Publications & Products
October 2017
Volume 15 Issue 10

Research and News of Note

The 5 Essentials of Digital Storytelling

E-Mentoring Advice from CASE Mentees

Mastering the Quick Campaign

Engage Alumni with Interest Groups


The 5 Essentials of Digital Storytelling

Fresno Pacific University doesn't always have the opportunity to explore an alumnus's chocolate factory. But when it does, it produces rich Facebook and Instagram stories with results that were pretty sweet.

"The response, engagement and shares were overwhelming," Lisa Alvey, FPU's associate director of social media, shared during CASE's Oct. 10 #casesmc chat on digital storytelling. One takeaway, according to Alvey: in digital storytelling, strong visuals from an intriguing place are key.

During the chat, Alvey, fellow social media professionals and moderator Liz Harter, social media manager at the University of Notre Dame, explored what makes digital narratives effective. Here's what chatters cited as the essential ingredients of strong higher education or independent school stories.

Great digital stories are:

Priority-aligned. Great stories highlight an institution's strategic objectives or campaign priorities. For instance, the University of Notre Dame's stories site, launched just a few weeks ago, includes video and written pieces on research, international issues and student life-university priorities, says Harter.

Emma Gilmartin of the University of Glasgow, agreed.

"We also align [stories] to overarching university strategic objectives, profiling our research in accessible ways and building a sense of community (#TeamUofG)," she tweeted.

Stories should be part of a balanced mix of ideas sourced from across campus, too. Harter and Alvey say they brainstorm with "story teams" comprised of representatives from multiple departments, including communications, athletics, enrollment, academics, media relations and the magazine.

Platform-specific. Stories should take advantage of the unique strengths of each digital platform—Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, video, long-form narrative—offers.

"Let the story tell itself," advised Harter. "What works for one platform might not on another. Know your key points and build around those."

For instance, she explained, University of Notre Dame long-form stories are paired with two-minute videos that air on TV and fuel six slides for an Instagram story.

Storyboarded. Intentionality in stories (even in shorter pieces) is key, Harter emphasized. The University of Notre Dame doesn't use Snapchat, but its Instagram content is planned, she said.

"Our Instagram stories are storyboarded and designed to be a little more on brand," she tweeted. "It seems backwards considering that Instagram Stories are meant to be more of a ‘Here's my day,' but our audience is really responding well."

Chat participants shared that they use Snapchat templates, Adobe Premiere and After Effects to storyboard.

Highly visual. Digital storytelling relies on strong visual elements that capture moments. For long-form stories, coupling strong images with visually compelling design helps readers engage with the content. (Adobe Spark can help with design, suggested several chat participants.)

The University of Georgia, explained Jamie Lewis during the chat, adds an "at a glance" section at the top of longer stories to summarize the piece and give quick takeaways.

"I really like this, especially for features of a person! Give people the most important info at the beginning," offered Harter.

People-focused. Great stories feature resonant human experiences, several chat participants noted. Winners of CASE's Circle of Excellence Awards for web writing, for instance, include human interest pieces on a veteran who started a farm, a theater program for inmates and engineers who create prosthetic limbs for kids.

Plus, giving students and alumni a voice—by pulling story ideas from their social media feeds, highlighting their experiences, or giving them the opportunity to do Instagram or Snapchat takeovers—helps stories feel real.

"Ninety percent of our Snapchat content is student generated so it offers an authentic view of student life and experiences," tweeted Gilmartin.

Featuring student and alumni perspectives also help keep stories about recurring events—move-in, orientation, final exams, commencement—feel fresh and new.


E-Mentoring Advice from CASE Mentees

A good mentor can be a sounding board for ideas, an encouraging support system and a valuable career guide. But finding a mentor is just the first step.

When Heather Bellamy, regular giving officer at the University of Sheffield, was searching for a mentor through CASE's e-mentoring platform, she wasn't just looking for advice about the educational advancement career path, she says.

"I was also looking for someone who could help me with applications and interviews as I was actively looking for a new role," says Bellamy.

Working with her mentor, Bellamy received valuable advice about her career path and had the opportunity to reflect on her own personal development and professional planning. This eventually helped Bellamy move to the next level of her career.

