Straight Talk: Capture’s CEO on Why Solicitation Channels are Broken

One in four collegiate CFOs fear their institution will go bankrupt in the next eight years. As a major source of funding for your college or university, it is time to admit that the status quo is not moving the needle because solicitation channels are broken. Phone, direct mail and segmented email campaigns are hitting the inevitable law of diminishing returns. If pouring more money into these channels produced more gifts, then increasing dollars through the door would be simple.

Unfortunately, pouring more money into existing channels simply does not produce more gifts: the inevitable economic law of diminishing returns.

Steve Huey, Capture CEO

Steve Huey

  • Phone programs are being cut back or removed entirely (insert mandatory Stanford comment here).
  • Email open rates specific to higher education advancement declined 14% last year. That is on top of a 2% decline in click through rates (Blackbaud Luminate Report).
  • With every graduating class, a larger percentage of alumni fall into the category that checks their mailbox three times a year — on their birthday, during the holidays and when Amazon Prime delivers.

Existing channels hit this wall because of the disconnect between established practices and current alumni behaviors. For decades, creative direct mail and top phone-a-thon callers successfully drove the solicitation calendar as a (sometimes) welcomed campus update for alumni. But, the increase in online content has empowered alumni to find the exact information they seek at the time they seek it. This shift in behavior means that, for years now, alumni have been developing their own digital relationships with the institution online.

Just as we can now shop for groceries online, alumni of all ages have chosen a relationship with their alma mater online. In fact, more than 50 percent of the alumni we track on university websites graduated before 1985. The break in solicitation channels happens when an institution sticks to established channels and ignores the new digital relationship alumni have with the institution.

When was the last time an alum wrote a letter to ask about an article in the newsletter, or called in to register for the chapter event next week? Yes, every channel has its purpose in a comprehensive solicitation calendar. But it is only the new channel — marketing automation — that can develop true relationships with alumni when and where they engage the institution today.

Marketing automation software, which allows you to identify and solicit alumni visiting your website, gives you the ability to deliver with the right message, to the right alum, at the right place at the right time. What’s the power of this opportunity for university advancement? Our research has found:

  • Our partners see an average of 24x ROI.
  • An online relationship makes an alum 300% more likely to give.
  • An online relationship increases an average gift almost 10%.
  • In 30 days, we identified over $1 million of unmanaged leadership and high capacity alumni active on a partner’s site.
  • 60% of alumni identified online meet leadership or major gift capacity ratings.

As Capture’s CEO, I understand the timing of this message as we all focus on landing the plane of FY18. But as you take a moment to refuel for 2019, I encourage you to visit our resources page if you would like to explore more on your own. I also encourage you to contact our Director of Philanthropic Initiatives, Kevin Bauman, with any questions or you can reach out to me directly.

By Steve Huey, Chief Executive Officer, Capture Higher Ed