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July 13

How to Use iBeacons to Improve Prospective Student and Donor Experiences


Like most innovations that come from the Cupertino wizards, the whole world of tech has been buzzing about iBeacons ever since Apple first mentioned them in their 2013 WWDC conference.

iBeacons are basically small transmitters that use low energy Bluetooth technology to send signals to iPhones and some Android devices, triggering certain apps on the mobile device to perform specific functions when the smart device is within close proximity to the iBeacon.

Demonstration of an iPad picking up on an iBeacons transmitter.

By Jonathan Nalder from Kilcoy, Australia (beacons by jnxyz.education) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In 2014, some early adopters began to experiment with the use of iBeacons in the education world. The first idea for using iBeacons was, of course, in the classroom.

But there are other great uses for iBeacons on a campus as well. For example, you can use them instead of security badges to grant or restrict building access, take attendance, push classroom learning materials like syllabi to students’ devices in your classroom, or track down students’ locations on your campus in the event of an emergency.

While there’s plenty being said about using iBeacons for academic and security purposes, what about revenue generation?

Can this new technology be used to improve the marketing and development activities of your institution?


Here are four ways you can use iBeacon technology to boost your marketing and development strategies.

1. Enhance Campus Visits

Have your campus visitors download your special app and watch them interact with each location you take them to on the campus tour. Here are some cool ways you can use this technology on your next campus visit.

When you arrive at the freshman dorm, prospective students’ smart phones will light up with content like videos of students talking about their dorm life experience.

Or when you step into the library, their smart devices will open their browsers to a specific web pages showing them all the library has to offer new students.

No need to tell them about the vegan offerings on your cafeteria menu, their smart phones will open to the cafeteria web page as soon as you enter the food hall.

Imagine leading a group of prospective students into one of your science buildings and they receive a message from a distinguished faculty member welcoming them as you come through the doors.

2. Make Your Alumni Events Memorable

Alumni events are an important donor cultivation tool. You can use iBeacons to make them memorable, and thus, more profitable for your development efforts.

As alumni meander throughout your campus, mobile-optimized content like class photos or articles from the student newspaper from years past, video testimonials from other alumni, or event announcements can pop up on their smart phones.

3. Make Your Donors Feel Special

Donors, alumni or otherwise, must always be cultivated for the next gift. Whenever you have a donor or prospective on your campus, like at a sport event, iBeacons can give the donor the feeling of being appreciated and special.

Have attendees who come to your fundraising banquets download your app.

Once they come into the venue, the iBeacons can push content to their devices such as donor testimonies sharing the good that your institute is doing, students sharing how your institute is making a difference in their lives, or alumni sharing how your program helped them succeed.

If you need to present certain complex aspects of your capital project, you can use iBeacons to prompt attendees mobile devices to open to a web pages with graphs, 3D renderings, or other project information.

While you could do this easily through a PowerPoint, by using iBeacons, your attendee now has the information in their history on their mobile device.

If you solicit corporate gifts, you can use iBeacons to push notifications to event attendees thanking your corporate sponsor, even displaying their branding elements within the message.

Mention this to a corporate giving prospect at your next pitch, and they’ll be impressed by how you can get their brand in front of your audience.

If you’re taking potential major donors on a tour of your facilities, iBeacons can prompt their mobile devices to open mobile optimized content like videos of your president explaining the case for support for your next capital campaign, an architect showing the donor what the new facility will look like, and other donor cultivation content.

4. Increase Traffic in Your Campus Stores

You can use iBeacons to get more visitors into the doors of your campus gift shops or eateries.

You can use iBeacons to push offers and advertisements to visitors as they walk by to entice them into the store.

Any of these four applications for this new technology will improve your development and marketing strategies. But, a word of caution:

This is really, really new technology.

It will take creative people with a little bit of a budget to pioneer how it can be used for onsite marketing and development. You may want to wait for other education institutions to put the technology through its paces, but definitely keep your eye out.

This technology could be a game changer!

If you need help improving prospective student or donor experiences – or with any other area of your school’s marketing – contact us and learn what our team can do for you. There’s no obligation.

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