It’s naive to think that everyone associated with the college is a prospective donor. It’s equally naive to expect that alumni who show up at glitzy events or receive slick campaign marketing materials will end up donating.
A college can, however, increase the chances of receiving donations from various constituents by following sensible guidelines. Jim Langley, of Langley Innovations, buckets them into (a) Affiliation, (b) Agency, (c) Appreciation and (d) Accountability.
Alumni likely to donate are those who:
Worked on campus when they were students
Remained actively engaged/involved with the school after graduation
As students, benefited from special relationships with an exceptional faculty or staff
Have consistently given in the past, and were thanked and told how their giving had a positive impact on people’s lives
Were nurtured by ongoing communication and asked for advice on the future direction of the school
See an alignment between their personal passions, life purpose, deepest values and institutional ambition and values
Believe the value of their degree was far greater than its cost
See their personal values being channeled by the institution for societal change
Wish to pass on the most valuable lessons life has taught them
Volunteered their time to the institution in various capacities
Weren’t offered full scholarships
Major Donors likely to donate are those who:
See presidents who can articulate the story of the institution’s highest purposes and greatest possibilities, where the institution is today, where it needs to go tomorrow, why it’s important that it does so, and what it’ll take to get there
Are confident that their investment will translate into significant, lasting and transformational societal impact
Perceive a clear sense of institutional purpose, which aligns with their own personal passions, life purpose and deepest values
Have had an ongoing affiliation with the institution and have been giving for a decade or more
Had a voice or hand in shaping the institution
Sense that the institution has the patience to work through a 1-2 year brokering process
Corporations likely to donate are those who:
Can leverage campaign priorities to realize their corporate objectives, including talent recruitment, knowledge transfer that gives them competitive advantage, and positive community perceptions
Clearly perceive accountability and a measurable set of expected outcomes
Sense a model of leadership that is founded on stewardship
Foundations likely to donate are those who:
See a clear alignment between their purpose/mission and the purpose of the donation being requested
Receive a tight proposal with project goals, budgets, timelines, and expected outcomes
Perceive that the college will be open to transparency, accountability and progress reports
“If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln.
This sentiment specifically applies to vice presidents for advancement when launching capital and and comprehensive campaigns. They create a culture of giving, increase gift size and improve gift productivity by playing these five crucial roles:
Embrace the Right Mindsets & Skillsets
Understand the distinctions and relationships between strategic planning, advancement, development and fundraising.
Know the difference between capital campaigns and comprehensive campaigns, and deploy them appropriately.
Understand student and alumni appreciation for the faculty, staff and the institution.
Possess the skillset and experience in not only launching but also sustaining complex operations in the field for a number of years.
Lay the Groundwork
Know whether alumni truly believe that the value of their degree far exceeded the cost of their education.
Understand the appreciation and engagement of the institution by parents, corporations, nonprofits and government institutions.
Have already deployed practices that instill student, alumni and donor loyalty, engagement and volunteerism.
Go beyond obvious prospects. Develop deep constituent engagement throughout the campaign and beyond to create a richer pipeline of purpose-driven prospects.
Build greater philanthropic capacity through various means of affiliation.
Build a strong case statement with three foundational components: problem, solution and impact.
Shape a compelling vision with input and consultation with board members, presidents, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the institution.
Recruit and Train Allies
Identify faculty and staff champions for each initiative.
Identify potential lead donors for each campaign priority.
Implement volunteer management plans.
Train the advancement team and board members for advocacy.
Perfect Campaign Operations
Oversee creation of high fidelity, high impact, proof based, imaginative and endearing marketing assets.
Customize appeals for major donors, women donors, entrepreneurial donors, legacy donors, corporate donors and foundation donors.
Equip major gift officers with donor intelligence including biography, organizational loyalties, giving history, and their passions and personal values.
Orchestrate all activities of the fundraising team, campaign chair, planning committee, steering committee, board members, and volunteers.
Test with pilot initiatives, and then scale the campaign.
Give ample time for the campaign to succeed.
Collect all pledges.
Thank donors graciously and provide periodic progress/accountability reports.
In the next blog post, I’ll share the characteristics of a successful capital and comprehensive campaign.
College presidents, vice presidents for advancement, and board members form the trifecta for envisioning, executing and consummating a successful capital or comprehensive campaign.
College presidents play these 10 crucial roles:
The Visionary: Knows the fundraising goal and is able to articulate the transformative impact that the funds will have on the institution and those it serves.
The Strategist: Leads strategic planning based on thorough, objective assessment of institutional strengths and weaknesses. Involves board members, faculty, alumni and corporate partners in their strategic planning process.
The Listener: Acts as the chief listening officer, adding stakeholder views in the evolving campaign dialogue.
