Publications & Products
May 2014
Volume 12 Issue 5

Research and News of Note

Survey: Strong Student Philanthropy Programs Vital to Overall Fundraising Success

Number of Donors, Giving to UK Institutions Reach All-Time High

How Marketers Can Build a Sustained, Unified Brand Platform

UK Needs More Higher Education Fundraisers, Report Says

How Event Planners Can Get More for Their Money


Survey: Strong Student Philanthropy Programs Vital to Overall Fundraising Success

Results from a new survey on student engagement reveal that colleges and universities that invest in student fundraising programs tend to raise more money per capita and are more successful at engaging their students as lifelong donors than institutions that do not make such investments.

The CASE Student Philanthropy Study surveyed fundraisers and alumni relations staff at more than 200 higher education institutions worldwide to gather perspectives and best practices on student philanthropy.

According to the survey, the majority of institutions surveyed invest little in student philanthropy with nearly half of the institutions allocating US$2,500 or less to engage students during fiscal year 2014. Alumni relations and fundraising staff at these institutions also cite minimal staffing and low financial support as obstacles to establishing effective student philanthropy programs on their campuses.

Other key findings include:

  • More than two-thirds of surveyed institutions have a staff working group or a campus organization dedicated to student philanthropy; nearly one in 10 institutions had no activity.
  • Nearly 75 percent of student philanthropy programs are funded by the development or fundraising office followed by the alumni relations office at 38 percent (many institutions listed multiple sources).
  • Less than 15 percent of advancement professionals rate their institutions as having a high or very high degree of success in engaging students.
  • Beyond resources (staff and budget), another frequently cited barrier is that many students believe they have already fulfilled their financial obligation by paying tuition.
  • Advancement offices that collaborate with students on engagement through peer-to-peer networking or student leadership groups have significantly higher giving participation rates.

Campbell & Company, a national consulting and executive search firm for nonprofits, sponsored the survey. A more detailed report on the findings is available in the May/June issue of CURRENTS.


Number of Donors, Giving to UK Institutions Reach All-Time High

Giving to universities in the United Kingdom reached an all-time high in 2012-2013 with institutions reporting more than £659 million in cash donations, a 23 percent increase over gifts received in 2011-2012.

The recently released Ross-CASE survey also reported that nearly 175,000 alumni gave to their universities, an increase of 60 percent during the past six years. Overall, nearly 250,000 donors made gifts to higher education institutions in 2012-2013.

Other key findings:

  • Universities had 9.3 million contactable alumni, up from 8.5 million in the previous year—an increase of 9 percent.
  • In total, 59 percent of cash given was from organisations and 41 percent from individuals.
  • Fundraising delivered a better rate of return than the previous year: every pound donated cost, on average, 27p to raise, compared with 36p the year before.
  • There were 44 more fundraising staff working in the sector in 2012-2013, and 1,198 fundraising staff in total among the universities surveyed.

Nearly 140 UK higher education institutions responded to the annual survey, which is the only detailed source of information on higher education philanthropic giving in the UK.

Kate Hunter, executive director of CASE Europe, one of the key partners in the report, said it is "hugely encouraging to see such a strong increase in cash income and the number of donors giving to UK universities in 2012-2013.

"Organisations and individuals are giving, in growing numbers, to support the work of universities across teaching, learning and research," Hunter said. "Universities deliver benefit to the public in many ways, and fundraisers are becoming increasingly professional and persuasive in making their case to a range of supporters."


How Marketers Can Build a Sustained, Unified Brand Platform

How can decentralized, often siloed institutions rally around a unified brand? The first step, according to a marketing expert, is to listen intently.

Jason Simon, vice president and partner at SimpsonScarborough, led the "Building a Brand with Market-Informed Strategies" session that kicked off the 2014 Annual Conference on Marketing and Branding, held earlier this month in Baltimore, Md.

Simon began with a definition of brand, defined by marketing experts Al Ries and Jack Trout as "the sum total of all existing associations made with your institution" and branding as "the process of influencing those associations." As the concept applies to institutions, branding is where they stand now, and the act of branding takes the institution to where it wants to be. A brand platform is "who you are and what you stand for," said Simon.

