So much of higher education marketing focus on enrollment – and why shouldn’t it? But in every organization, there’s the unsung marketing heroes responsible for fundraising. With overall enrollment declining in the U.S., alumni and planned giving are more important to securing the immediate and long-term financial stability of a school. And it’s especially important for those institutions without billionaires as alumni.
As a media company, we are a few steps removed from the alumni and philanthropic databases in colleges and universities. However, we are always thinking of ways to help our education partners with annual giving goals using a fusion of traditional marketing tactics we learn from other industries and our knowledge of education trends. From our perspective, the primary way a smart media partner can help is using the targeting tools we have and the power of trusted news brands to complement the direct marketing that alumni offices use. Think of it as public relations meets conversion marketing.
One of the biggest challenges fundraisers face, especially among younger alumni, is showing the true net-positive effect their donation has. Young people are increasingly cynical about the lifetime value of higher education and once they graduate, many consider that transaction complete. Inside Philanthropy refers to this as “effective altruism” – the disinclination to, for instance, give money to support a new football stadium when there are devastating refugee crisis that also need money. And it’s really hard to argue with that.
This is where optics become incredibly important. Colleges and universities contribute to communities, and the world, in sometimes invisible ways. For instance, does your school offer students the opportunity to perform humanitarian aid? Or do your programs conduct important research for social, environmental or scientific fields? Right now, that might be more effective than simply relying on the success of sports teams to elicit warm feelings from alumni, thus making them more inclined to give. Developing messaging around your university’s accomplishments and contributions engenders a deeper affinity for the alma mater and a visible effect for alumni to grasp.
One way some schools are taking this even further is personalizing donations. Alumni can give a “strings attached” donation by stipulating exactly toward what their donation goes. While this may seem like a headache logistically, this is a perfect example of how digital targeting can build fully-attributable conversion campaigns for giving. For instance, knowing that a person was in the engineering school might mean that a targeted message to give directly toward new equipment for that program could be incredibly effective. It’s hyper personalized and relevant.
The good news is that media companies such as ours run these types of conversion campaigns all the time. Combining first and third party data to target audiences and deliver a more personal message based on demographics, geography or behavior is a pillar of conversion marketing. We’re ready to help!