Engaging alumni with online chapter/club communities


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Learn how to empower chapter/club alumni volunteers to use online tools and social networks, and how new technologies are shaping your alumni's online expectations.

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  • Key takeaways from this presentation
  • New set of expectations leads to evolution of technologies and vice versa.
  • Since the inception of the Internet, Universities have progressed in the use of online tools made available to them to communicate and engage with their alumni. As Internet technologies has evolved, so have the expectations of alumni. As such, the technologies used by institutions have had to evolve to meet the changing expectations of these alumni. Any alumni affairs office needs to understand that today’s alumni are graduating with expectations set by the websites and technologies that they are currently interacting with. Institutions first launched online directories starting the late 90’s. These directories were best defined as one-way communication, where the institution was delivering simple content or information directly to their alumni. As Internet technologies advanced, institutions began to develop more sophisticated onling alumni centers. These sites allowed alumni to begin to generate their own content, such as class notes, while managing their own profiles. In the early 2000’s, some alumni affairs offices began to uses these sites to drive advancement objectives by allowing online donations. Today, alumni expect to be interact with one another and build or extend their social networks created during the stay at the university. This progression of technology has happened in the span of about 10 years, and we should all plan the evolution of alumni expectations to continue.
  • Starting in the mid 1990’s, many universities began simply by publishing their popular offline directories online. Just like with many “brick-and-mortar” institutions at the time who were launching websites, these universities were limited by the available online technologies. These first online directories were “Web 1.0” technology, featuring one-way communications from the institution to the alum. Even though in today’s terms, these websites seem simplistic, they were mandatory at the time – as young alum’s expectations were changing. “Paper” directories seemed so outdated and sending these to these newer alumni risked disengaging them. Many of these first sites were further driven by cost-savings as well, when institutions looked to save money on printing directories. Even though e-commerce was being innovated through sites like Amazon and eBay, many higher education institutions did not invest in technologies to support online fundraising until later. As such, most decisions for these technologies were limited to the Alumni Affairs offices with limited involvement by Advancement Services. Lastly, these sites were limited to institution-only content, meaning that they were not designed to collect much data or present interactive content submitted from alumni. An alum might be able to change his or her address or update her name when she got married, but not much more.
  • Starting in the early 2000s, online technologies began to advance in sophistication. Consequently, as alumni began to spend more time online travel sites, news sites and stores, their expectations became similarly more sophisticated. Many universities began to invest in more advanced technologies to meet those needs. As such, a alumni began having access to more robust online alumni centers. In addition to an online directory, alumni began to update their information, add class notes, and engaging with their school in more sophisticated ways. This stage in the evolution is where we start to see alumni communicating back to the institution and communicating a little to each other. With the increase in sophistication, many alumni affairs offices began to seen their level of investment also increase. Many institutions began to demand more return on investment, which required more measured results. The most popular method of measurement was (and continues to be) the percentage of collected email addresses. However, some alumni affairs offices began to coordinate with Advancement offices and started to offer simple online fundraising programs – perhaps extending a annual appeal. Lastly, as the technology improved, many of these websites became more “database-driven” which meant that not only could they display data (like an alum’s name and address), it could collect more data, like interest. This information would become much more important as technologies continued to evolve.
  • In the late 2000’s, Web 2.0 technologies exploded onto the scene, extending alumni expectations to another, higher level. While alumni began to interact more online, they were continually being drawn to more sophisticated websites, like MySpace and Facebook. These sites allowed your alumni to catch-up, share information, and interact with things that interest them most. These were many of the same goals and objectives of the original alumni centers that many institutions just got through building and launching. As one would expect, there are now many technologies available for institutions to design and launch to meet these expectations. But these technologies must be intelligently designed, with the right expectations and mix of features. A university need not try to battle with Facebook, but simply needs to understand its advantages over these other to be successful. Three areas of that have proven successful for institutions as of late are peer-to-peer fundraising, content personalization and club/chapter websites. All three technologies offer the ability for institutions to create very engaging web experiences for their alumni, that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The focus of this discussion will be on the development of alumni social networks through volunteer-driven club and chapter websites.
  • Just like any project, launching a successful chapter and club online community requires clear project definition, intelligent design, planned execution, and results evaluation. The first step involves defining the project. As you will see from our examples, each university set forth a clear project goal and built defining objectives around that project goal. Next, the university must work to design the right solution using the right technology. You need to ensure you have the proper staff and support to execute a success plan. Lastly, the project objectives must be continually measured and technologies need to be evaluated. Let’s look at each of these phases in more detail and provide relevant examples where applicable.
