CASE Commissions Recap: Digital Donor Engagement, Staff Retention, and More
The three CASE Commissions—Alumni Relations, Communications and Marketing, and Philanthropy—met in October 2022, in Washington, D.C., for their biannual meeting. In these sessions, our volunteer commissioners unpacked trends, key issues, and big ideas in advancement. Here’s what they discussed.
Communications and Marketing: The Commission on Communications and Marketing discussed marketing and communications technology, including customer relationship management and content management software, marketing automation, and social media monitoring. They pointed out that marketing technology tends to be “owned” by information technology teams and used across divisions, which presents challenges especially when systems need replacing. Commissioners suggested CASE could help with best practices for technology implementation. The group stressed the need to integrate platforms for data reporting and discussed how they use data, segmentation, and personas to increase institutional awareness and enrollment.
The Great Resignation continues to affect marketing and communications teams. They are dealing with high turnover and staff wanting to work remotely. More staff and even managers are moonlighting, and leaders are asking staff to reaffirm their primary employment with human resources. One commissioner acknowledged having a fully staffed team and attributed it to hiring for skills and malleability, not experience, and moving fast in the hiring process.
Finally, the commission reviewed the Discover the Next campaign, CASE’s initiative to promote the value of higher education. The group recommended grassroots stories from students and leaders outside of education to communicate the value of higher education.
Philanthropy: The Commission on Philanthropy began its meeting with a roundup of the current state of philanthropy at commission members’ institutions. Several noted successes—many exceeding campaign goals—with principal gifts from big-impact donors, while expressing concern that the pandemic may have compromised the donor pipeline in terms of number of donors making smaller gifts. The group also discussed the future of the profession related to the next generation: How are we cultivating and welcoming newcomers? Members shared that they would like to see more young professionals in volunteer roles with CASE. Other topics for COP included trends in digital engagement and the changing face of corporate partnerships.
On digital engagement, the commission considered, “The innovation we used out of necessity is here to stay. That does not mean there is not value in face-to-face meetings and in-person events but there is no doubt we can expand our reach, move faster, and combine traditional methods of engagement with the new age of digital advancement.”
On corporate sponsorships, the commission considered, “The growing trend within educational institutions to create seamless 'one-stop-shops' for corporate partnerships. Are we organized/structured to effectively and efficiently work with corporate partners? If not, we may be leaving significant resources on the table.”
Alumni Relations: The Commission on Alumni Relations started conversations looking at how CASE is navigating complexities and is currently positioned to support alumni relations professionals. They discussed CASE’s regional relevance while it expands globally; thought leadership around Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation; attracting and retaining talent through diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives; and how best to utilize volunteer talent in staff-driven enterprises. Volunteers pointed out that now more than ever, CASE needs to articulate a strong value proposition and continue to form strong partnerships that both drive and deliver value for member institutions.
Volunteers explored the areas of research where CASE is building data sets and how that data will drive tactical strategy, especially concerning alumni engagement. Conversation also bore out a belief that CASE must increase the ways and means by which we provide newcomer training. There’s turnover in our alumni populations—and right now, that’s greater than teams’ capacity to both attract and train professionals in alumni relations roles.
The Commission acknowledged that in a post-pandemic world, alumni engagement has changed, but exactly how is still largely unknown. Data seem to suggest that alumni want to engage in in-person programming but actual participation may suggest the opposite. Funding for alumni programs is increasingly challenging. Volunteers agreed that it’s important to continue higher education’s work of creating belonging and navigating political complexity with our states and alumni bodies. They raised two key questions for future discussion: how alumni volunteers’ expectations have changed—and how prepared and staffed are CASE member institutions for those changes.
In November, the CASE Board also met to explore key trends and association priorities. Learn more about this meeting.