Blog: Pushing Past the Status Quo

A few ideas to help you mix up your recruitment, branding, and fundraising strategies.

By The Campus Sonar Team

You feel a sense of urgency. You want to act differently. Here’s a few starting points.

Magnifying glass looking at a college application

Recruitment has changed. Remember Eric Hoover’s “Act Now” article? Like it or not, college is becoming commoditized—for many prospects, it already is. Marketing and sales principles apply to higher education more now than ever. You may know some of them: the traditional marketing mix of product, price, place, promotion; the importance of customer experience. These principles must be considered when designing recruitment strategies. Emailing hundreds of thousands of students about a “special extended application deadline” isn’t cutting it. They see right through you.

Higher ed brands aren’t sacred. Only half of U.S. adults think colleges and universities are affecting the country positively. Most of the 40 percent of institutions struggling to survive don’t have national brand recognition. A great brand campaign alone won’t raise your profile. Prospects, families, and donors form their opinion of your brand just like they do others—through word of mouth and experiences from someone like them. That’s why “somebody like me” has been one of the most trustworthy sources of information for years. Your brand is what other people say it is. If you’re not paying attention to what they say, you will lose the battle for consumer trust. That’s not a battle your institution can afford to lose.

Dollars and coins coming out of a piggy bankFundraising has never been more important. Less tuition revenue doesn’t have to result in a smaller operating budget. Donor support can transform institutions as they retool for the future. While unrestricted funds (i.e., annual giving) can fill in short-term gaps, specific needs can be filled if development staff can identify donors with a capacity and willingness to give to a specific cause. This requires more than class reunions, giving days, and student phonathons. Advancement must understand not only the changing needs and interests of alumni; they must also actively seek out unaffiliated donors who support causes the campus is uniquely positioned to impact.