  • Defining the project starts by setting a clear project goal. A good example of a clear project goal would be to create an online solution so that chapter/club volunteers and other alumni could create online networks and interact with each other. With this goal in mind, you should define measurable objectives. We will review some sample objectives on the next slide, but in summary these objectives need to match your project goals and must be easily measured. Before you begin to design your solution, you should survey your alumni to understand their needs for such a solution. These surveys should help you understand how your alum want to interact with each other within these club and chapter networks. Surveying will also help you understand what kind of support and tools potential chapter/club volunteers will want from you.
  • ** I have listed four potential project objectives – each meeting the criterion of being easily measured. Email communication continues to grow in relevance, and has become a critical, cost-effective form of communication. Additionally, email communication is critical to connecting to younger alumni (40 and younger) and necessary for sending timely messages requiring immediate attention. Since club and chapter volunteers often have better and more accurate data on their fellow alumni, they can be helpful in harnessing better data on your alumni. Any chapter/club community project should expand the institution's access to correct emails for its alumni. Additionally, chapter and club online communities should drive greater alumni interactions as measured by increased traffic on the university websites. Next, cash-strapped programs can look to cover costs by charging fees on online transactions – whether through online donations, member dues or event registrations. These funds can help pay for ongoing support and cover other fees associated with the program. Lastly, better data and more interactions should be coupled with the delivery of more relevant information to your alumni. Chapter and Club sites have the benefit of localized information with the potential for deeper connections based on the interests of the alum. Volunteers can send targeted emails and share local stories with their members. These types of interactions can deepen the relationship between an alum and the institution.
  • Once the project has been defined, your next step is to design the right online solution. Start by educating yourself on existing implementations. Review other websites from comparable institutions. Also, since your alumni spend so much time on sites like Facebook and YouTube, you need to understand the expectations that those sites are setting for your alumni. Next, select the right technology from a vendor or developer that has a proven track record. Remember that the Internet is a fast-moving marketplace, so be sure to “future proof” yourself by selecting a solution that will continue to grow with your needs and be able to invest in ongoing development. Lastly, design your solution around the right features – not just all features available within the technology. The features must match the needs that your alumni described in surveys and should align with specific objectives. If a feature does not meet both of these criteria, then it should not be included in the finished design.
  • ** When reviewing technology solutions, you need to look at four main technology areas. First, the solution should include a robust CRM with the ability to capture all forms of data, and exchange that data openly between systems. Since you will be granting access to data and tools to chapter/club volunteers, the system should have the ability to control functional access so that chapter/club volunteers get approved to get access only specific tools, like sendingemail, creating a news article or updating member data. The ability to create user roles and customize those roles will give you the flexibility to design the right solution. Next, the technology must be able to host and maintain 100’s of individual club and chapter network micro-sites. These sites can be created based on a template by the alumni association staff, but eventually need to be turned over to trained volunteers in the clubs. Chapter/Club volunteers need to be able to communicate with their members. Thus, the system needs to be able to provide simple tools to send outbound communication. While volunteers may prefer to use Outlook, it is important to push them to use these more advanced tools to ensure data and activity tracking of all communications. Lastly, university events will be the primary reason for most alumni interactions on chapter and club sites. Members will want to participate in local recreational sporting events, dinners, university lectures, and other forms of activities. This is the best way to engage your alumni and build affinity to your institution. As such, chapter/club volunteers need to be able to maintain robust event calendars and capture alumni interest and attendance for those events.
  • The next step involves the execution of the project and the ability to provide the right support to ensure overall success. You need to staff the project appropriately using the best combination of vendor and internal resources. While vendor staff may be expensive at first, their expertise will ultimately help your own staff adopt the technology faster. You must invest heavily in system by training both staff and alumni volunteers. Your staff should offer one-on-one trainings with new chapter/club volunteers or host ongoing training seminars for all chapters and club volunteers. You can post online recorded trainings or develop paper-based step-by-step trainings to supplement the personal trainings. The intent of this investment is to ensure a high rate of adoption of the tools – without training, the tools will go unused. Another good idea is training alumni-facing staff, like gift officers or regional staff on the tools. These individuals are constantly speaking to those key alum and can be a resource to answer questions.
