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August 31, 2007

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Next Generation eCards

Many alumni associations are offering electronic postcards to their alumni.  This is a terrific method of connecting your alumni to the school and increasing their nostalgia at the same time.  And this is especially true when the postcards contain images of college life, campus scenery, and other shots that will elicit strong memories for your alumni.  Plus, they're fun!   

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has expanded their offering of electronic postcards, and categorized the types of postcards available.  They now offer nearly fifty different views of campus spread over eight different collections, which are viewable in their online showcase!  When's the last time you received an electronic greeting card?  Many people, as soon as they receive one, turn around and find one to send back to the original sender.  MIT is giving their alumni a way to connect with each other and reminisce about their time on campus!   

One thing you need to think about is constantly expanding and improving this service.  Look at what works and then make it bigger.  Today, you need to be thinking about multimedia eCards.  With images and video, you can create an entire story to send to your alumni.  Add some sound and it's even better.  This is a great way to use user-generated content too!

One potential third party tool to use is Splashcast.com.  Your alumni could mix and mash.  Another example is Eyespot.com, where you can edit and mix your videos with other videos on Eyespot.  In fact, with the tools they have, you could easily edit video images of campus, including overlays and audio, and then send them off to alumni.  Great stuff!

Your alumni are being pulled in every which way, every day.  The Internet offers them a place to go for anything they want to see.  Use your creativity, think outside the box, and deliver more to your alumni.  Electronic postcards and multimedia eCards are a fantastic method to use to connect, engage, and communicate with your alumni.

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 31, 2007 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 29, 2007

Haverford College - Setting and Reaching Goals with an Internet Strategy

Goal setting is important in all stages of our lives, personally and professionally.  When a college decides to reach a goal of getting 50 percent of their alumni registered, where do they start?  Jennifer Patton, Office of Marketing and Communication, Haverford College, decided to focus on creating an Internet Strategy to reach this goal.

In the past, 12 percent of Americans moved each and every year.  Last year, this number climbed to 17 percent.  Just like the saying, "Parents, do you know where your children are?" I have to ask alumni associations, "Do you know where your alumni are?"  With so many people moving every year, how much of the information in your alumni database is current?  Keeping updated data on your alumni is crucial.  With updated information, you can send email broadcasts, eCards, eNewsletters, announcements, and the like.  And let's not forget the money wasted in postage for every incorrect mailing address you have!

Beyond this, the best way for you to stay connected to your alumni is through your alumni online community.  In fact, having a user friendly site is critical, and will help tremendously in getting your alumni registered, and in keeping your registrations up to date.  Haverford College's alumni online community fits the bill, as it is very user friendly!  It's attractive and gives alumni plenty of reasons to return to the Web site on a regular basis.

In addition to having a user friendly site, Haverford College also used contests, eCards, and many other Internet marketing tools to grab their alumni's interest and pull them back into the fold.  There are so many things you can do!  Creativity is key, as is touching on something that alumni can relate to.  For example, Haverford College has an unofficial mascot - the black squirrel.  These little animals are all over the campus, so they've become a point of contact between students, faculty, and alumni.  Haverford uses this unofficial mascot in creative and fun ways throughout many of the Internet marketing tools they've used.

So, when you set a goal for your online community, think of the Internet marketing tools that can help you achieve them.  It works! 

And, by the way, Haverford College has reached their goal of getting 50 percent of their alumni registered.  Congratulations!

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 29, 2007 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | Links to this Article

August 27, 2007

Open Doors - Online Giving Donations Guide

Online giving is an important aspect of many charities.  While many charities will ask for donations, it's often difficult to ascertain where the funds are going to go.  Open Doors is a charity that supports Christians worldwide, and they've created an excellent virtual guide to help their donators decide where their contribution dollars are going to go to.

This is a terrific idea as it not only encourages online giving, but it allows the contributor to look through Open Doors' interactive guide and decide for themselves how their donation is going to be used.  Here are some examples:

1.  A $20 donation will give 5 bibles.  A $100 donation will give 25 bibles.  A $500 donation will give 125 bibles.

2.  $82 provides one prisoner care pack which provides prisoners with necessities such as toiletries, clothes, medicine, and food.

