Optimizing Your Education Website for Year-End Fundraising: Part 1

Optimizing Your Education Website for Year-End Fundraising: Part 1

The year-end fundraising season is right around the corner — and that means your advancement department is gearing up for one of the biggest giving seasons of the year. But it’s also a big season for enrollment. As the higher ed marketer, you must prioritize and accommodate the website change requests these two vital teams are bound to make of you.

The “EOY” season is that magical time when your advancement department — along with every other development team across the nonprofit world — ramp up their operations to take advantage of the biggest philanthropic season of the year.

This high-energy, high-output season for your development team will bring more change requests and work orders for your staff to fulfill than probably any other time of the year.

Why Year-End Fundraising Is A Big Deal

Before you get exhausted by the constant requests and revisions they want you to make on your school’s website, you need to see things from their perspective.

Year-end fundraising is a really big deal. Just to give you an idea…

  • 31% of annual giving in 2014 occurred in the month of December, and
  • 12% of annual giving that year happened within the last three days of 2014.

Think about that…

An entire third of your colleagues’ productive output this year will happen in a mere 31 days — and much of that will only come in within the last 3 days.

So when your inbox is inundated with website change requests from the advancement department, it’s coming from a good place… and with good reason.

But since you’re not a typical nonprofit organization, there are some website change requests you should ignore… or just do differently.

Things You Should NOT Do
Do not create a donation popup box… until the last three days of December.

All the advice your development team hears about year-end fundraising website optimization tells them to go for the ask immediately.

They’re urged by fundraising experts to implement conversion strategies like donation popup boxes or lightboxes.

While this is great advice for the typical nonprofit, donation light boxes compete with the primary objective of your website: Enrollment.

Since many students are preparing for their next academic step in December, you cannot afford to distract website users with fundraising message when they’re mainly looking for answers about their academic journey.

The Last Three Days

However, the last three days of December are crucial for fundraising — and more than likely, the visits to your site from prospective students will go down on these final days of the year.

So implement the request donation lightbox during the last three days of the year to pull in every annual fund gift possible.

(For good ideas on donation lightboxes, check out this great article.)

Do not make your home page a giving page.

Another rule of thumb for end of year fundraising is that the nonprofit’s homepage must be converted into what’s essentially a giving page during the final month.

If you take a look at these nonprofit home pages in December, they’re just a big ask.

Year-End Fundraising Website

Year-End Fundraising Website

And that’s okay because the main question on their visitors’ minds in December is “How do I give?”

But that’s not the No. 1 question on your higher education website visitor’s mind.

Most of your visitors are coming to get information on your school to see if they will enroll. So making your homepage a giving page will confuse and keep them from getting the answers they’re looking for.

Working Together

Those are the main things you should NOT do as a higher ed marketer when it comes to end of the year fundraising.

Yes, the year-end fundraising season is really important.

But it cannot supersede the priority of enrolling new students for three big reasons:

  1. Enrolling a student brings in a much greater financial benefit than an annual fund gift.
  2. Enrolling a student brings in a longer-lasting financial benefit. According to the experts at Nonprofit Hub, 7 out of 10 donors only give once — but most of your students will be enrolled for four years or more.
  3. Enrolling a student expands the potential donor base for your school.

It’s important to work with your development team this year to bring in that critical third of contributed revenue. But you need to know what works for you as a higher ed school and what is simply for other nonprofits.

In a couple weeks, I’ll come back with Part 2, where I’ll show you some of the website changes you should be making to boost your development department’s year-end efforts.

For more insights and help on higher ed digital marketing, contact us today!

The call is free and there’s no obligation.

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7 Game-Changing Ideas for Your School’s Homecoming

7 Game-Changing Ideas for Your School’s Homecoming

Homecoming season has come once again! Hands down, it is the biggest opportunity for building loyalty to your school’s brand and cultivating the next generation of students.

That’s why you can’t afford to let your homecoming be like everyone else’s. Here are 7 game-changing ideas for your college or university’s homecoming to set it apart from the crowd.

1. Sell the benefit for the alumni to attend… not the benefit for your school.

While homecoming for you is all about promoting the school’s brand and securing its future, that’s not why your alumni are coming. Honestly, they’re coming for completely different reasons that have more to do with them than you.

Your alumni are coming to resurrect old friendships, reconnect with mentors and faculty that made a difference in their lives, or maybe even rekindle old romances.

So why are you trying to sell alumni on coming to your homecoming when they’re not coming for you?

