fact is that social media has tremendous implications for our personal and professional lives. If you think that Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin have zero business value for you and your institution, you might want to reevaluate your position. Not only does social media need to be a part of your college/university’s marketing plan, but it needs to be approached thoughtfully, strategically, and systematically.
It is critical to follow trends in usage, demographics, and popularity to understand where your prospective students are spending their time online. Take a look at the following graphics that present statistics pertaining to Facebook and Twitter:
There are two main activities that you need to focus on related to social media at your institution where prospective students are concerned:
In future posts, we will dive into more specifics regarding how to conduct social media listening/monitoring and how to create a social media plan.
Are you currently conducting social media listening? If so, how are you doing it?
In the midst of summer, you are working hard to ensure that your yield strategy is producing results. Nonetheless, there are a number of students who did not enroll despite the fact that they applied, liked your Facebook page, and visited campus. The question is: Why? It is crucial to gain a deeper understanding of why these students didn’t enroll.
Like their Millennial generation peers, your prospective students live online. Online marketing and social media supply them with information about every type of product and service under the sun. If they are interested in your institution, the odds are that they have gone to your web site and/or social media sites to learn more about the school and, hopefully, to request more information, schedule a visit, or download/submit an application. It is crucial that your marketing team understands what web pages and/or sites lead these prospective students to act in desired ways. It is equally important to understand what areas of your web site and social media applications see prospects dropping out of the funnel.
What are you measuring? Do you know how to set up analytics goals? Are you examining pageviews, time on site, bounce rate, and other key metrics that can help you understand your prospective students’ web behavior?
As one of our analytics clients stated, “Our website is one of the most important marketing channels we have as an institution and the analytics provides us with a plethora of data. However, we realized that we were only starting to scratch the surface of what we could learn about our website from all this data we were collecting.”
The following infographic provides some great information related to what you should be measuring and analyzing:
Joanna Peña-Bickley, in a great blog post, explains that personas are rooted in Jungian theory and premised upon the notion that there are twelve archetypes that symbolize basic human needs, aspirations, and/or motivations. These archetypes each possess unique characteristics, traits, and values that range from the heroic to the ordinary and from the wise to the jester. Marketers latched onto Jung’s theory because these archetypes, or at least aspects of different archetypes, resonate with all of us and in many ways help us in defining ourselves. Thus, these archetypes are utilized extensively in advertisements for every type of product and service that we encounter.
In the higher education marketing context, persona development is (or, at least, should be) vital to crafting effective communications. .eduGuru wrote an informative and resource-rich post regarding how persona development is important in determining how to design web sites and craft communications for the various audience types that the sites serve (prospective students, current students, faculty, alumni, parents, etc.).
A college web site is a great example of a communication channel that needs a variety of personas developed. However, even extremely targeted communications, such as a postcard invitation to alums to attempt to get them to attend homecoming, should be crafted after personas have been developed to inform the copy development and image selection. In short, there is no communication (no matter how large or small) that wouldn’t benefit from being persona-driven.
At Converge, our donor motivation research is premised upon three main personas of alumni that were derived from extensive survey research and statistical analysis: Champions, Friends, and Acquaintances. Each of these personas have different motivations and characteristics that have major implications concerning how college and universities should communicate with them.
The data necessary to develop personas can be gathered via primary research methods (surveys and focus groups) as well as via predictive modeling that is based on database information that contains information pertaining to demographics, academic profiles, past giving/engagement behaviors, etc.) The more data that is collected and analyzed, the stronger the personas.
In future posts, we will examine how personas can be developed for prospective students as well as for prospective donors in the higher education marketing context.
Are you developing personas to drive your communications strategy?
The Millennial generation: they wear flip-flops on their feet, place headphones connected to IPODS in their ears, maintain social media profiles, and value the balance between work and life. In terms of learning about higher education options, they go online to find out more about the colleges and universities that are actively recruiting them.
But, how are colleges and universities reaching them? Our nation’s higher education institutions are utilizing a number of creative and interesting ways, ranging from social media to NPR advertising. While the digital and electronic channels have increased, one must wonder if the college viewbook has become a thing of the past? Actually, viewbooks are still alive and well.
Working in higher education marketing for the past fifteen years, I have had the pleasure of engaging with a number of colleges and universities on strategic multi-channel communications and brand programs as well as interviewing hundreds of prospective students, current students, and parents regarding their perceptions of institutional communications during the college selection process. This past year, I had the chance to review dozens of college viewbooks that were submitted for a competition. Gazing at the pile of viewbooks on my coffee table, I felt like I was 18 again as I analyzed and compared a plethora of styles, images, brands, sizes, messages, and formats. The process was a lot of fun.