  • The last step in any successful project is to measure the results of the program and evaluate as necessary. You need to periodically (that is weekly or monthly) measure the progress of project against your defined set of objectives. The results of the project should be shared with the entire staff and across the rest of the institution, as necessary. Sharing of results and successes should help to encourage adoption of the technologies. Positive results should be used to provide ROI cases for executives, while negative results should be used as opportunities to change behavior to ensure better results. Lastly, you need to understand that the Internet is always changing. Selecting a vendor that can future proof you against changing expectations is critical. Older technologies can quickly lose the interest of highly expectant alumni, so you should plan to re-evaluate your project every three to five years to make sure you are providing what your alumni expect and want.
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  • Just implemented. Just went through requirements gathering and project assessment. Nice UIAlumni networks
  • Engaging alumni with online chapter/club communities

    1. 1. Engaging Your Alumni to Build Their Own OnlineChapter/Club Communities2010 CASE District I ConferenceJanuary 28, 2010Zach Wheat, Director of Interactive MediaUniversity of Virginiazjw6b@eservices.virginia.eduKathryn Hall, Technical Product SpecialistBlackbaudkathryn.hall@blackbaud.com
    2. 2. Session Summary and Key Take-Aways Understand How Web 2.0 Technologies are Forming Your Alumni’s Online Expectations Learn How to Empower Chapter/Club Alumni Volunteers to Use Online Tools to Build Social Networks and Meet these Expectations Understand How Institutions like University of Virginia and University of Chicago are Benefiting from a More Engaged Alumni through Chapter/Club Online CommunitiesPage #2 © 2010 Blackbaud
    3. 3. Session Agenda History of Alumni Online Engagement Building Successful Online Chapter/Club Communities Case Study #1: University of Chicago Case Study #2: University of VirginiaPage #3 © 2010 Blackbaud
    4. 4. HISTORY OF ALUMNI ONLINE ENGAGEMENTPage #4 © 2010 Blackbaud
    5. 5. Alumni Online Engagement Evolution Online Alumni Online Directories Centers Social NetworksPage #5 © 2010 Blackbaud
    6. 6. Early Technologies: Online Directories • Basic – No Interactivity Level of • Web 1.0 Technology Engagement • One-Way Communications • Extension of Offline Fundraising Directory Goals and • No Fundraising ROI Objectives or Measured ROI Content • Institution-Only Content Sources and • Limited Data Collection DataPage #6 © 2010 Blackbaud
    7. 7. More Engagement: Alumni Centers • Some Interactivity, i.e., Level of Class Notes Engagement • Two-Way Communications Fundraising • Measured ROI, i.e., % Goals and of Email Address ROI • Online Donations • Alumni-Generated Content Content Sources and • Profile and Interest Data ManagementPage #7 © 2010 Blackbaud
    8. 8. Latest Advancement: Online Social Networks • High-level Engagement Level of • Alum-to-Alum Engagement Communications • Specific Online Fundraising Fundraising Programs Goals and • Peer-to-Peer ROI Fundraising • Personalized and Content Subscribed Content Sources and • Social Network Data Collected DataPage #8 © 2010 Blackbaud
    10. 10. Launching a Successful Chapter/Club Online Network Design Execute Measure Define The The Right and Results Right Online Provide and Re- Project Solution Support EvaluatePage #10 © 2010 Blackbaud
    11. 11. Define The Right Project Set Clear Project Define Measurable Survey Your Goals Objectives Alumni’s Needs • Provide • Match Objectives to • How They Interact Chapter/Club Project Goals with Other Alum Volunteers with • All Objectives Must • What Services They New Interactive be Measured and Want from the Online Tools Tracked UniversityPage #11 © 2010 Blackbaud
    12. 12. Sample Project Objectives Increase Alumni Email Addresses • Target Workable Email Addresses for Over 50% of All Alumni Increase Alumni Online Activity • Target to Increase Overall Alumni Web Traffic by 100% Minimize Budget Impact • Cover Ongoing Costs with Membership and Event Registration Revenue Deliver More Relevant Information • Deliver Monthly Chapter/Club-Specific Communications to 100% of All Alumni Center MembersPage #12 © 2010 Blackbaud
    13. 13. Design The Right Online Solution Understand Your Select the Right Design for the Marketplace Technology Right Features • Comparable • Select a Proven • Match Alumni Institution Websites Vendor or Expectations and • Other “Dot Com” Developer Survey Results Sites • Future-Proof Your • Align Features to Institution Meeting ObjectivesPage #13 © 2010 Blackbaud