3.  $50 provides sewing and tailoring classes for one woman living in a Muslim country.

4.  $15 gives Sunday school curriculum to one church in China.  $150 gives Sunday school curriculum to ten churches in China.

The list of what Open Doors offers to their contributors is wide, and ranges from less than $100 to the thousands.  This allows anyone who feels led to donate the ability to do so within their budget and their beliefs.  By offering this interactive guide for donations, Open Doors is making it easier, more personal, and giving their donors a true sense of what their dollars are going to do.

Annual giving offices should take note of this method, and work on developing promotions and packages that are built around this concept.  By setting up packages of specific dollar amounts, and detailing where the money will go, alumni will not only feel more secure in giving, but they'll also be proud to watch the changes that occur because of their contribution.

One example would be a gift of $100 for ten years will provide a matching gift scholarship that will be worth $2,000 for students.  Be creative and let your alumni know where their dollars are going, and give them the choice of selecting which program is best suited to them.

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 27, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 24, 2007

Tips to Give Online -- Safely

Many people turn to the Internet to find and support charitable programs.  This is especially true during the holiday season, which believe it or not, is fast approaching!  There are concerns associated with online giving, but many of those concerns can be alleviated by following certain online practices.  Here are some ideas:

Know your Charity and Give to Legitimate Charities.  A lot of charities and web sites have very similar names, so it's important to confirm that you're donating to a legitimate nonprofit.  When in doubt, contact the United Way, Better Business Bureau, and/or a community information center.

Ask Questions and Give Safely.  Always ask questions to learn more about the mission of the charity you are considering supporting.  Within the U.S., you can educate yourself with a form that is filed annually by charitable organizations with the IRS, called a 990 form.  Check www.guidestar.org for more information.  Also - be positive that your charity's web site is safe and secure for online giving.  The easiest way to check to see if the page is encrypted is to check the web address - The letters https:// (instead of http://) will precede the URL, and/or look for an unbroken key or padlock symbol in the corner of the browser.  When in doubt, call the charity directly.

Give Directly and Demand Privacy.  The Internet is a great tool for finding the charities you can support directly, without any middle men.  Watch your email carefully - if you receive an email from a charity you don't already have a relationship with, be cautious before contributing.  Legitimate charities only email you if they have received your permission.  When you're ready to donate, and you're at the web site of your charity, be sure that they have a privacy policy.  Read it to see what information is collected, who can access it, and how can remove and/or update information.

Keep Records and Save Contact Information.  Every time you give to a charity, keep a copy of your transaction for your records.  You should print a copy of the final confirmation screen, and you should save the confirmation email you receive.  If you do not receive a confirmation, contact the charity and ask why.  This leads to contact information.  There should be several contact methods provided on the web site - phone number, address, and an email address.  If there isn't, that could be a problem.    

Know How Donations are Used and Watch for Accountability.  A legitimate and reputable charity will keep you informed of their work, how the contributions they receive are being used, and you should receive regular stewardship updates through email, or on their web site.

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 24, 2007 at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 22, 2007

Capital Alumni Network - Using Message Boards to Connect

I talk a lot about connecting your alumni, and how that can benefit both your alumni and the university.  There are so many methods available to hook your alumni's interest, and many of them have been covered in previous blog articles.  Today, I'd like to comment on the Capital Alumni Network.  CAN is a unique group that engages alumni from many different colleges and universities and encourages interaction to facilitate business and career networking.

One of the tools they've added to their web site is a message board which gives alumni members a place to talk, network, and connect in a very powerful way.  As web sites become more sophisticated, we forget how versatile message boards can be.  They give a place, and an opportunity, to:

1.  Answer frequently asked questions.
2.  Facilitate discussions on specific topics of interest.
3.  Gather data.
4.  Increase the connection between users.
5.  Network with others about a variety of topics, such as careers, business, vacations, families, anything and everything!

CAN already has over 700 members registered, which is no small feat!  One of the biggest challenges in creating a busy and active message board is actually getting people to use them.  You can do a few different things to increase the chance that people will not only visit and register, but will keep coming back and contributing to the message board on an ongoing basis.