Bellamy and other current mentees linked through the CASE e-mentoring platform give their advice and lessons learned from their mentor relationships.

Know what you're looking for. New to the position? Looking to change jobs? It helps to know what you want to get out of the mentor relationship as you search for someone to be your mentor, says Jessica Loftus, development manager at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

"As an early-career fundraiser, I was looking for a mentor that would not only help me work through challenges with managing my relationships with prospects but also help me navigate potentially tricky inter-office relationships," says Loftus.

Be flexible. While many people have mentors within their office or in nearby organizations, virtual tools like the CASE e-mentoring platform can allow professionals to connect with mentors with different experience in faraway cities.

"I don't think mentoring is just for early-career fundraisers. You can learn something from other people at any stage in your career," says Loftus. "It's really beneficial to have the advice of someone not in your own office. It means that they have an objective perspective on your work."

Set expectations. With busy schedules, it's important to not only be respectful of time spent as a mentor and mentee, but also when the relationship should come to an end.

"We both agreed that after my mentor had successfully coached me through a promotion that we would leave it there. Of course we've both said we would love to meet up in the future and would be happy to keep in touch," says Bellamy.

Keep an open mind. Not every mentor and mentee relationship is the same.

"There is so much knowledge and experience out there in the industry so it's great to expand your professional network," says Bellamy. "My mentor really helped to boost my confidence and the advice and coaching I received when I was applying for a job was fantastic, it definitely helped me to get a promotion."

Give back. After you complete your mentor relationship, consider becoming a mentor to another advancement professional.

"I would like to become a mentor myself as I progress through my career. Seeing how passionate my mentor was about helping others really inspired me and I know firsthand what a difference it can make to speak to someone who has been in your shoes," says Bellamy.


Mastering the Quick Campaign

Not every institution can wait for the multi-year, multi-million dollar campaign. That's why more institutions are using compact campaigns for projects that need to be completed sooner rather than later.

"Waiting for the right time, right event or right collateral will delay the inevitable, which is the actual work of asking for money," writes Rebecca Schultzberg, director of development at The Cambridge School of Weston.

Schultzberg shares tips on how to use compact campaigns in the September/October issue of Currents.

  1. Lose the large committee. If you limit your campaign team to a small group, you'll be more nimble when asking for donations.

    "For [a past campaign] we created a task force of proven volunteers: members of the parents annual fund solicitation committee. These volunteers divided up the donor list and made calls without delay," writes Schultzberg. "The chair conducted weekly email check-ins to evaluate progress. If someone wasn't making headway with a prospective donor, we reassigned the prospect to another parent with whom they had a better relationship."
  2. Skip that big event. Events are costly, both in dollars and in time. If you're not going to pull in big dollars with a big event, don't hold it.

    "Events don't raise money; people do. Campaign kickoff events require time—time that you probably don't have. Just secure meetings with donors and ask for the gift," writes Schultzberg.
  3. Use what's at hand. Instead of spending time and money on building new materials for a campaign, use in-house presentation and marketing materials. This adds polish to your pitch and can make them more meaningful, writes Schultzberg.

    "Less polished materials demonstrate that the campaign strategy has not been set in stone and that donor input is valued. Plus, you can save big on printing and design," adds Schultzberg.

Read more tips in "Move Your Campaign into the Fast Lane" in the September/October issue of Currents.


Engage Alumni with Interest Groups

Entrepreneurship. Public speaking. Dragon boat racing. There's an alumni group for each of those at Singapore Polytechnic.

"These groups give alumni a way to connect with each other and contribute in meaningful ways to our institution," explains Jessica Wong, alumni officer at Singapore Polytechnic.

Like other institutions, Singapore Polytechnic has turned to alumni groups (also called affinity groups) to give its alumni a unique avenue to connect with one another. In a recent CASE blog post, Wong explains how to best support these groups. That involves examining what each group can contribute to an institution's vision and goals.

"Alumni relations professionals play an important role in matching an institution's needs with what alumni groups can provide," she writes. "Truly, only a small number of groups really serve a school's interests. Thus, with limited resources, it is important to focus on engaging alumni groups that can support your institution's pursuits."

Read Wong's full piece, "3 Tips to Engage Alumni Through Interest Groups," on the CASE blog.