3 Ways Hyper Personalization Evolves Alumni Engagement

Shad Hanselman

Associate Vice President, Annual Giving

August 6, 2019

Even before the term “hyper personalization” was coined, the concept was part of the holy grail of advancement: the ability to engage prospects, through the optimal channels, with content that is relevant to the individual, done at scale to your ever-increasing audience of diverse donors. For years technology has pointed at this as a possibility for the future and, with recent advancements in AI and machine learning, the future is now.

It might sound like the land of unicorns and rainbows, but this type of hyper personalization and messaging is available now, and companies worldwide are leveraging this power to increase their consumer base and grow their businesses. Even the fast food industry is adopting this new technology with news earlier this spring that McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, a company that focuses on evolving and personalizing the digital customer experience. So why have fundraisers been slow to adopt hyper personalization?

The short answer: leveraging technology to deliver a hyper-personalized experience radically challenges how we engage and solicit alumni. There is a certain fear factor that exists with change, especially when it may mean that norms we have relied on for years such as “everyone should be sent a CYE mailing” or “we have to ask for unrestricted support” control how we communicate with alumni and donors. We have to embrace the fact that the way we have always done things isn’t working, that other companies are changing the expectations of our constituents, and that if we want to build life-long engagement it starts with 1:1 engagement.

3 essential elements for hyper personalization

It’s time to expect more and you should be asking if your engagement platform can provide these three things you need to successfully implement a hyper-personalized approach to alumni engagement.

1. A deeper understanding of your audience

Deeper understanding

You know your alumni are more than a set of demographics, a transcript, and a giving history. Despite this, institutions have struggled to gather more personalized interests from their core audiences at the same time they are more than willing to share this information via social media. Your platform, leveraging AI and machine learning can provide your institution with actionable insights to connect your alumni with engagement opportunities directly tied to their passions.

2. Personalization at scale

Hyper personalization at scale

Personalization at scale is essential for higher education—as RNL’s president and CEO discussed at the RNL National Conference. However, the heavy lifting of personalization has often been the resources needed to collect and sort through the vast amount of news stories, program updates, and student accomplishments your institution produces and your donors crave. Your next-gen communications platform needs to take on this task by combing through your ever-expanding institutional communications, collating and cataloguing the information, and then using that content to hyper-personalize messaging to your audience in everything from individualized newsletters to triggered solicitations to enhanced stewardship providing simple-yet-meaningful updates on the impact of their support.

3. Optimization across channels

Omnichannel optimization

Finally, the days of single-channel communications are over. What you think of now as your email platform needs to be the hub of omnichannel communications network, working as the gatekeeper and integration point between your database and your expanding and evolving suite of communications streams. Every touch point you have with your alumni, from an online ad to a face-to-face meeting, needs to focus on their interest and provide a clear, consistent message that leverages their engagement to support your advancements. (Dive into this topic more in my colleague Josh Robertson’s post, The Omnichannel Illusion in Higher Ed Fundraising.)

Your engagement and communication platform needs to help you successfully engage your audience with the right message, at the right time, to the right prospects, via the right channels. If what you have now is only providing a partial view of your alumni through manually-activated, unconnected channels, then it is time to explore launching a new platform that is right for you and your institution.

Take the next steps toward evolving donor engagement through hyper personalization

Contact RNL today and we’ll introduce you to the future of hyper personalized, omnichannel communications. We’ll show you how you can reach more of the right donors in ways that engage them and maximize their likelihood to give.

Ask for a free consultation with an RNL fundraising expert.

About the Author

Shad Hanselman

Shad Hanselman is an experienced fundraising professional dedicated to advancing the art and science of annual giving. He has spent more than twelve years innovating in the annual giving space in such arenas as call...

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