The Role of Marketing Automation in Increasing Donations and Alumni Engagement

By DANIEL LUISE – June 16, 2018

At first, the fundraising efforts of colleges and universities and the marketing efforts of major businesses may seem very different. But, there are some key similarities as well. In order to sell more products and make more money, businesses must engage with their customers, activate their curiosity, and build their brands.

That is not so different from what college administrators need to do when raising funds and increasing engagement from their alumni population. Those in higher education must also reach out, engage the interest of their alumni, play-on their school spirit and turn that engagement and enthusiasm into dollars and cents.

Just as marketing automation can help businesses engage with their customers, higher education professionals can use the same strategy to capture the attention, and the money, from their alumni. In the end, what looks like two very different types of activities – college fundraising and corporate marketing – turn out to be quite similar.

What ties these two seemingly disparate activities together is the power of marketing automation. Here are just a few strategies colleges and universities can use to build marketing automation into their fundraising efforts.

Social Media Outreach

Engaging with alumni on social media is an obvious place to start, and a great way to jump-start those fundraising efforts. One of the advantages of this strategy is that college administrators do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel. For example, lots of colleges and universities already have dedicated Facebook pages, where alumni meet to discuss the latest happenings at their alma maters.

By harnessing social media pages that already exist and using marketing automation to target those alumni, colleges and universities can give their fundraising efforts a boost. This kind of social media engagement is at the heart of corporate marketing, and the same techniques can be just as effective for fundraising.

Targeted eNewsletters

Targeting is a vital part of the marketing automation equation, but identifying the most receptive audience members is only half the equation. The other half involves giving those audience members something of real value, including news about the schools they once attended.

Reaching out to alumni and other interested parties with targeted eNewsletters can be very effective, especially if those eNewsletters are professionally produced and well designed. These targeted newsletters can include everything from profiles of the football team to the latest innovations in the classroom.

Take this example. Perhaps you are looking for donations to support an upcoming project involving your sports complex on campus. You may benefit from reaching out specifically to graduated athletes of your college or university. Most likely they used those facilities for four years and it would resonate with them to help improve those areas for current athletes.

Email Campaigns

Even in this age of instant messaging and social networks, email campaigns remain effective. Colleges and universities can use marketing automation to target the most receptive audiences, then design email marketing campaigns to reach them.

The amount of demographic information available about email accountholders has never been greater, and that is good news for higher education fundraisers. The combination of marketing automation, which can help micro-target the audience, and smart mail, which can create powerful email fundraising campaigns, is a very powerful one indeed.

The worlds of higher education and corporate America are not as different as they may seem. For all the differences, there are powerful similarities as well, including the effectiveness of marketing automation. And, increasing donations and alumni engagement is at the forefront. If you are not yet using marketing automation to jumpstart your own fundraising efforts, you might want to look at what your counterparts in the corporate world are doing.


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