If you missed our Engagement 101 Workshop
A great beginning for our workshop series.
Team Tassl recently hosted an Engagement 101 Digital Workshop over the lunch hour and we couldn’t be more excited about the level of interest from the Alumni Relations industry.
With over 60 RSVPs for this event, we were excited to be sharing our introductory “virtual workshop” to help share our learnings here at Tassl and open dialogue among other professionals in alumni relations on these topics.
During our registration process, we asked guests to tell us what challenges they were currently facing when it comes to alumni engagement.
"Collecting and interpreting data”
“Reaching alumni outside of the usual suspects”
“Staying up-to-date with what alumni want as how they want to be engaged changes”
While we got a wide range of responses - we started to identify three major trends in challenges:
- How do I "rise above the noise?"
- How do I justify alumni engagement?
- How do I track engagement?
So what has been driving these challenges?
Well, there is a lot at play here and while they are three distinct and large challenges, each of them ties directly into each other - all tying directly to data. Let’s explore.
Rising Above the Noise
In the world where you can be connected to everything, institutions are fighting to stay relevant in the battle for share of voice. Outdated “benefits” are being thrown out the window in an effort to evolve with the growing demands of the end constituent. It seems many institutions are either fighting to say “pick my opportunities with the limited free time you have,” or, “I’m sorry our relationship hasn’t been the greatest in the past, but I want you back!” Neither are great places to be in.
Leveraging data and insights as to what your end user actually wants is something being done across several different industries. Amazon knows what you’re looking to buy, Starbucks knows how you like your coffee and Facebook somehow manages to know all of the above examples, plus everything else about you!
Through this data, these companies are creating effective audience segments and appropriately connecting the right constituent to the right engagement. With so many opportunities and communications hitting us on a daily basis, if you are not appropriately segmenting, you end up sending your alumni on a much shorter path--to the dreaded “unsubscribe.”
Justifying Alumni Engagement
Justifying alumni engagement can mean a lot of things.
For a lot of institutions, this simply translates to:
"does it impact giving?"
I challenge institutions to broaden this impact and think about the other areas where alumni play a role, including student success and even brand awareness. However, we know measuring these areas can be a bit of a challenge as well and when it comes to rankings, alumni participation in giving is really the only alumni factor to date.
The more engagement can be correlated to giving - the more resources and support your department will likely receive. In the current state of engagement, where budgets are small or getting smaller - this is definitely the play. It will just have to be the icing on the cake when you can relate the other areas of impact to your engagement programs down the line.
Collecting data on engagement is the only bulletproof way to "justify" alumni engagement as a key contributor to fundraising.
Understanding the relationship and touch points that lead a constituent to feel strongly enough to want to give when they can will be one of the ways data will defend the need for continuous engagement.
Which leads us to the final question...
“How do I Track Engagement?”
With our first Engagement 101 Workshop, we were able to discuss strategies and processes around setting up a data-driven strategy to track engagement with these 4 steps:
Step 1: Define Your Engagement Touchpoints
This step includes thinking about the ways you currently engage your constituents (outside of asks for gifts) and categorizing them for data discussions and measuring impact. Whether it’s events, mentorship programs, rewards, or magazine mailers, the amount of unique touchpoints you have with your constituents tends to stack up! This is why step 2 becomes very critical...
Step 2: Define Your Goals
What are you actually trying to achieve? This is the classic "Start with Why” approach and where we see most people fall into the “data trap.” Without specific goals in mind, you end up feeling the need to track and measure everything, which can lead a very overwhelming experience.
We can’t stress enough that goals can and must be simple. They should be simple to understand, simple to measure, and simple to know when you’ve won. Whether they are short term or long term goals, if you didn’t say yes to all three of these - it’s not a good goal.
Step 3: Create a Data Plan
Once you’ve set your goals and understand what is needed to hit them, you can develop a data plan. Here you should be asking yourselves the questions of:
- What data do I need to measure success?
- What pre-existing data do I have access to?
- What resources do I need to access to help get the data I need?
And lastly, do I have buy-in from my team to achieve this?
We know lack of buy-in is one of the major killers of a data-driven strategy.
The challenge here is that you need to get the buy-in at all levels to be effective. As we stated earlier - tracking engagement can be a pain for some, so if they don’t know why they are doing it, it’s most likely not going to get done.
Your buy-in process should include showing the value and impact a data-driven strategy can have. Whether it’s short-term goals in better budget allocations or long-term predictive modeling needs for effectiveness - you should relate your story back to the specific “why” in step 2, and the vision for your organization.
Step 4: Developing Data Checkpoints & Strategies
Data can help empower every part of your day when it comes to engagement programs and touchpoints. Making it part of your day and developing out checkpoints to track progress towards goals is definitely a best practice.
Whether you are evaluating the early progress of a program or initiative, reviewing the historical performance to set targets and leverage segmentation, or tracking progress or evaluating after to measure success, there are plenty of opportunities to utilize your data.
Setting up daily or weekly space (meetings and time to review your tactics) is an important part of keeping your data strategy top of mind and relevant to your mission.
If you need assistance in exploring a data-driven strategy at your institution, feel free to reach out to the team here at Tassl. We love talking brainstorming on this topic, especially since engagement is different in every network!
Setup a Data Strategy Session Here.
We hope you continue to join us in our efforts to help support the alumni relations space and justify the impact of engagement throughout our networks.
To stay up-to-date on upcoming roundtable discussions and workshops, feel free to join our Engagement Roundtable Network!