"It's an evolutionary process," he said. "We tend to really tire of the ways we express [brand messaging] just around the time people get to understand it. One of the challenges is that it's not continuous; we're not done after the campaign."

Simon identified other challenges to educational branding, such as a decentralized organization, and not adequately meeting student and alumni needs.

How do institutions overcome these barriers to establish a strong brand position? Simon recommended starting with both qualitative and quantitative research, including focus groups, surveys, interviews and high-quality analysis on reputation, competitive advantages and student choice.

"Our experience shows that when asking prospects to rate universities on attributes, a large portion can't even rate many of the schools," said Simon. "If you look at college rankings, the schools at the top don't change over time because they're so established in people's minds and people don't know about the rest of them."

He said research should determine what an institution's most important audiences identify as its top strengths—as well as those of its competitors, both current and aspirational.

Being aware of the larger ecosystem is important when determining a brand message that makes your institution stand out, said Simon. He also recommended marketers do the following:

  • Obtain firm support from senior leadership to commit to the success of your institution's new brand position.
  • Secure the resources necessary to conduct quality research, involve key players and probe relevant issues.
  • Determine the advantages and disadvantages for your current brand messages. If your institution is known as a top public university, does that mean you're established or does "public" sound like an apology?
  • Relentlessly focus your positioning frame. "By adding other things in, your attributes become contradictory," said Simon. This focus should be narrowed by analysis and supported by metrics.

Simon noted that the hardest part is to balance all of these components.

"You don't want a big idea without institutional commitment to bring it to life," he said. "What you want is a campaign with a sustained, continual process."

More takeaways from the conference can be found on the #CASEACMB Twitter hashtag and the CASE website.


UK Needs More Higher Education Fundraisers, Report Says

A new report finds that the number of fundraisers in UK higher education must at least double in less than a decade to meet an ambitious goal set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

A 2012 HEFCE report set a goal for UK colleges and universities to raise £2 billion per year in gifts from 640,000 donors by 2022. A new HEFCE report, released earlier this month, finds that the nearly 1,800 professional fundraisers in UK higher education "will need to double, if not triple" to meet this goal.

The new report makes recommendations—and includes an instructive toolkit—on how to attract, retain and develop the fundraisers necessary to achieve this target. For example, the report urges UK institutions to "use all available opportunities to raise the profile of fundraising as a career" in higher education.

"I hope that higher education fundraising becomes one of the careers of choice for our very best graduates," says Shirley Pearce, chair of the report's working group and former vice-chancellor of Loughborough University. "Our work has proved that investment in fundraising brings results whatever the size or type of university or college. If this success is to continue, we must have a strong and growing group of educational fundraisers who are skilled in leading development teams and working with academics and institutional leaders."

Kate Hunter, executive director of CASE Europe, says she believes the publication of this report will help raise the profile of the fundraising profession in the UK. In addition, she notes that CASE supports the report's recommendations.

"During the past 10 years, the sector's approach to fundraising has been transformed," she says. "CASE Europe has played an important role in developing the profession, and the opportunities presented in the workforce report are welcomed."


How Event Planners Can Get More for Their Money

Special event planners can ultimately save money by purchasing equipment that they will use repeatedly for all of their events, says one experienced practitioner.

Richard Williams, director of special events at Loyola University Chicago, said that event planners should know when to buy a piece of equipment and when to rent it.

"Sometimes your [equipment] need for an event has a shelf life of about three hours-the length of the event and then it's done," he said. "In that case, no, you shouldn't buy it. You should be renting it."

If the need for a piece of equipment is consistent at multiple events, Williams said he is inclined to purchase it. For example, he noted that his staff now has its own set of two-way radios that it uses to communicate at all events. Williams noted that he presented a cost analysis to his supervisors that showed the institution could save money by buying the radios, instead of renting them numerous times a year. In addition-as unique signage for each and every event can get expensive-he encourages the design and purchase of generic signage that is appropriate for display at many events.

To hear more advice from Williams on how to put on a cost-effective event for alumni, donors and other constituencies, listen to the latest episode of Advancement Talk—an audio feature for CASE premier members.