First impressions count, especially in the realm of donor stewardship. Many educational institutions begin their donor stewardship efforts once a student graduates—but this is a missed opportunity. Every touchpoint you have with students—from the admissions stage onwards—is an opportunity for you to impress them and (hopefully) inspire them to join your ranks as long-term committed donors.
Like many fundraising departments, yours probably has too much to do, too little time, and not enough staff. Fortunately, technology is on your side. While budgets may be strained in the current economic climate, an investment in fundraising software could actually save money and resources. Many fundraising software solutions have been designed to enable fundraising teams to perform donor stewardship activities better and more efficiently, without increasing budget or staff members.
This article showcases how three educational institutions optimized their tech stack by adopting fundraising and engagement tools to boost their admissions process, career services and fundraising activities respectively.
Admissions: Welcome prospective students and families with an ambassador tool
School “A” — a K-12 establishment — sought a way to boost applications. In this competitive climate, they wanted to invest in a solution that could help them attract more applicants from their target population.
The key to successful admissions today is authenticity. Parents seeking a school for their child respond better to first-hand reports from actual families in the school than to information handed over by the school office. But organizing face-to-face interactions between prospective parents and current families at the school had proved to be a logistical nightmare that was swallowing up hours of admissions staff time. The school sought a software solution that would make it easier for them to organize these genuine, peer-to-peer interactions.
Solution: PeerPal from Gravyty
PeerPal offers a fully integrated platform from which schools can run their ambassador programs. Aside from giving prospective parents direct and unedited access to current parents at the school, it all has the advantage of being self-led. Parents can browse through the list of ambassadors, choose the one they are most interested in speaking to and arrange a time to connect with them at their convenience.
By investing in this software, school “A” could offer authentic peer-to-peer ambassadorship without dedicating extra resources to the program. They were also delighted to find that they could use their PeerPal platform to showcase the diversity of their school community. By recruiting ambassadors from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities and interests, they were able to satisfy the queries of a more diverse parent body, transforming their platform into a powerful diversity, equity and inclusion tool.
Career Services: Scale your mentorship program with an alumni platform
University “B” was looking for innovative ways to build engagement among young alumni. Knowing that prospective students often use career services as a benchmark by which to assess the quality of a university, they were looking for tools to help them upgrade their entire careers offering.
An excellent career services program that gives students access to mentors, career-related information and job opportunities is a great way to grow engagement and increase loyalty.
Educational institutions are ultimately service providers who are judged not only by the education they provide but also by the quality of the other services they offer. Most university students today want to be assured that after they complete their studies, they will be able to build successful careers and will be supported in their endeavors to do so. As such, a premium career service is a powerful engagement tool.
Solution: Graduway from Gravyty
University “B” used Graduway to take all of their career-related programming onto one convenient online platform. This made career services readily accessible to all students and alumni no matter where they were located.
With the Graduway platform, the university could engage alumni with a state-of-the-art virtual networking experience. The alumni engagement platform also made it easier to identify alumni willing to volunteer, provide college and career guidance, scale their mentorship programs and automate the matching of mentors to mentees using smart matching algorithms.
After a few months of using Graduway, the university noticed an improvement in their relationships with students and alumni whom they were better able to reach and interact with through the platform.
Advancement + Development: Fundraise smarter with personalized outreach at scale
University “C” wanted to run a capital campaign to raise funds to improve their campus. The last campaign was not as successful as they had hoped and they realized this was largely due to their failure to maintain strong, personal relationships with donors.
With a small fundraising department and no budget to employ additional staff, the fundraising department was flailing. While in better times, it was relatively easy to bring in donations from capital campaigns, times were tougher and they realized they needed to do much more personalized donor outreach. The problem was that personalized outreach is heavy on time and resources—two things that the university simply didn’t have.
Having heard that AI fundraising tools can reduce the time it takes to carry out personalized stewardship activities, the school was keen to invest in some tools.
Solution: Raise and Gratavid from Gravyty
Raise from Gravyty is an AI-based fundraising tool that plugs into an organization’s CRM and uses the data stored there to identify promising donors and suggest the best stewardship approach for each donor. Raise prompts fundraisers to connect with donors at appropriate times—such as on special occasions or when a thank you or follow-up message is due. It even drafts emails containing pertinent information that the fundraiser can review, edit and send out, saving hours of time.
With Raise on their side, staff at university “C” were able to reach out to many more donors per week than previously. In addition, the helpful prompts ensured that they never missed any valuable opportunities to reach out.
By using Gratavid from Gravyty alongside Raise, they were able to boost personalized stewardship even further. Gratavid is a digital platform that enables fundraising staff and other stakeholders to create, store and send out personalized videos. While gift officers ideally want to interact personally with donors every time, this isn’t always possible. It is often a challenge to get hold of people on the phone and time differences can make it nearly impossible to schedule a live call or in-person meeting in some cases.
By allowing stakeholders at the university to prepare personalized video messages ahead of time and send them out individually or via automation at scale, Gratavid made it possible to keep connections warm at times when personal calls or meetings were not possible.
Stay ahead of the stewardship game
No one said donor stewardship would be easy, but with dedicated fundraising tools, it can be much easier than it has been to date. Whether you want to offer a streamlined ambassadorship program for prospective families, upgrade your mentorship and careers offering or boost your fundraising capacity, there are tools to help you do the job faster, better and with less “sweat” than before. Get a demo.