March 29, 2007
Ohio University without Boundaries - Second Life Campus
Ohio University is among the first organizations to create a virtual campus in the new Second Life online community as an extension of their Ohio University without Boundaries program. Second Life is an exciting new community where individuals can adopt personalities by the use of a customized avatar. Once they have their avatar, users are able to walk into a community, in this case, a university campus, and interact and communicate with other people, while expanding their education.
Once signed in to the virtual campus, each person is assigned an avatar that they can personalize in their own, individual way. They can choose their clothes, their hair color, and what their overall appearance is.
Ohio University's Virtual Campus is showcased in an interesting and fun video. This video, written and produced by Christopher R. Keesey, Project Manager/Marketing and Learning Applications - Ohio University without Boundaries, displays the innovation and the possibilities that exist within a virtual community campus.
Mr. Keesey states, in his voice over from the video, "Don't just dream of flying, spread your wings and explore the Ohio University Second Life Campus - where discovery is limited only by your own imagination." This quote, combined with the video itself, pulls in the viewer and easily establishes how Second Life, and the virtual campus, can create boundless opportunities.
Imagine the possibilities if this were used by alumni associations to engage alumni. While the outbound program is doing this for education, an alumni office could use this for virtual reunions, meetings, and any other event to pull alumni back to their alma mater.
Second Life supplies the ability to create a virtual "second life." From purchasing land, to buying products and services, to leasing your land to others, to anything else the imagination can dream up. The site is generating 100 million dollars a year in sales and it is truly an exciting and innovative way to connect with others. With three million members already, this is definitely a community that is up and coming.
Ohio University has taken the lead in establishing their Second Life virtual campus, and in doing so, the possibilities for their students are endless.
March 27, 2007
University of Alaska Anchorage - Accolades and Heroes
The University of Alaska Anchorage's Alumni Association is successfully using one of my 101 strategies by making heroes of their alumni. Giving attention to alumni is important, and UAA recognizes this. Twice per year, in their online Alumni and Friends magazine, Accolades, UAA offers in-depth stories of current university projects, successful alumni, and inspired philanthropy.
Alumni are doing great things, and when a university displays their pride by recognizing their alumni's successes and achievements, it is a powerful statement that resonates with all alumni. Each spring and fall, a new issue of Accolades appears, and in every issue successful alumni are spotlighted. And, the University of Alaska Anchorage's Alumni Association recognizes that each of these successes is individual, and they focus on the individual. With bright photos and informative articles, not only are they supporting their alumni, but they are doing so in an attractive and exciting manner.
By doing this, the University of Alaska Anchorage's Alumni Association is accomplishing several goals. They are honoring their alumni by focusing on them and their successes, they are helping their alumni to stay interested and involved, which increases participation, annual giving, pride, and is an effective method to bring alumni back to the online community - again and again. Therefore, with this one concept they have fulfilled a myriad of needs every college university faces; involvement, connection, and communication.
Colleges and universities use their websites to cover everything from student concerns to parent involvement to the alumni community. Incorporating personal success stories in the University of Alaska Anchorage's Alumni Association Accolades magazine makes heroes out of all the students, both past and present, and encourages repeat visits to the site to see which alumni will be featured next.
An added feature that may make sense would be a comment section that would allow alumni to congratulate the featured alumni in each issue of Accolades.
March 23, 2007
North Carolina State University - Themed Photo Albums
North Carolina State University knows that content is king when it comes to any website, and they've taken this to heart with their alumni online community. Unfortunately, few administrators have the time to write stories, take photos, and add other interesting content throughout their already busy days. Too often, this means that some alumni online community websites will sit stagnant for long periods of time without being updated with new, fresh, and interesting content.
This isn't the case at North Carolina State University's alumni online community! NCSU is utilizing the Internet the way it "should" be used, and by doing so, they are keeping their website in top form. NCSU has outsourced the development of content in order to give their alumni access to the students and events on campus. Their themed photo album is a great example of the fun, compelling, and engaging content that can be found on the NCSU website.
