Challenges & Opportunities in Education Development Today: Part II

Challenges & Opportunities in Education Development Today

Part 2 of 2 New Opportunities for Development

In the first of two parts of this mini- blog series we made reference to the common challenges that many educational Development departments face in their fundraising efforts today.

This second blog depicts the opportunities and some of the foundational starting points for Development to realize augmented rates of returns in this rapidly evolving donor outreach environment.

We left off with making reference to new communications plans at the strategic, tactical and deployment levels.  In order to best explain the opportunity we’ll be switching the order slightly by showing the tactical aspects first.

Because there’s a fair amount of “net new” in the way of development explanation here we ask you to think of this as “Development 2.0”.


“The Good” in development- if you can’t get the donation at least achieve some form of engagement, also known as dialogue, interactivity, feedback, anything that sets the precedent for increased dialogue and rapport building

“The Better”- well of course, get the donation!

“The Best”- get the donation and establish some form of engagement as well.

Digital communications (where your donor base is increasingly spending their communications time) naturally lends itself to increased opportunities for engagement.  Digital engagement which usually occurs within web or mobile landing pages can include donation, feedback, registration, download, follow, and purchase options.

In particular besides activity capture, feedback in the form of 1-2 question survey interactions can become critical elements to building long-term rapport development opportunities.

Web (or mobile) landing pages are in no way to be confused with your website.  Landing pages are dynamic, they are highly functional.  Think of them as marketing pages or engagement pages.  They can be easily generated and specific from one alumni-development mission or objective to the next.  Sometimes Development Officers develop landing page templates to optimize the deployment of communication patterns that tend to repeat.

As a summarized list four tactical practices for Development 2.0 consist of the following:

  • Seek to increases the instances of dialogue in every communication possible- remember most “asks” don’t end up as converted donations
  • Instances of increased dialogue should originate from all media formats and Development Officers should have strategically integrated cross media strategy plans in operation
  • All dialogue and other activities should be captured
  • Present day “Marketing CRM systems” easily allow Development Officers to establish marketing lifecycles or wireframes of relevant follow through communications based on previously captured activity or dialogue

This practice of interactive communications impacts Development’s opportunities for increased levels of rapport and donor achievement particularly as media formats proliferate and donors are found communicating across multiple platforms in their daily lives.

If any of this feels like a digital takeover for Development it’s not!  The human elements of Development never disappear.  These new tactics are merely a reflection of the opportunity that exists, and the adjusted communication patterns of the alumni base.


Everything has changed.  Old tactics no longer apply.  The strategic approach can be expressed as four stages:

  • As with any makeover- re-established priorities based on new fault lines
  • Make sure the cross media infrastructure is optimized to include “capture capabilities”
  • Develop new communication strategy methods that include “calls to action” for digital landing pages- besides the usage of your “traditional ask” you should be driving traffic towards digital (it’s your donor bases first preference for response by a factor of 7x).  Sure, the older community is mostly not digital but for an increasing percentage of your database the shift already occurred
  • Deploy with a “test-measure-refine” work ethic; success with interactive communications, the building of increased levels of rapport will take practice, but a healthy portion of your measurement can take place in real time


Marketing CRM systems will aid in your communication efforts with cross media campaign development, dialogue/activity capture, data warehousing and segmentation, and marketing lifecycle automation.

The good news in all of this is you can pick ONE AREA to start and improve performance before testing the waters in other cross media platforms.

We recommend starting with Direct Mail then onto either Events or Social Media.  Thereafter your progressions can go anywhere.

Our most recent college visits continue to validate the following:

  • Alumni relations and development are often thought out in terms of decades
  • Your increased levels of interactivity can be thought of as a journey you can embark on over the next 1-2 year
  • From a campaign deployment perspective there should be nothing holding you back from evolving in your very next campaign

This past winter we offered to provide a strategic cross media marketing plan to the CASE LinkedIn community.  265 respondents came forth.  They corroborate many of the challenges portrayed in the previous blog and a desire for new development approach plans.

You’re not alone.  These are exciting and revolutionary times for Development.

Remember, all boats rise with the tides!