My boss at U.Va.‘s Office of Engagement and Annual Giving, Ryan Catherwood, asked me to assist with his blog post last week on HigherEd Live. Ryan is the Director for Engagement Strategy and is a proponent of digital engagement and inbound marketing strategies. I’ve been temping on Ryan’s communications team since May 2013 and have enjoyed getting a chance to work at the cutting edge of alumni engagement efforts.
I think one of the keys to more Advancement/Development teams adopting fresher digital engagement practices is the way the strategy is communicated. To me the crowd-sourcing process that we do for the UVA Global Network is very similar to asking for money, the traditional fundraising work for universities and non-profits.
We get content for the site first with prospect research, followed by crafting an appeal, then engaging in a sometimes prolonged discussion of terms and delivery of the appeal’s object of return (content in this case) and stewarding the content contributor after the content is delivered. Our job, like fundraising, is sometimes made easier when prospects are already engaged, often as volunteer UVaClub leaders.
It’s important to stress, however, that one of the big differences is that opportunities for contributing content and micro-volunteering are potentially so small in terms of commitment (of time or money) and wide-ranging in terms of aligning with a prospect’s interests that Advancement professionals have the chance to engage with so many constituents that traditional fundraising and engagement methods left untouched.
I agree with Ryan; there’s a new, exciting and game-changing way to go about this old business.