Based on my review of several institution’s viewbooks (36 total), I am excited to provide you with some key facts and takeaways that can help marketers in higher education get a sense of current trends related to these publications.
How many pages should a viewbook be?
The answer to this question depends largely on how the viewbook fits into your overall communication sequence as well as what types of information you want the viewbook to convey. Here are some statistics related to the 36 viewbooks that I reviewed:
Are schools using recycled paper and is it important to place the mark on the viewbook?
Is the magazine style in or out?
Viewbook magazine style has evolved during the past decade, moving from the glossy fashion magazine-style to one that is content-driven. Of the publications reviewed,
What type of bindings are schools using?
The viewbooks reviewed used a variety of paper stocks, treatments, and bindings. Are we trending away from more expensive printing and binding methods? Of the publications reviewed:
Heavy or Light Copy?
Over the past few years, there has been a trend to move towards lighter copy (with an emphasis on more photos). This trend also encompasses the use of bulleted content that is easy to read, pull-out graphics, and text that is highlighted via call-outs/factoids.
Does Size Matter?
We defined 8 ½ x 11 as the average size of viewbooks.
Social Media Integration
When social media icons were present, there was typically no mention of how navigating to these sites would actually help the student (receiving updates on the admissions process, deadlines, campus news, etc.). Emphasizing the benefits of engagement would be wise for content developers to include.
The testimonials have evolved from solely describing why people did something and what the impact was to discussing how the testimonials and stories are related to future hopes, dreams, and ambitions.
The Infamous Cover Situation
And now, the age-old question: How in the world can you encapsulate all of the viewbook contents in a single cover image?
However, there were fewer stereotypical “campus building shots with students throwing Frisbees on the quad” than I expected.
I was quite impressed with the quality and strategy behind most of these viewbooks. To see examples of several of the viewbooks reviewed, please navigate to
As you assess the effectiveness of your viewbook (and overall print) strategy, I recommend the following:
Remember, choosing the right college is life-changing, so
Leading that web development project, I observed three critical factors that are crucial to building a successful and effective web presence. I believe that these three factors lead to the success of this site, not only from an awards perspective, but also from a user experience perspective:
1.) Awareness of the goal of the web site.
I had the privilege of working with a forward-thinking and energetic Associate Vice Provost and Excutive Director at The University of Michigan as well as the Assistant Director for Communications for Admissions. They articulated clearly and concisely on day one what the goal of the site was and what type of experience they wanted prospective students to have in terms of interacting with the web site. The goal was clear: “We want a site that tells a story of what it means to be “Leaders & Best.” In doing so, we want a web site that creates an unbelievable user experience.” Those goals provided the litmus test for every recommendation and design decision that we made – did it help to tell the story of leaders and best? If it didn’t resonate with target audiences as reflective of the experience of a Michigan Student and Leaders & Best, it was off the table.
The goals in terms of call-to-action/user interaction were clear. We want prospective students to be able to:
These three calls-to-action needed to be accessible on every page. Here they are on the Admissions home page:
These calls to action were derived from focus group interviews with prospects from New York to California. Prospective students wanted it to be as easy as possible to find out how to apply, schedule visits, and obtain information concerning majors/programs based on how the user searches and not on how the University organizes itself.
3.) Telling the story
Join Converge Consulting for a webinar series that focuses on alumni motivation and the specific segment of young alumni.
Alumni Motivation Under the Microscope: Why Do They Do What They Do? will be offered on May 1 and May 15 at 1:00 EST. The description is as follows:
Motivation is literally “the desire to do things.” In the Fall of 2011, we conducted a national study with more than 2000 alumni to explore their attitudes, motivations, and behaviors associated with donating to their alma maters. In partnership with CASE (Council for Advancement and Support Education), we have published 3 white papers that describe our findings, provide a framework for categorizing alumni, and discuss the implications for practice. Join us in this interactive session as we discuss how the findings from our national survey as well as from college and university alumni (60,000+ and counting) will help you to understand how:
What Can Betty White and Mark Zuckerberg Teach Us About Engaging Young Alumni? will be offered on May 8 and 22 at 1:00 EST. Here is the description of that webinar:
They’re young. They’re smart. They wear flip-flops on their feet and plug ipods into their ears. Every advancement professional wonders:
Join us for this interactive session in which we paint a picture of young alumni and explore how we can speak to them in their language and in ways that resonate. We will share best practices from several institutions that are engaging their young alumni in interesting and creative ways.
To sign up, please visit http://www.convergeconsulting.org/webinars/
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,
To continue the discussion regarding the six measures that best predicted donor behavior and that were subsequently utilized to develop the segmentation model of our research, today’s post focuses on professional benefits.
The professional benefits dimension is defined as the extent to which graduates of their institution perceived that charitable action and involvement: