College Alumni Directors: Put Down Your Phones, Put Up Your Content
Many colleges and universities are still relying primarily on outbound marketing techniques such as telemarketing and direct mail in order to generate alumni donations. At the same time, those institutions are sitting on a potential content marketing goldmine. The built-in network of current students, alumni, administrators, and professors could be leveraged to author expert content. So why hesitate in adopting inbound marketing?
The Alumni Point of View
As graduates of a particular institution of higher education, we may have had a great experience. But many of us don’t feel that we owe that institution loyalty: that must be earned. We paid for our education. And if we didn’t pay out of our own pocket or our parents’, we did so via earning grants and scholarships. We understood it then and now, college is a business. Admittedly, there is a strong on-campus and alumni cultural component. However, when alumni are asked to give money, year in and year out, without something of value in return, it can have a negative impact.
The traditional, high-pressure “courting” of current and prospective high-dollar donors or those who have the pedigree makes sense. At that level, it is a “high touch” business. But for the mid to lower dollar level donations of the future, the money you do raise will be from those of us that realize a “continuing” benefit from an affiliation with our former institution of higher learning.
So, how can we benefit and why will it translate to successful fundraising? Give us relevant information (and services) we can’t get anywhere else. Lots of it! Market to us. Nurture the relationship. You do a fairly good job of this with your print materials, alumni gatherings, and e-letters/magazines. Just imagine if you would increase the amount of information 100-fold, share it online via multiple channels (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more), and relate it to what we need, could use or want to know. The effect would be tremendous.
Share stimulating success stories of former students, fascinating behind-the-scenes looks including the Arts, Technology, Science, and Sports. Plus, infographics demonstrating how alumni funds have truly benefited students, remarkable stories about how the institution is affecting an industry or even our world, meaningful continuing education opportunities and why they may matter, “How To’s” (online MBA programs, re-entering the job force, writing the perfect CV, etc.), truly moving tributes, VIP access to sports and entertainment events (e.g. AMEX and CitiCard), invitations to participate in surveys and on committees, and more.
It’s time to take your alumni community and build it into a powerhouse online community. However, unlike dreaded telemarketing tactics, you will not be pleading for money to this audience. Instead you will be building a community of loyal alumni by providing content they can’t get anywhere else. The money will follow.
The time is now. You have some commendable content. You need more. You have a built-in database and semi-realized community just waiting for you to step up to the plate. You need to address them every day, 365 days a year. You have students, professors, administrators and alumni that are available, willing and able. You need to use them. Everything you need is at your fingertips.
Put down your phones. Put up your content. What are you waiting for?