Every higher ed. marketing campaign is a fundraising opportunity in disguise. Here’s why. Every higher ed. marketing campaign is a fundraising opportunity in disguise. Here’s why.

Recruitment and retention campaigns have certain audiences: Prospective students, staff, and current students. But do you know who else sees those messages? Current and prospective donors. Which means the messages you’re sending to students have the potential to resonate with your donors, too.

And resonate they must, otherwise you miss out on countless opportunities to inspire donors to support your institution.

To get the most bang for your marketing buck, you need to incorporate messaging that resonates with donors in all your campaigns, building trust in and affinity for your brand every step of the way.

So shatter the silos where various marketing and communications campaigns are crafted and bring everyone together for one goal: To weave one common thread throughout your recruitment, retention, and fundraising campaigns — and leave no doubt that your higher ed. institution is the brand behind it all.

Higher ed. fundraising starts with a coordinated effort to build brand awareness.

Broadcasting fractured messages from your institution’s various campaigns can do a lot of harm in fostering a connection to your brand. And that’s a problem if you have any hope of increasing your donations and enrolments year in and year out.

Your donors need to have trust in your institution before giving just as your students need to trust you’re the right place for them. Coordinated marketing efforts spanning multiple campaigns, channels, and audiences prove your institution knows what it stands for.

  • It demonstrates your institution has integrity.
  • It assures any donor on the fence that you’re worthy of investment.

Building brand affinity — and therefore financial support — is much harder to achieve when your marketing campaigns don’t capture all of the above.

It doesn’t matter if your recruitment campaigns are targeted at high school seniors. Donors still see them.

It doesn’t matter if student retention campaigns are aimed at all those studying hard in the library. Donors still see them, too.

Any disjointed messaging between them and the actual fundraising campaigns they’re targeted for can stand out like a sore thumb, poking holes in your brand. A brand that shouldn’t be anything less than rock solid.  

Your higher ed. brand is strongest when stories are told across various marketing campaigns.

It takes a lot to get people’s attention these days. Prospective students and donors alike are one viral video away from full-on distraction, leaving the message you’re trying to get across even harder to absorb. Especially on the first try.

So it should come as no surprise that, when trying to persuade anyone to give your marketing efforts a second look (let alone take action by donating or enroling) you need to give them multiple opportunities to connect the dots.

This means repetition and consistency are the collective keys everywhere.

Red River College Polytechnic has this all figured out. In their In Front of What’s Ahead campaign, one common objective — educating stakeholders on what a polytechnic is and why it’s important — supported multiple goals.

In a rare opportunity to develop a strategic plan, marketing, and fundraising platforms simultaneously and cohesively, we decided to prove our thesis — that branding and strategic planning benefit most when aligned.

Concept creative to support multiple goals.

We applied the single, foundational theme to three initiatives:

  1. Strategic plan
  2. Marketing campaign
  3. Case for support

The result has been a wholly aligned message from the institution, where every initiative bolsters the credibility of others. Case in point: with a unilateral message touting RRC Polytech as ‘In Front of What’s Ahead’, the school has reached 25% of their fundraising goal in only five months. Positioning them to achieve and potentially exceed that total goal within their three-year campaign timeline.

The importance of higher ed. brands sharing a unified vision and message.

We’ve established that it’s not enough to run one storyline in one campaign for one audience. Instead, you need to weave one big storyline throughout several campaigns, through several channels, for all audiences.

But this synchronized effort simply can’t happen when campaigns are crafted by teams separated by administrative and academic silos.

Marketing and communications teams across schools and departments need to start talking to each other. They need to start working together in a way that emphasizes consistency.

Together, they need to focus on the unified vision and message they’re sending and how they can partner with each other to get there.

You know that getting various minds from across your institution behind one idea isn’t easy. But that’s what it takes to craft coordinated marketing campaigns. Without everyone in alignment, rogue marketing campaigns that don’t reflect your brand weaken everything.

How to align your higher ed. Marketing teams for maximum campaign resonance.

If you’re dubious about making large-scale alignment a reality, hear us out. It does happen.

Start by understanding what motivates and inspires people across your institution’s community — donors, students, community members, researchers, faculty members and staff.

Sustainability? Access to the arts? STEM research? You name it.

From there, take the findings and socialize them across the different groups.

  • Does this ring true?
  • Does this matter: is it interesting to you?
  • Is this exciting, does it make you feel proud or reassured? 

You want to see how those findings resonate (or not) with everyone in the post-secondary community. Then, we get to work on crafting a brand story that reflects what you found in your research.

Next is the buy-in part.

Present the brand story to all the stakeholders who have a say. You want to introduce them to the idea as a whole before going into the nitty-gritty details of tactics and creative strategy.

It works. Teams get energized by seeing what’s possible when they can all agree on one resonant way to tell their brand’s story. 
This can be your institution’s reality. In fact, it should be. Your campaigns will be well-rounded and resounding as a result. And if you need help with the buy-in part (or any part) we’re here to help.

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