Publications & Products
April 2017
Volume 15 Issue 4

Research and News of Note

Higher Education Brand in Jeopardy, According to Inside Higher Ed Founder

Alumni Appreciation on Social: 3 Tactics

Summit 2017 Features Thomas Friedman as Opening Keynote

$10-Million-Plus Gifts to Higher Education Increased in 2016

CASE Asia-Pacific Celebrates 10 Years at APAC


Higher Education Brand in Jeopardy, According to Inside Higher Ed Founder

Colleges and universities may be "foolish" to focus on their own brand and not on the brand of higher education in today's environment, according to one leading higher education journalist.

At a recent CASE conference, Inside Higher Ed Editor and Founder Scott Jaschik said higher education is "being threatened more now than it has been for a long time." He said institutions need to think more broadly about higher education's brand and reputation and less about their individual branding in the marketplace.

During his remarks, Jaschik identified 20 issues facing higher education: 10 that are relatively new and 10 that existed before the administration change in the United States. Below are a few that Jaschik shared during a joint session for attendees of the Institute for Senior Communications and Marketing Professionals and the Institute for Senior Alumni Relations Professionals:

President Trumps proposed budget — Jaschik said the budget, if passed as proposed, would be "disastrous" for some U.S. institutions as it includes eliminating the supplemental educational opportunity grant and AmeriCorps while proposing a 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health.

Shift in economic message — When discussing how to improve the economy, the administration talks more about bringing back factory jobs than the importance of getting a college degree which differs from the previous administration, Jaschik says.

Decrease in international applications — Jaschik says nearly 40 percent of American colleges are reporting a decline in applications from international students due to reports about the travel ban and climate in the U.S.

Perception of intolerance — Higher education is seen by many as "intolerant" instead of promoting the exchange of ideas following recent incidents on campuses involving free speech.

Debt-free college — Jaschik said many thought this issue was gone but noted moves by New York and other states to implement free tuition for some students.

Shift away from degrees — Jaschik noted a growing movement toward acquiring certificates and badges-"everything besides degrees."

Jaschik closed the session by noting that although he believes institutions face serious challenges, he also believes that the work being done by colleges and universities "do change lives and the world for the better." He added that for the sake of the world, he wants institutions to "get it all right" even if it means he will have less to write about in Inside Higher Ed.


Alumni Appreciation on Social: 3 Tactics

When it comes to alumni engagement and ultimately donor stewardship, never underestimate the power of surprise swag.

It's a mantra Jordana Torres, associate director of social media at Northeastern University, swears by. At the CASE Social Media Conference in Los Angeles, California, Torres told the story of the time she shipped a collection of university memorabilia to a particularly engaged alumnus, Greg. Overjoyed, Greg (class of 1974) wrote to her and enumerated how each item (koozie, key fob, pennant) would have a place of honor in his house. 

"This is the best start to a weekend in a long time," he wrote.

This, said Torres, underlines how vital it is for social media professionals in advancement to appreciate alumni for "more than just their treasure."

"Why would our alumni want to give value to us if we don't give value to them?" she asked.

Here are three ways to use social to appreciate alumni—a key step in cultivating them as donors.

Value alumni participation.

Torres recognizes engaged alumni (like Greg) with simple prizes. She keeps an eye out for particularly active social media followers and messages them from the alumni account to ask for their address.

She sends along the swag she has on hand-hats, decals, magnets.

"A little goes a long way in showing appreciation for alumni," she says.  (Other institutions send tokens like flags, laundry bags or cookie cutters. Read about those in a recent issue of Currents.)

Value their insights.

Once they've left the halls of your institution and start racking up career experiences, alumni can be powerful sources of information. Or, as Torres put it, "Alumni love to offer their opinions. We found a way to capitalize on this desire to provide feedback."

Northeastern launched an Alumni Words of Wisdom project, putting calls out on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Last year, 52 submissions poured in. Of those, 16 nuggets of wisdom were made into a booklet for graduating seniors, including: "Graduation isn't the end of your education. Keep learning; stay passionate; never settle," and, "The world is actually much smaller than it seems, so make sure to treat everyone with dignity and respect."

The alumni team is now collecting advice for the Class of 2017.

Value their experiences.

The Northeastern University Office of Alumni Relations uses its Instagram account (@northeastern_alumni) to showcase alumni voices through takeovers. Each week, a different graduate (after signing an agreement with guidelines) takes over the account, posting at least one photo a day. Posts go behind the scenes in alumni's varied lives-from zoo keeping to broadcasting on ESPN to exploring Greek ruins to photographing public art. 