To increase use, consider:

1.  Ask users what they want included in the message boards. 
2.  Add controversial topics that are sure to bring out the passion in your alumni, and then sit back and watch the board take off!

Message boards are a terrific way to develop an ongoing repartee, connection, and networking environment for your alumni.  Chances are - your alumni will love having a place to hang out!

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 22, 2007 at 04:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | Links to this Article

August 20, 2007

Simon School of Business - Virtual Store

Having a virtual store that sells merchandise with your school's logo on it is a great idea, and one that many colleges and universities around the world utilize.  One example of a terrific site is Simon School of Business's virtual web store.  They sell a variety of merchandise, with two different logos available, for students and alumni to choose from.  Everything from apparel, including hats, shorts, pants, shirts, and sweatshirts are for sale, along with specialty items, such as coffee cups, paper weights, umbrellas, clocks, and more.  By offering a wide selection to their alumni and students, the Simon School of Business is able to earn more money, as they have a little something for everyone's differing tastes.

There are methods that can generate even more dollars if used in combination with the virtual store, too!  For example, make it easier for your alumni to purchase memorabilia!  How?  Simple!  You can send them an email or eCard near their birthday, with a $10 coupon attached - good for any purchase from the virtual store.  Other ideas include sending an email near Thanksgiving urging your alumni to spend some money on themselves by purchasing their own Christmas gift from the store. 

Alumni LOVE to share their association with their college!  If you give them a reason to visit the store, they will likely find something that appeals to them, which they'll use with pride.  You could also hold contests in your online alumni community that the prize is a gift of their choice, up to a set dollar amount, from the virtual store.  Maybe reward contributors, volunteers, and other alumni that reach out to help in some way by giving them coupons for merchandise.  The ideas are endless!

This is a fantastic method for generating additional dollars.  With a little creativity, you can use your virtual store in conjunction with methods you're probably already using to snag alumni interest.  The rewards will be well worth it. 

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 20, 2007 at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 17, 2007

Increase Revenue by Offering Banner Ads to your Alumni

Alumni associations continually strive to find ways to keep up quality services for less money.  This is getting harder and harder.  For years, student loan lenders have partnered with alumni associations to get their loan products promoted to students.  In return for this promotion, the student lenders would pay the alumni associations a fee.  Recently, this practice has come under fire from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has been leading a national investigation into the student loan industry.

One of the questions being asked is whether alumni groups are steering financially strained young alumni into certain loan consolidation programs without disclosing payments, benefits, and other information which may violate consumer protection laws.  The fear is that because alumni associations profit from recommending these loans, their advice to students and alumni may be unfairly biased, and not necessarily in the best interest of the borrower.

What I want to express is that there are many other ways to make the revenue an alumni association needs to deliver quality services.  One of these ways is by the use of banner advertising.  If you offer banner advertising your alumni, you can bring in the revenue that is being lost from the student loan programs.  How is this possible?  Simple!  Alumni own thousands of businesses, and if you give them the opportunity to promote their businesses and their accomplishments on your alumni web site, they'll likely jump at it.  For one, they'll be proud to list their businesses, and for two, the alumni association can earn the revenue that is necessary to continue supplying quality services. 

Consider charging $5,000 per year for the front page, and $1,000 for the inside pages.  A ten page web site would probably produce nearly $15,000!  Banner ads can be very profitable, and when that's combined with the recognition your alumni will receive - the benefits are two-fold.

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 17, 2007 at 03:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 13, 2007

University of Canberra - Alumni Graduate Network

Creating a successful alumni online community isn't an easy mission.  Alumni associations are faced with the task of competing for their alumni attention with extremely popular social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace.  In past blog articles, I've discussed different methods to increase the viability of your alumni online community in order to develop the strong bonds that are so necessary.  Whenever I find an alumni online community that is excelling in grabbing the interest of their alumni, I like to spread the word.

The University of Canberra is doing two things well within their alumni online community.  The first is they refer to their community as a "Graduate Network."  By naming their alumni community this, the University of Canberra is reminding their alumni that their community is a network of people that can help them in their business career.  Basically, the university has created a unique brand to set their alumni online community apart that is both marketable and accessible to all alumni.