The Matchmaker: Helps identify faculty and staff champions for each campaign priority. Involves different board members at all levels based on their talents and passions.
The Recruiter:Should be a part of the selection process for fundraising consultants and bears responsibility for holding them accountable.
The Clarifier: Ensures the vice president of advancement distinguishes between marketing and building alumni affiliation and loyalty.
The Evangelist: Speaks as the voice of the institution to all stakeholders.
The Storyteller: Brags less about the institution and praises its alumni more.
The Fundraiser: Identifies and recruits potential lead donors for each campaign initiative.
The Donor: Donates so they have a skin in the game.
Prior to starting a new comprehensive campaign, the president and vice president for advancement should brief their board members on the unique roles and expectations they’ll play.
In the next blog post, I’ll share the roles that a vice president for advancement plays in launching successful capital and comprehensive campaigns.
Consumers are now used to interfacing with things in bits, bytes and and bite-sized chunks. When it comes to reeling in a broad audience, marketers are using vanity URLs to do exactly this by shortening lengthy, confusing URLs into readable and accessible links.
What are Vanity URLs?
Are short and clean, easy to remember and easy to read website URLs
Are seen as more trustworthy than long links and perform better in terms of clicks
Can increase rankings on search engines if keywords are embedded in them
Can be monitored so that you can track where traffic is coming from, and which advertisements or platforms are performing best
What are The Two Types of Vanity URLs?
Vanity URLs are very useful for a variety of purposes, but depending on the need they can be utilized in two places within a URL. A subdomain (prefix) occurs at the beginning of a URL (e.g. xyz.college.edu) while a subfolder (suffix) occurs after a slash (e.g. www.college.edu/xyz).
Subdomains are used for
securing rankings on search engines
marketing of departments and schools within a larger institution
Subfolders are used for
directing people from printed materials, radio ads, tv ads, etc.
Few Words of Caution When Using Vanity URLs
Overusing them for every page on a website. This is unnecessary, can hurt rankings, and defeats the purpose of using them in the first place: simplicity.
Using keywords that are too similar to one another or you will have to compete with your own rankings, ultimately hurting yourself.
Creating a new URL because you will have to start from scratch. Instead, vanity URLs will serve the same function while still being within the existing domain.
Using too many slashes for subfolders. Vanity URLs are supposed to be simple, and too many subfolders can clog the URL unnecessarily
Guidelines for Managing Vanity URLs
Designate a vanity URL administrator who’s authorized to approve/disapprove
Describe guidelines for when vanity URLs should be used so that people can determine whether or not to submit a request
Create a form that includes: name, email, vanity URL, internal destination URL, start date, expiration date, how it’ll be used, and legitimate need/rationale
Define rules such as the length limits, use of lower case alpha-numeric characters only with hyphen for spaces, must end with alpha, ease of typing, ease of communication over phone or conversation, avoiding acronyms, right to refuse, etc.
Provide a list of vanity URLs that are currently in use.
Guidelines for Awarding Vanity URLs
Who needs them:
Schools within an institution
Who could or could not have them:
Centers of Excellence, depending on how much money they’re bringing in
Academic departments and other key departments such as communications and the registrar’s office
Who does not need them:
Clubs and organizations
Individual athletic teams
Faculty and student profiles
Suppliers such as dining services, housing services, etc.
Remember, for every rule there is an exception. So make judgments based on a case-by-case basis.
2021 is finally here. Here are some of our predictions for this coming year. Covid’s drag on students and colleges will persist at least through the summer. The previous administration’s negative impact on international recruitment will begin to ease. Celebration of diversity will be in vogue again due to continued growth in underrepresented students. Paid media prices will continue their meteoric climb. The absence of high-school travel and standardized test-takers will continue. Due to economic uncertainty, the decline in number of high school graduates enrolling in college immediately after high school will continue.
In this time of volatile change, here is our advice for higher education marketers to overcome the challenges and make the most of emerging opportunities:
1. Celebrate Diversity
Gen-Z and Millenials are race-blind, faith-blind and gender-blind. As part of the most diverse generation in U.S. history, they take diversity for granted. They accept, not just respect, others for who they are – irrespective of their race, religious beliefs, and their gender preferences.
2. Celebrate Your Heroes and Their Achievements
College is the gateway to a student’s ambitions and ultimate destiny. Remember, students and faculty, not the institution, are the real heroes of your story. Celebrate them and their journeys. Tell their stories with gusto.
3. Celebrate Your Brand
In the sea of sameness, brands win. Stand for something unique and let the world know about it. Speak with one brand voice to all audiences striking different notes for each audience segment. Tell a better story. Provide proof of your brand claims. Infuse your brand in every touch point.
Distill the argument for your brand in a brand anthem video. Here is one example of a brand anthem video we produced for New York Chiropractic College:
And another one for Boler College of Business at John Carroll University:
4. Project Your College as a School of Consequence
You must look and behave like a school of consequence.
Invest in first impressions. In the era of Covid, all your digital touch points must be right, tight and bright. Fortify every touch point – including websites, social media channels, your Wikipedia entry, email signatures, newsletters, tours, information sessions, and all presentations.
Celebrate your star students, alumni and faculty because they, not the institution, are the real heroes of your story.
Amplify your college blog, YouTube channel and publications to achieve Google page 1 rankings. Weaponize your content based on your schools’ thought leadership, innovation, and intellectual capital with a Keyword Lexicon, and an ongoing search engine optimization campaign that attains top Google rankings and fosters social sharing. Invest in a more robust content mix for your college academic blog, developing a deep archive of student and alumni stories that can be used by your enrollment counseling team. Prioritize stories of audiences that drive institutional revenue.Develop a “SEO Keyword Guide” comprised of keywords and phrases your college can rightfully claim.Infuse your stories with targeted search engine optimization keywords to realize regional, national and international Google page 1 rankings.
Organize virtual conferences and annual professional meetings in your areas of distinction. These give peers and recruiters a reason to engage with your faculty, students and alumni.
Create an enviable peer and corporate advisory board. Invite aspirational peers and recruiters to your advisory board and involve them in teaching, shaping your curriculum and charting your institutional future.
5. Invest in the Marketing of Signature Program Portfolios
Lead with strengths. Fortify signature program pages with high-fidelity content. Market distinctive programs where you have an indisputable competitive advantage.
Fight the temptation to start new me-too programs. No one has realized prosperity with me-too commodity offerings.
6. Embrace Inverted Enrollment Funnel
Abandon traditional student search models. Hunt like sharks. Don’t feed like whales. The era of buying prospects names, spamming them, seeing who sticks, and praying some convert is over. Tell stories of successful students and alumni; let like-minded prospects find them. Embrace new digital methodologies based on micro-segmentation, machine learning, big-data algorithms and affinity groups. Think right-fit, admission pipes and inverted admissions funnels, not traditional admissions funnels.
7. Claim Your Local SEO Rankings
One third of students are considering attending a local/regional school due to fear of contracting coronavirus far from home. Prioritize existing budgets to give your top 10 most distinct academic program pages an immediate boost towards page-one local/regional SEO rankings.
Since more than 20% of searches are local and one third of students are considering attending a local/regional college due to fear of contracting Corona far from home, re-prioritize your SEO efforts to win page-one local/regional SEO rankings. “Bake” phrases such as ‘near me’ and geographies you serve into the page copy of all your programs.
8. Embrace Voice Search
We have entered a new era of “natural language”, “sentence based” and “question based” search with the advent of voice-activated search on mobile phones (like Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa) and gadgets like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and others. 30 percent of searches are now voice driven. Get ready for the voice era by taking the following steps:
Write colloquially. Since people won’t change their speaking habits for the computer, write new content using everyday vernacular.
Write page summaries. Write short, persuasive, 29-word page summaries above the screen fold on long-form pages. These summaries act as pop-up snippets served up by voice searches on mobile devices and home gadgets; they also appear as answer boxes on desktop search results.
Build social shares. Implement social share campaigns because the more shared the page is on Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels, the more likely it will surface on voice search.
Rank high on desktop/mobile search. If a website is not ranked on desktop/mobile search, it is unlikely that it will be ranked on voice search. Therefore, focus on achieving top rankings on desktop/mobile search for your college website.
9. Create Story-based Virtual Tours
Create a virtual tour that combines the best of still photography, student/alumni testimonials/quotes and a sense of place and culture. Use the testimonials/quotes to convey your school’s culture, not as a way-finding device. Don’t show a dorm as a physical space, tell the story of a dorm friendship that endured for many years.
Alternatively, engage student ambassadors to post authentic Instagram moments a couple of times a week.
10. Embrace Experimentation
If your college is investing at least 10% of your revenue in marketing like academic leaders are, set aside some play money to explore new marketing tactics, strategies and channels. Remember that your prospects are surrounded by an increasing proliferation of channels. Invest in content and paid media to see if these channels generate better returns.
Changing the name of your college or university can stretch 5-10 years. Name change isn’t the answer to declining enrollments, but it could signal a new strategic direction, or an expansion of the audiences you serve, or a clarification of your mission; or it could be all three.
Here are some pearls of wisdom gleaned from experience and a step-by-step process on how to rollout a new name.
Preparing for Change
Get input from the institution’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, cabinet and board members.
Prepare and present the alternative names and a final recommendation. Present a thoughtful rationale for your choice to the cabinet, board members and campus community to get their support.
Create a microsite which explains the strategic underpinnings of the name change and the new institutional direction.