    14. 14. Key Online Technology Features Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) • Allows University Staff to Control Access to Key Features and Data for Chapter/Club Users Chapter / Club Website Management (CMS) • Provides Easy Tools for Alum Volunteers to Maintain Up-to-Date Information about Chapter/Club online Email Design and Delivery • Gives Simple Tools and Email Design Templates to Chapter/Club Volunteers to Communicate to Registered Members Events Registrations and Calendaring • Allows Alumni to Submit New Event, Search Existing Events and Register and Pay for Attending Selected EventsPage #14 © 2010 Blackbaud
    15. 15. Execute and Provide Support Staff Project Invest in Staff and Provide Ongoing Appropriately Alumni Training Support to Alumni • Use Combination of • Invest in Expert • Train Alumni-facing Vendor and Staff Training with Core Staff on Technology Resources Team • Offer On-call • Hire as Necessary • Train New Support for to Support Project Chapter/Club Users Chapter/Club UsersPage #15 © 2010 Blackbaud
    16. 16. Measure Results and Re- Evaluate Periodically Report Results Re-evaluate Needs Measure • Share Results with and Technologies • Create Set of Entire Team and • Understand that Recurring Report across Institution Technology Always • Measure Key Stats • Use Results to Changes against Original Prove ROI Case to • Re-evaluate Every Project Objectives Executives 3-5 YearsPage #16 © 2010 Blackbaud
    17. 17. CASE STUDY: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGOPage #17 © 2010 Blackbaud
    18. 18. University of Chicago Alumni Center Project Challenge • The University of Chicago wanted to design a more engaging and modern online Alumni Center. Solution • The University of Chicago launched the Alumni and Friends website including the alumni association pages and alumni directory. The sleek, http://alumniandfriends.uchicago.edu roomy design is paired with Launched May 29, 2009 robust Blackbaud functionality to create a break-through Alumni application.Page #18 © 2010 Blackbaud
    19. 19. Alumni Engagement Options Events • Alumni Can Search for Upcoming Events and Submit New Events Career Resources • Alumni Can Post Jobs and Exchange Career Advice Online Giving • Alumni Can Support the University and See How Their Donations are Being Used Volunteer • Alumni Can Give Back Their Time and Skills to the Alumni CommunityPage #19 © 2010 Blackbaud
    20. 20. Different Club and Group Networks College Classes & Schools • University Pre-Populated the Network with Each Graduating Class and Division/School Regional and International • Staff Created Chapter Network Sites across Each Region in the US and Internationally Special Interest Groups • Staff also Created a Catch-all Network Type for Special Interests for Specialty ClubsPage #20 © 2010 Blackbaud
    21. 21. Connecting Alumni to Networks Search Networks • Search Feature Allows Alumni to Look Up Networks by a Variety of Descriptors Create New Networks • Enterprising Alumni can Create New Networks, such as New Region or Special Interest for Staff Approval Network Attributes • Individual Networks are Defined by a Variety of Characteristics which are Stored in the DatabasePage #21 © 2010 Blackbaud
    22. 22. Alumni Network Engagement Network Membership • Links Alum to Specific Networks within the Database Local Event Calendar • Tools Allow Chapter/Club Volunteers to Present Events and Capture, if Requested, Online Registrations Other Localized Content • Tools Allow for the Creation of Local News Articles and Feedback on Message BoardsPage #22 © 2010 Blackbaud
    23. 23. Data Maintenance and Integrity Single Sign On • Authenticate Online Users between Alumni Websites and The University of Chicago’s CNET ID system Data Migration • Migrated of Over 145,000 Profile Records from Alumni Database Data Integration • Future Project to Integrate Information Collected Online to University DatabasesPage #23 © 2010 Blackbaud
    24. 24. CASE STUDY: UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIAPage #24 © 2010 Blackbaud
    25. 25. University of Virginia Project Timeline 2005 2005 2006 2007+ Define The Design the Execute and Measure Right Project Right Online Provide Results and • Determine Solution Support Re-Evaluate Requirements • Procure New • Launch First • Track and Report through Extensive System - Phase of Sites Progress of Research Blackbaud Sphere • Train Staff and Solution • Hired Staff VolunteersPage #25 © 2010 Blackbaud