Alumni can easily choose one of the sixteen photo albums currently available by clicking on the name of the album. They can then browse through the album and select whichever pictures they want to view close up. From reunions, to students, to charity events; alumni will find much to peak their interest. Photos are a terrific way to connect alumni to the happenings on campus and to remind them of their college days. This creates a fuller alumni online community for all involved and will also create greater participation within the community.
One possible way to improve on this idea is to give alumni the ability to use RSS feeds to be alerted when new updates, whether in existing albums or in newly created albums, are posted. This method would be an excellent Push/Pull technique that would keep alumni "in the loop" and have them coming back for more - over and over.
March 21, 2007
Marquette University - Utilizing Safer and More Efficient Technology
A group of Marquette University's advancement team meets monthly to identify how they can use their website and Internet technology to connect with and engage alumni. At the same time, they are looking for ways to increase efficiencies.
Annual Giving is a critical element of every university in the world. Without annual giving, contributions from alumni, and other fundraising techniques, universities wouldn't be able to offer as fully rounded an education, and other benefits, to their students, faculty, and alumni. With this fact in place, Marquette University Alumni Association has long since utilized an annual phonathon to help receive the funds they require.
In the fall of 2006, Marquette University's advancement team discovered that the phonathon software they'd been using was not in compliance with the University's policy. This forced them into searching for an immediate solution to accepting credit card payments online. Obviously, they still needed to be able to accept these payments from their constituents, but they needed to find a safer way to process them.
The advancement team's solution was to continue using the capabilities of their current online giving page, but in a much more specialized method. Using Verisign, the card from the constituent could be charged immediately. The caller could still enter the transaction information into the calling application with a false credit card number. This would insure that internal reporting would not be affected.
The next step, with the assistance of IAC, was to begin building a new online giving form similar to their current one, but with less required information from the constituent. Instead, the donor services team would match the results from the online transaction with internal reports for gift updates in their main fundraising database.
There have been many benefits to this change. First, the University is no longer storing credit card numbers in a database on a University server. This makes Marquette University completely compliant with University policy. Second, callers can reassure the constituent they talk with that the number is being instantly submitted securely, and that the number wouldn't be used at a later date. Third, the gift processors no longer need to submit the number to Verisign. Through the online page, it is done instantly. Finally, they took advantage of newer and safer technologies available and improved how things are done throughout the process.
Ed Leonard states, "We took advantage of newer and safer technologies available to us and improved how we do things in the process."
March 19, 2007
University of Akron - Online with YouTube
The University of Akron's Alumni Association is always working to bring more activity within the online community by providing interesting content. One of the methods that the University of Akron has begun using is through the application of video. Jumping into the YouTube age, the University is effectively using an exciting basketball video, along with rock and roll music, to build an upbeat feeling among the visitors of their site.
One of the facets every university faces is providing content that speaks to their alumni visitors. They want to encourage continued participation within their online alumni community in order to build, grow, and thrive. Video is an excellent method in capturing the attention of University of Akron's alumni, and other visitors, as it utilizes one of our most active senses - sight. Within seconds, alumni are able to become "part of the action" by viewing, listening, and completely immersing themselves in the video.
The University of Akron recognizes how powerful video is in encouraging participation, and with increased participation, their alumni online community will continue to prosper. People today lead busy and hectic lives and often need an extra pull to feel engaged in any website. By offering videos to their alumni, the University of Akron is delivering this extra pull - and alumni are likely to respond by visiting the community more often. Once that goal is met, the Alumni Association is able to further engage their alumni with additional methods. Annual giving, contributions, and communication is likely to increase as more and more alumni continue to come back to the online community.
YouTube already recognized the value of providing video content to subscribers. With the University of Akron also recognizing the immense possibilities that providing videos to their alumni provides, their online alumni community will become a stronger, livelier, and more interesting place for alumni to "hang out."
