Social media and CRM improve alumni targeting

Social media and CRM improve alumni targeting

By Ellucian on Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Thomas Chaves oversees a 22-person team and all the technology that supports Lehigh University’s advancement operations, including prospect research, campaign management, and reporting and analysis. While Chaves appreciates the customer relationship management (CRM) tools in place to aid his goals, he looks forward to taking advantage of sentiment analysis to propel Lehigh’s advancement initiatives in the future.

“We’re starting to work with sentiment analysis, although from our perspective the technology still isn’t entirely usable,” Chaves says. Sentiment analysis refers to the process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in text to determine whether the writer has a positive, negative, or neutral attitude toward a topic or product. Some people also call this opinion mining.

“In higher education, you can more easily get a donation from alumni when you know what they want to donate to,” Chaves says. “If you can capture alumni sentiment on social media, for example, you can maximize philanthropic support to your organization. That’s the real goal.”

Offering himself as an example, Chaves suggests that if a charity were to figure out from social media that he’s a New York Mets fan and has two grandchildren, that charity could likely create a product or offering that capitalizes on those interests. The difficulty lies in wading through all the data to flag what’s relevant to that charity, he admits.

“You can get to all the data out there at some level, but you need alerts to notify you when something significant pops up or when a data point meets a threshold — whatever criteria you set,” Chaves says. Sentiment analysis will prove its usefulness if it can identify specific alumni for targeted outreach.

Donors’ increasing desire to tie giving to their favorite university causes or departments drives the need for more sophisticated CRM tools such as sentiment analysis. “Getting people to give without restrictions is a tough sell,” says Chaves. “Our unrestricted results have been pretty flat, but restricted giving keeps climbing. We must figure out how we can tailor an appeal to maximize effectiveness.”

Lehigh University has found success in personalizing campaigns through hypersegmentation. “The last couple of years, we’ve tailored our phoning and mailing to hone in on more specific cohorts based on their past giving and any other data points we can find.” Chaves says the institution sees good results from this effort. “We measure that in LYBUNT (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year) retention and number of donors. Our retention is on an upward trend, from low 70 percent a few years ago to 74 to 75 percent now. Our donor growth is positive as well, growing about 2 to 3 percent per year over the last few years.”

To accomplish such granular targeting, Lehigh maintains a core system of record in its baseline CRM system. “We tap into other data and tie them to that core record to make everything accessible from the university’s information management platform,” Chaves explains. Integration with several other back-end systems provides a seamless user experience.

Overall, Chaves emphasizes the value of information in driving engagement. “We need to recognize that our relationship with alumni constitutes only a small piece of their lives,” Chaves says. “To truly enhance our relationship with alumni, we must understand the rest of their lives.”
THOMAS CHAVES, Associate VP for Development and Alumni Relations, Lehigh University
Thomas Chaves is a higher education IT leader who has more than 25 years of experience in consulting, product management, development, marketing, and management. He is adept at working with internal and external customers to drive new and existing solutions to proper use and effectiveness. Tom has presented on industry trends, market drivers, and technology-based approaches to solving challenges, and he is skilled at using systems to effectively manage the advanced information needs of a university.

To learn how Ellucian can help your institution meet its advancement goals, please visit our Alumni Relations and Fundraising webpage.

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