Create a website FAQ page that answers common questions that may be posed by different stakeholders. Answer a range of questions, from the very broad ones like “Why did you change the name?”, to philosophical ones such as “Does this change our mission and vision?”, and to practical ones like “Can I request a new diploma/certificate with the new name?” Here is a good example of an FAQ page.
The Silent Phase
Check with The US Patent and Trademark Office to ensure the name is not taken by another institution and can be claimed by you.
Secure a new .edu domain. Also secure the .com, .org and .net domains to prevent future domain squatters from tarnishing your brand. Prepare web server 301 redirects to activate the day the name change is released. Prepare the web servers to accept both the old and new domain names.
Configure email servers to create aliases from old email addresses to the new ones.
Secure social media handles for popular channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and others.
Create a new brand identity guide.
Consider DBA (doing business as) in state filings, bank accounts, etc.
Notify the post office.
Notify the IPEDs (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) office of the Department of Education for a new FICE (Federal Interagency Committee on Education) code.
The Public Phase
Update the logo on the website. Globally replace all references of the old name to the new one in the website header, footer and body copy.
Update the logo/name on all active landing pages and ad campaigns.
Activate 301 redirects from the old domain to the new one for both the website and landing pages.
Update print materials including letterheads, business cards, memo templates, recruitment materials, class schedules, course related materials, parking and shuttle maps, computer and financial reports, invoices, bills, and other forms.
Update patches for safety officers, grounds crew and maintenance employees.
Update identification cards, parking tags, license plates, name tags, and podium name plates.
Send announcements to high schools, other institutions of higher education, college guides, libraries, the Higher Education Directory, accrediting agencies, athletic conferences, suppliers, vendors, and contractors; businesses where the university places or desires to place graduates; and professional organizations of which the university is a member.
Send press releases out to media organizations informing them of key developments and events related to the name change.
Consider holding a “Midnight Madness” celebration on the night of the name change. Invite all living past presidents and board members, key alumni, donors, student representatives, state officials, and the board of governors to participate. Publicly recognize all private donors who funded the name-change activities.
Ask university representatives to deliver a series of presentations to various civic groups explaining the name change and why it was important.
Consider leaving intact some items on display across campus with the old name of school such as facility dedication plaques, engraved benches, and bronze seals.
Ensure that Google searches for your old name surface the name change web page.
Notify off-campus organizations that link to the university’s Web pages to change their hyperlinks to reflect the new name and domain.
Monitor your site analytics monthly to determine the half-life of your old name. Expect your old name to surface for approximately 5-7 years if not longer.
Abraham Lincoln once said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” The success of renaming a school, too, depends on the preparation work done upfront.
What’s the difference between a college with a surplus of applications and one with an unacceptably high acceptance rate? Sometimes, it’s curiosity and nerve. Adversity — brought on by geographic isolation, shifting demographics, living in the shadows of giants, deep-pocketed for-profits and other Goliath competitors — can inspire a college and university to challenge assumptions and try new approaches to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
We call these schools underdog brands — and salute the leaders willing to rethink the potential of a school website, blog, and social channels. Underdog brands evolve from thinking of marketing assets as a fixed cost — an unwelcome guest knocking at the budget door — to seeing its potential to enlarge the vision and change institutional culture.
Underdog brands tend to serve a lot of first generation in college families and students who are willing to try harder. These students are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and get things done, and are eager to find their rightful place in society. This creates an opportunity to create unique content with a specific point of view.
Here are some guidelines for creating and managing blog content for underdog college brands:
Know your goals.
Create a readership that engages with your passion for delivering practical, valuable and advice-oriented content.
Speak to different generations of prospective students: high school, adult, online, and undergraduate.
Start with a Keyword or Key Phrase
Identify the keyword or key phrase you would like your blog post to be ranked for, and search Google to see who else appears on page 1 of Google for that phrase.
Infuse the keyword or key phrase into your blog posts.
Use SEO best practices to ensure that the blog has a fighting chance at securing page 1 Google ranking.
Act as a guidance and career counselor.
Educate prospective students.
Quote other authoritative peers and aspirational brands who’ll lend you credibility.
Write blog posts with commensurate fidelity, which is less than that of an academic program page or a news item.
Tie it back to the institutional offerings.
Honor the blog writing style guide for the institution.
Be positive, real, helpful, accessible, insightful, professional and knowledgeable.
Limit the length of blog post to less than 500 words.
Build topic authority by creating a series of small blog posts instead of packing everything into one long one.
Encourage questions and comments on the blog.
Share the blog post on your institutional social networks.
Respond to comments on the blog and social media.
Measure the number of shares and likes.
Measure blog post views with Google Analytics.
Monitor Google rankings for the chosen keyword or key phrase.