Key Takeaways from the CASE III Conference
Last week I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Atlanta with industry colleagues from across the Southeast at the CASE District III Conference. I hope if you didn't make it to Atlanta then this helps with some key takeaways. If you were part of the conference, then let's continue the conversation!
What should we be tracking?
I had the pleasure of presenting with my colleague Macrae Hammond from Longwood University. Our presentation was "Return on Engagement: How to track engagement and set goals." In the presentation, we went through an engagement and data tracking plan we just implemented at Longwood and the value of shaping that into an actionable engagement score.
Industry colleagues are hungry to start tapping in more to data to understand alumni better and present more meaningful value propositions to our alumni.
Stemming from the conversation were two big questions.
1. Should we include donors as part of our alumni engagement score?
My short answer to this is, no.
Why? Consider the image below. Every college is trying to raise more money. Some alumni engagement professionals have specific goals tied to giving; others do not. But the most significant way we can show our value is showing that increased engagement of our alumni correlates to increased giving. That's Return on Engagement.
In the Venn Diagram below, there is pretty much nothing we can do to move the blue circle right and increase the size of the donor pool. But what we can do is work to push the red circle left to improve people's willingness to give back using unique engagement programming.
Engagement scoring should show causation and what it takes to change behavior. The behavior we are looking to change at the very top of the engagement pyramid is giving. That's why it can't be included in an engagement score, in my opinion.
2. Should we be tracking event registrations, event attendees, or both?
Another considerable debate and discussion centered around what event metrics we should be tracking. Is it a strong enough show of affinity if someone registers for an event, but doesn't show? Indeed sometimes life pops up, and there is a myriad of reasons why we should give someone credit for registering, right?
I think we need to start treating event registrations, for free events, the same we treat micro-engagements like a social media "like" or "share." User experience is getting better and better, and there is no doubt that a lot of alumni shops use Facebook and other great tools to promote and track free events. The problem is that this streamlined user experience has somewhat devalued an RSVP. It's just too easy to scroll through your phone and pick and choose everything that interests you.
The good news is all of this is valuable, no matter what you're tracking. But I still do believe there is a lot of value in tracking who is and, more importantly, who isn't showing up at your events.
Other Hot Topics
Many people are looking for new ways to rise above the noise and engage their alumni. A popular tactic now is creating alumni personas where colleges can strategically reach their alumni based on things ranging from where they are in life to their career path to what their interests and hobbies are.
This is a relatively new tactic for most, but it's incredible to see so many engagement professionals buying in. Technology and the actionable intelligence your technology partners are providing for you is what is going to be key in this effort both long and short-term.
It seems like Millenials and how to engage them is a hot topic every year. I know some of the marketing strategies (like personas above) will pay dividends when it comes to this audience, and it comes down to really listening to their needs, and then presenting a unique value proposition.
I have some bad news though. The next generation is coming, and they've always had an iPhone in their hand. They are going to be very different from the Millenials just as the Millenials were very different from Generation X.
We need to stop playing catch up and instead get ahead of the game to start engaging these audiences that are going to be HUGE in both size and impact on your institution.
Be Authentic in Peer to Peer Messaging
I had the pleasure of moderating a session from Mary Alice Wallmeyer of the University of Richmond at the conference. She presented mostly on how UR is using new volunteer and peer to peer strategies to increase engagement.
What struck me the most is when Mary Alice presented a few slides with examples of peer to peer messaging and actual text messages from young alumni to other young alumni. Authenticity is always vital and I think one of the reasons that UR's Red Spider program is off to a tremendous start is because they have embraced authenticity.
Behold the power of Facebook Messenger
What I just switched from boosting posts to Ad Manager and now there is something else? Yep. Mary Alice's session she generated a lot of conversation on what other schools are doing currently. One of the best anecdotes was that of Facebook Messenger.
More and more colleges are using the tool to reach their constituents, and the initial response rates are excellent. The secondary effect is by using Messenger it will increase the algorithm or chance that your content ends up in your constituents Facebook feed. Simply put, it's a win-win.