Connecting The Dots In University Corporate Relations
By: Terry Callaghan, AVP, Information Technology & Records Administration, Rutgers University Foundation
As a major AAU research university, and as the flagship state institution in the state of New Jersey, Rutgers University has many types of stakeholders and constituents. I work in Advancement and have the pleasure of getting to know quite a number of constituents – from students and their families to faculty and staff to alumni and donors that make up our broader community. Over the past few years, we have been focused on making our interactions with our constituents personalized, meaningful and timely by using the power of a higher education CRM. This has prompted us to ask the question: How can we use this technology to better serve our stakeholders in Corporate Relations?
Why is Corporate Relations Important To A University?
Corporate Relations is an amazing opportunity when it comes to supporting initiatives and research at a university. Aside from direct philanthropy, relationships with corporate entities can result in sponsored research projects. Moreover, corporations can drive other critical engagement activities, such as continuing-studies programs for executive education, volunteering and career planning mentorship and opportunities for students and alumni. These interactions that drive for a new vision of Corporate Relations are only part of the story. There are also pain points that cause us and other universities to rethink the status quo.
Challenge #1: Do No Harm
At a large university, you may have any number of relationships in place between staff, faculty, and corporations. Before reaching out to engage with a contact at a company, we strive to understand all of the interactions currently in play…which can be a daunting, if not wholly impossible, task. You run the risk of a high-level university administrator entering a meeting with a strategic corporate partner and having incomplete information. In other cases, one part of the university might be trying to initiate a relationship with an entity, and it might be helpful for that group to leverage a contact that another part of the university is already working with.
Challenge #2: Getting Pixels Instead Of The Whole Picture
In the past, it was very difficult for most universities to get a complete 360 degree picture of corporate relationships with standard university software. You might have a researcher or research team in place. Every time a prospective corporation is visited, the researcher might put together an executive profile of that corporation, what has been the most recent activity and with what contacts, a list of gifts and/or grants made, etc. This takes a lot of time, and you can never be sure that you have the full picture of what is ultimately a connected campus.
Challenge #3: Corporations Are Constantly Evolving
Let’s say your prospective corporation is part of a complex corporate structure with a parent corporation as well as many subsidiaries and locations. Let us also not forget that corporations are living entities. It can be a challenge to keep track of mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, buyouts, branding updates and other changes on a regular basis.
Onwards & Upwards
On the other side, corporations likely have a better handle on all of the ways that they touch universities. You have to remember that they have been using technology to build relationships and manage oversight for a long time. CRM is still relatively new for Higher Ed.
At Rutgers University, we are about to change all of that. We just formed the Corporate Engagement Center to provide a holistic view on corporate relations. This unit will report jointly to the Foundation and to the Office of Research and Economic Development. The goal is simple: We want to know our university-wide interactions with corporations and form better strategic relationships. This is where higher education CRM comes in. We know that we are not the first to start this journey, but we are certainly leading the forefront of this shift.
Discovery Questions For Using A CRM In Corporate Relations:
As we wrap-up, I would like to offer the following advisory discovery questions to universities that want to follow in our footsteps:
1. Are you a major research university?
2. What are the pain points related to Corporate Relations at your university?
3. How much does Corporate Relations impact overall philanthropy at your university?
4. Are you being strategic in your corporate relationships?
5. Have you involved all the right stakeholders?
6. Is there consensus around a vision for an ideal state of university Corporate Relations?
7. What outcome(s) will you use to determine success?
8. Does your working group understand the power of a higher education CRM?
9. Are you re-evaluating related business processes in addition to implementing new tech?
10. Have you gathered feedback on what currently works and doesn’t work from companies with whom you already work with?
This all boils down to one simple question: are you serving your corporate partners in the best way possible?
Corporate relations is such an amazing area, and most of us are not yet fully capturing the value of the relationships that we have with stakeholders. Our project at Rutgers University is currently underway and I look forward to keeping you all up-to-date. Until then, thank you for reading and feel free to get in touch with me to share your feedback!
About the Author
Terry Callaghan is the AVP of Information Technology and Alumni Records for Rutgers University Foundation. She is responsible for all aspects of IT support, business intelligence, gift processing, data governance and compliance. Prior to her work in higher education, Terry led the data governance team at a fortune 100 investment company. Terry is a member of the Salesforce Advancement Advisory Council. In addition, she has held numerous leadership roles in the Higher Ed advancement community including: Association of Advancement Services Professionals (AASP) Best Practices committees – Chair, Information Services; and Chair, Data Management. In addition, Terry has served on the faculty for the CASE Advancement Services Leaders and CASE Gift Processing and Biographic Records conferences. She is a cum laude graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the MOR leadership program. Terry holds a certificate in Management Leadership and a Mini-MBA in digital marketing, both from Rutgers University.
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