The other thing I like is the way they recognize their alumni.  They place a spotlight on one of their graduates on a continuous basis that gives them recognition.  This is something else I've discussed in the past - your alumni deserve recognition!  Check out the University of Canberra's Star Profiles to see an excellent example of this practice in progress.  Each profile shows a picture of the alumni, gives information on when they graduated, what their degree is, and what they're doing today.  At the bottom of the profile they have a "Just for Fun" section that asks some really fun questions about favorite foods, personal heroes, and more!

By branding their alumni online community in a fun and unique way, along with recognizing their alumni, the University of Canberra is creating exactly what their alumni need - a place to connect, network, learn, and participate with other alumni and their alma mater.  Great job!

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 13, 2007 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | Links to this Article

August 08, 2007

Lake Oswego School District Alumni - Using an Online Database to Connect

I've talked before how important it is to utilize your alumni online community to its fullest.  Another statement I've said often is that your alumni online community should act as a bridge between your alumni and the school.  And, with this thought in mind, one of the most critical aspects of your online community should be your online database.  The more complete your alumni data is within your database, the better the ability to connect, not only between your alumni, but between you and your alumni. 

The Lake Oswego School District Alumni Association has done this in a HUGE way!  On August 18th, they're having a party - an Alumni Bash that could have up to 5,000 people in attendance!  There is no admission cost for the event, and alumni who attend will enjoy a looping video with music, food booths, beverages, and live music while they catch up with friends from the past.  In addition, the association has a few surprises in store.  From celebrity alumni in attendance, to setting up tables of memorabilia, to decade themed tents - this event promises to be one major party for alumni as far back as the graduating class of 1952, to the most recent graduates from this past June.

Wow!  How did they connect with alumni from so many years?  You got it, through their online database.  Take a look and see what they're planning, you'll be amazed.  They have reached out to their alumni via their web site and asked for help at the bash, from setting up tables of memorabilia, to helping with the tear down after the event.

This is what I call using an alumni online community to its fullest!  They not only have a terrific community, but they've been able to connect with their alumni through their database to plan this event.  Great job, on all accounts! 

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 8, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article

August 06, 2007

Tennessee Tech University - Alumni Relations Enhance Fundraising

Alumni like to be recognized.  One of the easiest ways to recognize your alumni is through the use of eCards.  Alumni love getting them, and they love viewing them.  The reason they love them so much is simple.  An eCard delivers a powerful sense of nostalgia for the recipient, and that nostalgia is a critical step in connecting your alumni to their alma mater.  This connection is vital to increase participation, communication, and annual giving from your alumni. 

What can you do with an eCard?  Almost anything!  You can invite them to participate in upcoming events, remind them about fundraising opportunities, celebrate a special day with them, and so much more.  eCards are truly unique, as besides building that powerful sense of nostalgia, they're very focused, as they can tell a story within a limited number of words, and they can provide a specific call of action for the recipient.  And, studies show that the more you communicate with your alumni, the more they give. 

In fact, Tennessee Tech University's Alumni Association has seen this plan in action - and it works.  They've adopted auto birthday cards, which are a terrific way to recognize their alumni and to celebrate a very special day with them.  These cards are set up to be delivered automatically each day of the year to alumni on their birthday.  A great example of how well this works is that TTU received a $500 contribution from a member of their alumni who hadn't given in 22 years after he received his birthday eCard!  Proof that alumni relations definitely have an effect on fundraising! 

And don't forget -- eCards can include photos, sound, a written message, and even video. You can use them to wish your alumni Happy Birthday, Happy Holidays, to invite them to special events, to keep them informed on what's happening on campus, or any myriad of possibilities!  They're amazing marketing tools, but even better - the production cost and delivery of an eCard is literally pennies on the dollar when compared to the cost of producing a flyer, printing letters, envelopes, and mailing them to your alumni.

So, what are you waiting for?  Create an impression on your alumni, and reap the rewards, using eCards!

Posted by Don Philabaum on August 6, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Links to this Article