Now 40-plus weeks into the project, Torres says the benefits are threefold. One, engagement is up (from an average of 28 likes per week to 47). Two, it's an efficient way for a small social team to generate content. Three—most important of all for fostering alumni engagement—it's real.

"It's content that feels authentic because it is authentic," she says.


Summit 2017 Features Thomas Friedman as Opening Keynote

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer-prize winning author Thomas Friedman will share his thoughts on how to live and lead in an age of "dizzying acceleration" during a keynote address at the 2017 CASE Summit for Leaders in Advancement.

On Sunday, July 16, Friedman will open the Summit with his blueprint for overcoming the stresses and challenges of a world being transformed by technology, globalization and climate change. Friedman, who is known for distilling complicated concepts, will talk about the big trends shaping the world today and their impact on education and advancement professionals.

In a recent column, Friedman wrote that the "relentless march of technology" is a "profound disruption" in today's workplace and the overall economy. The tech evolution, he wrote, will force humans to create more value with hearts and between hearts.

"When machines and software control more and more of our lives, people will seek out more human-to-human connections-all the things you can't download but have to upload the old-fashioned way, one human to another."

Sharing insights from his bestselling book Thank You for Being Late, Friedman will offer suggestions for being a successful leader in this disruptive environment.

Visit the CASE website for more information about this year's Summit program and speakers.


$10-Million-Plus Gifts to Higher Education Increased in 2016

The number of mega gifts to higher education institutions in the United States has grown by more than 11 percent, according to a special report.

$10M+ Gifts to Higher Education reports that the higher education sector saw an 11 percent increase in gifts of $10 million or more. These mega gifts continue to drive large campaigns at colleges and universities. This year, these gifts totaled $6.18 billion and 194 gifts for the institutions included in the report.

However, the number of $50 million-plus gifts decreased by almost a third in 2016 compared to 2015. While the report acknowledges that this can be on account of the small number of $50 million-plus gifts, the slowdown could be due to the presidential election and anticipation of potential tax law changes.

"This report of $10M+ gifts paired with The Philanthropy Outlook 2017 & 2018 further supports our belief that philanthropy will continue to advance in the coming two years with forecasts of growth in giving to higher education averaging more than 6 percent over each of the next two years," says Donald M. Fellows, senior consultant and principal leader of the higher education practice at Marts & Lundy, which sponsored the survey. "And we see no signs of a slowdown among our more than 100 current Higher Education clients."

Other findings include:

  • Colleges and universities continue to dominate other nonprofit sectors in receiving gifts of more than $10 million. 
  • In 2016, higher education institutions received about 60 percent of all gifts committed at the $10 million level or higher.
  • Institutions in California, New York and Oregon are the three highest recipients of higher education mega gifts.


CASE Asia-Pacific Celebrates 10 Years at APAC

CASE Asia-Pacific will celebrate a decade of supporting advancement professionals in the region at the 10th Asia-Pacific Advancement Conference, April 24-27, in Singapore.

In recent blog posts, former CASE Vice President of International Operations Joanna Motion and CASE Vice President, Global Engagement Tricia King share their thoughts on how CASE Asia-Pacific emerged in 2007, following the formation of CASE Europe in 1994.

"All round the world, from Sao Paolo to Sydney, Cape Town to Hong Kong, people were looking to the example of the U.S. and to the experience of CASE in seeking to understand what role philanthropy and active engagement with alumni could play for their institutions," writes Motion. "There were excited conversations going on across three continents, with kind invitations to CASE to come and explore. While the opportunities were so various and enticing but resources inevitably limited, what and where should be the priorities?"

CASE and the National University of Singapore hosted an experimental conference in 2006, the first major CASE event in Asia-Pacific. After the successful conference, the 2006 CASE Board of Trustees agreed that it was time to create a presence in the region.

Today, after 10 years of growing advancement in the region, King expresses excitement of the days ahead.

"Australia is currently buzzing with energy and excitement in the region as the depth and breadth of higher education philanthropy expands apace," writes King. "China is also growing as a destination for universities and schools who are connecting with alumni and donors as well as building academic partnerships."

To read more reflections on 10 years serving higher education in the Asia-Pacific region and preparation for this year's APAC, check out the blog