Addressing Challenges in Higher Education Operations
By: Sharanya Venkatesh, Digital Marketing Manager, Wealthengine
Higher education fundraising has seen a recent uptick. Colleges and universities across the United States raised close to $50 billion in 2018, according to Fortune. This is a 7% increase from the previous year. Although participation rates are declining, large gifts are rising. Still, over 25% of these funds went to the top 3 institutions. It is important to understand how these top universities are seeing such a high-level of fundraising success.
One way to analyze this is through the lens of operations, especially constituent management and reporting. There is a strong link between efficient operations and effective fundraising.
What does successful higher ed fundraising look like? Advancement success ultimately comes down to identifying, engaging, and nurturing donors and prospects. Nurturing donors and prospects is based on having the right tools for higher education constituent management.
Nurture your constituents from prospect to student to alumni, and you can build your community and strengthen your higher ed institution.
Who is considered a constituent? This can be anybody in your higher ed CRM, including students, faculty, alumni, and board members. Constituents can become prospects for your fundraising efforts either now or in the future. Each constituent has their own lifecycle in connection with your institution. For instance, let’s consider the student journey.
Prospective students begin exploring higher education options in the discovery stage. They find out more about institutions of their choice in the inquiry stage. This is followed by actually applying to the university or college, getting admitted, staying enrolled until graduation, and then engaging with you as alumni.
It is important to anticipate the needs of constituents in every stage of their journey. Doing this will help you create a great prospect, student, and alumni experience. Creating engaging experiences and long-term relationships with constituents lays the foundation for successful fundraising as well.
So, how can you streamline operations at your institution to put the constituent first?
The Challenge with Higher Education Constituent Management
One of the primary challenges in higher education constituent management is the fragmented nature of data collection and storing.
Universities and other institutions often operate in silos. This causes constituent data to be stored in inconsistent ways by different departments, schools, and units. For instance, admissions may record info on parents and relatives in one CRM, but then not share that information with other departments. This makes it difficult for advancement offices to then solicit parents.
Challenges with Higher Education Reporting
The first obstacle to creating insightful reports in higher ed stems from the same cause as above: the fragmented nature of data collection and storage.
The second obstacle stems from the fact that higher education institutions need to report different statistics to different authorities and bodies. For instance, enrollment data may need to be reported to IPEDS. The same data may need to be reported to Veterans’ Affairs with a different filter, and to the National Student Clearinghouse, in a different format. Further, financial aid information may need to be reported to the National Student Loan Data System.
For more on how CRM can help your advancement team, read this e-book.
About the Author
Sharanya Venkatesh is Content/Digital Marketing Manager at WealthEngine. She creates thought leadership content and reports on industry trends and best practices for higher education and other industries. Prior to WealthEngine, Sharanya was an MBA candidate at the University of Oxford. Her career before Oxford involved working in marketing communications across various lifestyle-related industries in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. You can read her other articles on WealthEngine’s blog.
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