    26. 26. Defining the Right Project Challenge • The University suffered from a mish-mash of websites and technologies and needed to uniformly create a vibrant engagement operation with more event participation and alumni interactions. Solution • The University of Virginia uses the Blackbaud Sphere platform as a single solution http://uvaclubs.virginia.edu to create a modern, attractive http://hoosonline.virginia.edu alumni website that enables a single online experience for all types of online interactions by alumni.Page #26 © 2010 Blackbaud
    27. 27. Designing the Right Online Solution Websites to Connect Alumni • Website with online forms, engaging content and community-building tools • Tools to manage event registrations and calendars Data Maintenance • Centralized login for all alumni to link to Career and Research Service, Affinity Circles, and Vmail • This is a primary way for an alumni to update their contact information; data integration was key Email Communications • A strong email system with accurate addresses gives them the ability to reach alumni very quickly • Provides the capabilities to ensure targeted and relevant messagingPage #27 © 2010 Blackbaud
    28. 28. Execute and Provide SupportPrimary Staff Users • Six Full-time Staff • Manager, Data Specialist, Email Marketer, Website Designer, Form Manager, Advanced Programmer, and TrainerChapter and Club Alumni Users • Must Make it Easy for Volunteers to be Successful • Unsuccessful with Formal Training Program; Transitioned to Consultative One-on-One ApproachOther Staff Users • Provided Training to Other Staff who Interact with Alumni • An Additional 190 Staff have Access to System • Two Additional Email Communication Specialists within Alumni Staff • Regional Engagement OfficersPage #28 © 2010 Blackbaud
    29. 29. Chapter/Club Online Tools Chapter/Club Website • Template Allows for the Creation of Forms, Photos, RSS News Feed and Event Calendars Access Controls • Sites can be Managed Either by Alumni Volunteers or Supported by Trained Staff with Controlled Access Email Communications • Staff Work with Alumni Volunteers to Send Periodic and Targeted http://uvaclubs.virginia.edu eNewsletter Communications, while Updating Member Data Directly OnlinePage #29 © 2010 Blackbaud
    30. 30. Measuring and Reporting Results Summary of Results • 50% Workable Email Addresses: 200,000 Alumni, Started with 35K Email Addresses, Now Have 110K Email Addresses • Increase Online Interactions: Launched Over 150 Club/Chapter Websites • Increase Online Fundraising: 220 Active Donation Forms Raising $3.5M Annually • More Targeted Communications: Sending 10M Targeted Emails Annually Using 130+ Campaigns2007 Statistics 2008 Statistics 2009 Statistics• 5,600 event • 14,000 event • 18,500 event registrations registrations registrations• 6.3 million emails • 5.9 million emails • 10.4 million emails• 2,100 online donations • 4,500 online donations • 11,200 online • 144% increase in donations funds received • 136% increase in funds receivedPage #30 © 2010 Blackbaud
    31. 31. Technology Re-Evaluation and Investment Key Infrastructure is in Place and Now Very Usable Club Sites are Nearly 100% Volunteer Driven, Creating Deeply Engaging Interactions with Alumni University Resources Now Concentrate on Creating New and More Modern Online Services New Fundraising Campaign Site: http://campaign.virginia.edu HoosOnline, Campaign for the University, HoosNetwork, Facebook/Linked In, and iPhone ApplicationsPage #31 © 2010 Blackbaud
    32. 32. Lessons Learned Do Not Design or • Include All Stakeholders from the Start Work in a Vacuum Invest in Intelligent • Create an Easy-to-Use System to Produce Forms, Design Up Front Websites and Email Yields Greater AdoptionControl Access to Key • Ensure Volunteers and Staff have Access to Only Systems and Data What They Need • Build Strong Relationships between Trainers and Invest in Training Chapter/Club Alumni Volunteers Measure and Report • Breed an Environment of Success to Build on Success Momentum and Ongoing InvestmentPage #32 © 2010 Blackbaud
    33. 33. Next Steps… Answering the Question:“Is an Engaged Alum More Likely to Give Money?” • Integrating Alumni Activities and Donor Information Data Integration is • Online Activities with Profile Information Exchanged Important between University Databases Data Collection Difficult in • 28 Foundations and 100’s of Online Giving Forms Decentralized • CRM Tracking and Segmentation is the Key Environment • Over $3.5 Online in CY09 Early Results: • Beginning to Analyze Surveys in 2009 Correlating Available Data Event Registration to Online ActivitiesPage #33 © 2010 Blackbaud
    34. 34. Zach Wheat, Director of Interactive Media University of Virginia zjw6b@eservices.virginia.edu Kathryn Hall, Technical Product Specialist Blackbaud kathryn.hall@blackbaud.com QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS?Page #34 © 2010 Blackbaud