March 16, 2007
Illinois State University - Organization for Better Promotion
Annette Levitt of Illinois State University has created an Organizational Grid to reminder her, and those involved with Illinois State University's Alumni Association, what they want to promote about their online alumni community in each issue of their quarterly alumni magazine. This grid allows everyone to stay on target in reaching their alumni with the proper promotional strategy throughout the year - from the planning of the alumni magazine to the implementation of it.
Within the grid, the four yearly issues are marked by season (Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring) with the marketing plans for each issue clearly displayed below. Some of Annette's ideas include various pullouts - from photo albums, to web postcards, to merchandise, to update forms - general promotion articles, reminders about email addresses, alumni news, mentoring news - plus, many other ways to promote the online alumni community.
This grid fulfills several areas in ascertaining the alumni association is reaching their alumni via their promotional tools. It helps the association stay on target, it clearly shows what marketing aspects have already been used, as well as which ones are planned for future issues of the alumni magazine. This allows those involved with the alumni association to better focus on their goals as well as to see which promotional items worked. By monitoring changes in their online alumni community, the alumni association should be able to see where and when increases in updating information, contributions, and networking have occurred - and then tie them into the most recent alumni magazine issue and the promotions that appeared.
This is an excellent method in increasing online registrations by using a free marketing channel, plus, it's a simple and effective method for all involved. Organization is essential in the proper layout of any Internet strategy, and by utilizing a promotional grid such as the one Illinois State University is, the results can only lead to success.
March 15, 2007
Affinity Resources - Fundraising and Internet Communication for a Changing World
Affinity Resources Fundraising Consultants was founded in 1999, and ever since then has lived up to its philosophy of helping nonprofits with fundraising online, Internet marketing and communications, web site design, capital campaigns, and organizational development. They offer experienced consultants to assist nonprofit organizations in creating effective Internet communications strategies that help nonprofit organizations turn each of the above areas turn into success stories.
Mr. Marc Lee, CFRE, President of Affinity Resources, has been involved in fundraising for over two decades in a variety of roles. He's served as a Development Director, Campaign Director, CEO, and consultant, and his specialty is in Internet Communications. As the author and founder of CampaignReadiness.com, a division of Affinity Resources, Marc is also a highly regarded conference speaker and an ordained minister. With this extensive background and experience, he brings far more to the table than consulting.
Marc has the inside edge on Internet Communications and all of the opportunities and challenges of marketing and fundraising online. His hands on experience in working on over 65 websites - from creating database driven sites, to designing and executing email campaigns, to optimizing for search engines, and to setting up ecommerce and online donation applications - has made him an expert in the field of Internet Communications.
Marc, and Affinity Resources, shares this knowledge with nonprofits in every area of their Internet communications strategy. Affinity Resources focuses on supporting the relationships within the organization first and then branches to fundraising. They educate nonprofits on how to strengthen their relationships and then how to best reach their constituents in order to expand and enhance their fundraising.
Affinity Resources serves a variety of nonprofit organizations, such as private schools, small colleges, churches, health and human service organizations, as well as many others. A selected list of their clients can be viewed here.
With years of experience, Affinity Resources offers valuable, essential, and up-to-date information to nonprofits to increase contributions in an Internet world.
March 12, 2007
Internet Strategies Group - "Executive Briefings" Webinar Series
The Internet Strategies Group is a distance learning forum that brings together individuals and organizations that recognize their current and future relationship with their constituents will be through the Internet. Members of ISG will learn best practices, ideas, and concepts delivered by forward thinking industry professionals who have a proven record for success. Beyond this, The Internet Strategies Group provides a platform to these professionals to expand their ideas and concepts within their industry.
One of the ways The Internet Strategies Group is accomplishing this is with their new series of webinars, Executive Briefings. This webinar series is targeted toward college administrators and professionals and delivers the tools necessary to create a successful alumni and advancement Internet strategy. A comprehensive written Internet strategy saves money, reduces confusion and stress on staff, plus it will increase communication, contributions, and stewardship of alumni. This amazing webinar series will feature speakers such as James Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy, John Todor, author of Addicted Customers, Ivan Misner, author of Masters of Networking, and Valdis Krebs, the developer of InFlow software for social and organizational network analysis.
