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“We want our message to have two purposes and be really clear—come back and give back.” - Kristin Salkil, Associate Director of Class Giving, University of California, San Francisco

Looking Past "One-Size-Fits-All” Campaigns to Reach Niche Alumni Groups

With the launch of its ambitious $5 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, UCSF’s alumni officers identified reunion audiences as key stakeholders in attaining this larger goal, but knew they needed to rethink their approach to engaging their 67,000-plus alumni to achieve success. It was critical they rapidly cultivate more alumni into both active reunion participants and event donors, but UCSF’s “one-size-fits-all” blast campaigns were not effectively engaging this diverse alumni group.

As they prepared for the upcoming alumni reunion weekend, alumni officers had to overcome two primary obstacles. Historically, the team’s efforts had been focused solely on event attendance and needed to transition to a dual role focused on both event attendance and event fundraising. Furthermore, they needed to be able to personalize messages to their highly diverse target alumni group spanning thirteen reunion years across six decades with graduates from one of four distinct programs: Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing or Pharmacy.

“We need alumni to feel like we know them when we’re talking to them,” says Kristin Salkil, associate director of Class Giving. “We want our message to have two purposes and be really clear—come back and give back.”

Driving Alumni Engagement with a Personalized Communication Journey

Salkil and her team wanted to create excitement around UCSF’s upcoming reunion weekend. To do so, they needed to engage alumni in a dynamic way with tailored, individualized messaging. “The fifty-fifth reunion alums require different messaging than those attending their fifth-year reunion, and alumni from the School of Pharmacy require different messaging than those from the School of Medicine,” notes Salkil.

UCSF’s alumni team created a nurture campaign using Marketing Cloud to build excitement around and participation in a reunion for 13 graduating classes in four Schools, or 56 classes, totaling approximately 5,000 people. This new alumni communication journey:

  • Created customized, individualized email messaging, accounting for both graduating year and professional school
  • Built interest in the upcoming reunion with different messages sent out over a multi-month period that differed based on the actions of the recipient
  • Cultivated engagement using links to nostalgic-focused and informational content via social media
  • Incorporated information about donating a reunion gift—even if the individual could not attend the event

New Communication Journey Results in Impressive Engagement Numbers

The dynamic communication journey Salkil and her team built resulted in greater engagement with UCSF’s alumni and led to higher reunion attendance and more dollars raised for the comprehensive campaign than in the past. The team could see the impact of the campaign based on data collected during the communications process as well as the in the final registration numbers and donation amounts. Achievements included:

  • 37% average open rate, with a high of 68%
  • 4.5% average click-through rate, with a high of 12%
  • 4 times the registrant goal
  • 158 people donated reunion gifts, totaling more than $50,000, with no outside solicitation

Continuing to Engage Alumni with Tailored Communications

UCSF’s alumni officers plan to deepen their use of Marketing Cloud to reach the university’s diverse alumni by doing things like testing to see which messages resonate best and by adding more dynamic content. “We’re going to expand niche communications and content to see if we can get more alumni to start engaging with us again,” says Michelle De La Cruz Ruiz, Digital Director.

Beyond reunion communication efforts, there are a few new campaigns that UCSF staff will launch with Journey Builder in the near future. One is for a non-donor acquisition program. Another Journey will focus on communicating with new donors in a timely manner about how their gifts impact the university. These tailored interactions will continue to strengthen connections to UCSF alumni and other stakeholders, helping the university achieve its development goals.

Download the UCSF Case Study.

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