Today, I want to give you 10 surefire and creative ideas for higher education advancement marketing. These are out-of-the-box marketing tactics that will bring your prospects and donors closer to making that all important decision to make a gift to your college or university.
Inbound marketing only works when the content of your website and social media channels is fresh and consistent. In fact, dynamic content is the cornerstone of any inbound marketing strategy.
The idea is simple to understand, but not always easy to implement: To keep prospective students and donors coming back to your website (which has been designed to convert visitors to leads), they must have a reason to come back.
And the best reason you can give visitors to come back again is to keep giving them answers to their questions, which is why they’re online in the first place—to get answers.
So what questions are donors asking that you are in a unique position to answer?
Here are just a few questions donors would ask to almost any private college or university:
- Why should I give to your institution?
- Why should I give now?
- What are you doing with the money that’s given to you?
- How can I give?
- Are you making progress/impact in the areas that I care about?
Now it’s important to remember that the way you answer these questions is just as important as answering them in the first place.
Inbound marketing in the fundraising space hinges on donor-centric, emotional storytelling.
So while I’ll be using professional-sounding terms like white paper, case statement, and brochure, make sure the you keep the idea of telling the story of the donor’s noble work firmly in mind.
So what kind of content works well to draw and convert prospective donors?
Here’s some content ideas to get your creative juices flowing and your inbound marketing team moving.
1. Post video replays of live events.
Special lecture series, choir and symphony concert series, sports, and other live events can be published throughout the year. Consider experimenting with Facebook Live or YouTube Live to increase engagement with your audiences.
Note: I included this idea and the next one in our list for enrollment marketing content ideas, but it certainly works for development, too, so it made it here.
Many times, you’ll be able to take the same video content and publish it in the marketing channels you use to reach your donors and alumni. There will be times, though, that the same live event that works for your younger audience just won’t work for the more “seasoned” audience of donors and alumni.
2. Tweet at live events.
Use photos and group selfies at live events like donor banquets or event fundraisers to generate buzz and fill up your development or alumni department’s Twitter feed. A photo with a prominent donor or civic leader is a great type of photo asset for your marketing campaigns. Bonus if that person is an influential voice on social media and can amplify your message through their share.
3. Create student/faculty/alumni testimonial videos sharing how you made a difference for them.
Short videos you can publish throughout the year on social media feeds. Record and edit multiple videos at a time and publish over time. Consider using content creation tools for an inexpensive way to create testimonials.
4. Write thought leadership papers, or publish the articles your faculty or executive staff are writing.
Short essays on current events or topics your audience cares deeply about from your executive team or esteemed faculty can be published in beautiful ebooks. Use the thought leadership papers as lead magnets and offer it to website visitors who opt in to your email list.
5. Create a donor story video.
The story of why a donor decided to get involved in a campaign. Social pressure is a big reason why donors choose to give, so this can be a powerful content piece in your marketing arsenal.
Note: This can be used in a video or a blog, but if you go with a blog article, make sure to include a professional photo of the donor being featured. For more on how to write great donors stories, check out this helpful article.
6. Design infographics to help the donor see the impact of their giving.
Instead of dry facts in a brochure, create colorful infographics that visually tell donors how their giving is making a difference in the world.
Infographics work very well to show donors institutional facts such as where your alumni are in the world, what your alumni are doing (careers, post-graduate, etc.), how big is the student body, and how many receive institutional financial aid (which donors help provide!).
7. Produce podcasts featuring the stories of students, alumni, faculty, board members, and donors.
Podcasts are a rich media medium that has yet to be really tapped, but there’s a lot to be gained through this medium if you consider that over 46 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, the vast majority of podcast listeners are 12-34 years old, and 24% of them have college degrees.
If you’re wondering how to reach your young, professional alumni, chances are you can catch them on their way to work or the gym via podcast.
8. Rethink annual reports so they contain rich media.
You can almost hear the collective groan when reading “annual report,” but with a little creativity, annual reports can be a hot content item in your marketing arsenal.
Be generous with large, full page visuals of your campus, donors, live events, scholarship students, sports, and infographics. Keep the copy sections short and punchy on each page.
This will increase your page count, but it will be hard for donors not to keep flipping through to see what their charitable dollars have been up to.
9. Write white papers on the impact of your programs.
Wrap the theme of the white paper around an area of research, study, or program and dive deep into the stories behind the program.
- Who is involved in the program? Give their background.
- Why are they excited to be involved?
- What is the program trying to accomplish?
- How are donors involved in the project?
- Who are the donors involved? Write sketches on donors willing to be featured.
10. Volunteer for local service.
Show your brand living out its promise through local service. And just as I mentioned with enrollment marketing, be sure to wear matching t-shirts with your school name, URL, and social media addresses as you’re volunteering. Use every opportunity to be living billboards.
So my friend, keep it fresh and keep it coming! Your audience will love you for it.