Alumni come to your homecoming because there’s something in it for them — so sell them on the benefit they’ll get out of attending.

This simple, but profound, change in your messaging makes all the difference in the world. Show alumni how your homecoming is the perfect place and time to… 1. Have some fun, 2. Be a part of something bigger than themselves, and 3. Stay connected to their college family.

2. Create alternative events to major events… not everyone wants to go to the football game.

The parade, the dance, the bonfire — these are all alternative events that have become tradition at many homecomings across the country.

The beauty of these events is that they’re not sports, giving alumni who’re not that into football, a reason to come. As crazy as it sounds, these people do exist, and they need your attention, too.

Here are some non-football events that do well at homecomings:

  • Homecoming Court
  • Parades
  • Marching Band
  • Bonfire
  • Concerts
  • Picnics
  • Dress-up days like coming to school in school colors
  • Alumni Band
  • Competitions like powder puff football
  • Banquet

3. Celebrate the past, present and future.

There’s little that will make the present state of your college or university more exciting than to see it in the light of the past. And there’s little that makes donors more excited about giving than an inspiring view of the future.

Use homecoming to give students and alumni a panoramic view of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.

  • Show historic photos of your campus and classes
  • Honor alumni and class years or decades during special events
  • Give tribute to past and present faculty that are especially dear to your students and alum
  • Feature a vision wall or hall to show alumni where you’re going

4. Create a carnival experience.

Remember your hometown carnivals? They were definitely no Disneyland, but they still managed to create that bigger-than-life feeling.

Even without a Disney budget, you can still create that fun, carefree, friendly environment!

Leverage mood-enhancing lights, seasonal decorations, and bright colors everywhere to brighten up the place. Offer delicious, fun food that fills the air with mouth-watering aromas. Put on live music that keeps people’s feet tapping.

5. Set up booths during the event for various initiatives and alumni demographics.

To draw your young alumni to the event, set up at least one booth for the kids.

Kids love to build crafts, create art, or play on musical instruments. Petting zoos, and festival midway games are also sure-fire kid pleasers.

The strength of this idea is in the connection between your college brand and the children.

Have actual college students (especially if they’re childhood education majors or kids ministry majors) work with the kids at these booths to create a strong memory and affinity for the campus and your school.

Set up booths for special initiatives such as capital campaigns.

Homecoming is a perfect time to acquaint alumni with your most visionary initiatives, like capital campaigns. Because alum are being reminded of your school’s rich history, the strong ties of alumni, and the competence of the leaders, your initiatives will have more of an emotional and rational appeal.

Booths featuring your initiatives create conversation points with attendees that would not happen otherwise. Be sure to staff your booths with students or staff who’ve been trained to answer attendees’ questions.

6. Live Stream the events.

In 2016, we started talking about using live streaming technologies as part of video content marketing for colleges and universities.

And this area of content marketing has really exploded since its beginning with Twitter’s Periscope platform!

Now, there are more live streaming services out there like Facebook Live and YouTube, both of which are great options for higher education.

However, if you have to choose between the two, pick Facebook, as that’s where most of your target audiences are hanging out.

Consider live streaming homecoming activities such as your homecoming court, banquet, contests, and parade so that alumni who can’t attend will be able to reconnect with your school and share the event on their social media.

And here’s a guerrilla marketing tip for football…

If your football program won’t allow you to live stream games, try live streaming interviews with players and coaches before, during, and after the games to create buzz around the game.

7. Pass out posters to all kids… they will become more permanent and longer-lasting marketing messages in the years to come.

As you know, I love how print and digital marketing enhance each other. So make sure your event has plenty of the traditional print media like brochures, flyers, bookmarks, etc.

But the most strategic marketing opportunity is passing out posters to all the kids at your homecoming event.

Education marketing doesn’t have to begin with sophomores or seniors in high school. You can start much earlier with posters that tap into the interests and cultural trends of kids as young as 10 years old.

For example, check out my son’s bedroom wall to see how you can begin making connections between your brand and a younger audience.

Posters are long-lasting, durable print materials that keep your brand messaging in front of the generations of alumni family members.

Homecoming is a magical — and profitable — time for alumni and higher education marketers alike.

Enjoy your time during homecoming. Have fun with attendees — but make sure you have these marketing ideas in place before you begin so that you get the very best results from your homecoming marketing efforts.

Need a hand getting your education marketing off the ground or launching an upcoming marketing strategy?

We’d be happy to help!

Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation on how we can help you get the most out of your college or university marketing.

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