The first webinar will be on April 19, 2007 and is titled The REAL Story on Social Networking. This webinar will educate college administrators and Alumni executives on the benefits of creating, growing, and nurturing their online social networks and directories. The authors of this webinar will give their unique perspective on how their area of expertise, in combination with Internet Technology, can increase registrations in online communities, annual giving, and capital campaigns, in addition to networking their alumni. The remainder of the 2007's Executive Briefing Webinar's titles and dates can be found on the ISG website.
The webinars give participants access to industry leaders, authors, speakers, and practitioners who will share their knowledge, experience, and successes. It's a terrific way to gain the education needed to develop repeated, measurable, predictable, and affordable Internet strategies to take alumni organizations to the next level - and beyond.
March 09, 2007
The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Internet Strategy and Keeping Staff Informed
Whenever a university or college begins the process of increasing their Internet strategy for their online alumni community, a lot happens, and often - it happens fast. Within the staff, there is a need for everyone to be kept up to date on the progress of their chosen Internet strategy and how it is relating to changes in their online alumni community. The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Alumni staff have hit upon an excellent method in providing this much needed information.
Each month, an internal eNewsletter is sent to the entire Alumni Relations and Development teams regarding their online community. Ashlee Ilg summarizes the stats from that monthly session and shares it via the eNewsletter. This allows everyone involved, on all levels, to be knowledgeable of their online alumni community on a consistent basis.
Ashlee Ilg has this to say regarding her internal eNewsletter, "We have provided monthly reports to the entire Alumni Relations and Development teams since we launched the eaglesNEST in February 2004. I believe it is so crucial to keep everyone updated on the success of our online community - especially when the numbers reflect the continual growth and success in plain 'black and white.' The simple layout of the e-report allows even the busiest staff member to scan the numbers and know that the site is growing.
"Because each staff member is involved with the site on a different level, it is likely that many 'success stories' and technical upgrades go unnoticed. Just as it is important to share qualitative stats with our internal staffs - such as notes/emails from alumni, phone calls, anecdotes, and other positive comments - it is equally important to share the quantitative success stats. Because the online community is a major project with significant value, I believe those who have "bought-into" it have an interest in the growth we've experienced.
"This simple e-newsletter is a quick way to share the online community's success in some of the most high-priority areas, such as email updates. And perhaps the best part - I am able to use the Marketing Wizard in our admin panel to create the e-newsletter!"
By keeping everyone informed, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Alumni Association has developed a surefire way to continually strengthen their Internet strategy, and as a result, will likely see increased growth every single month. When everyone is involved, the benefits are dramatic.
March 07, 2007
The University of Georgia - Promoting Alumni Authors
Giving alumni compelling reasons to stay connected to their alma mater isn't always easy, and while all universities and colleges utilize certain methods for continued alumni involvement, the University of Georgia's Alumni Association has gone a step further. They recognize the importance of giving alumni the acknowledgement they deserve, and one of the ways UGA is accomplishing this is with their Alumni Author Spotlight.
By featuring alumni authors within their online alumni community, they're not only promoting their alumni, but they are giving a strong reason for alma mater to keep coming back to the UGA website. With around three thousand books published every day, and approximately a million books in a year, UGA's Alumni Author Spotlight is a great idea! Alumni Associations that promote their alumni authors are showing pride in their achievements, plus, it's an extra form of recognition for the author and his or her books.
One idea to further increase alumni interest in this process is to include a way to track total views for an alumni author page. By doing this, alumni could easily see the value of the exposure provided by the alumni association. Alumni associations should also consider creating banner ads that also promote their alumni authors. Recognition for authors is an essential element to the success of their book. Think how great it is for alumni associations to offer this valuable promotion to their alumni!
The University of Georgia's Alumni Association has pulled together a fantastic method in promoting their alumni authors via their online alumni community. This recognition will not only help the alumni author, but it will also perk interest in other alumni from the University of Georgia - and this can only result in a fuller, more active, and a more connected alumni community.