How do personalized communications enhance the student lifecycle?
- Personalized communications influence college choice
- Alumni will give more if their donations fund activities they participated in on campus
- 87% of administrators agree institutions cannot stay competitive without integrating data across departments
Do personalized communications really make a difference in enrollment, retention, and advancement? According to a recent survey of students, alumni, and administrators, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” In fact, 87% of students agree that personalized communications were an important factor in their school choice and 85% of recent alumni agree that they would give more if they knew their donation was funding an initiative they were involved with as a student.
So what are higher education institutions doing to foster personalized communications on and off campus? At Educause 2018, I asked this question to a panel of administrators from admissions, advising, and alumni relations. Here’s what they told me.
Becki Cardenas, senior director of enrollment management, Alverno College, likens the recruiting process to “courting,” where both the student and the institution are looking for a good fit. To develop a relationship with its prospects, Alverno personalizes email communications with a student’s chosen name. This information is stored in their CRM system and is transitioned to their ERP once a student enrolls so it is shared as the student moves to the next stage of the lifecycle. “Today’s students expect this level of personalization from their colleges and are almost insulted if they don’t get it,” Cardenas explained.
Survey data from admissions officials across the country confirms that personalized communications, like those from Alverno, are critical for meeting enrollment goals. Nearly all recruiting administrators (97%) agreed that students that have a more personalized admissions process are more likely to enroll.
Natti Marlaire, director of advising and services at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) also sees personalized communications as a key to student success. Her institution prides itself on intentional advising—delivering the right information to the right student at the right time. For example, during orientation students are so overwhelmed that they may not be receptive to information on a specific topic like tutoring options or financial aid. But after the term starts and students face their first test or tuition payment, they start looking for answers.
CVTC uses technology to track what students sign-up for and who they speak with, so that faculty and administrators can see what the student is interested in and personalize their conversations. The college has seen early results with intentional advising and is using technology to consolidate information about its students into a single, seamless, and accessible system.
Advancement administrators believe that the campus experience is directly related to the post-graduate experience for a majority of students. In fact, 98% percent of those surveyed believe that students who are engaged on campus are more likely to donate. The alumni surveyed agreed, their top reason for donating was that they enjoyed their experience as a student, however 44% of alumni who donate do so because they have received continuous personalized communications since graduating.
That’s why the University of Denver implemented a new CRM system to capture student activities. Cathey Barbee, assistant vice chancellor, advancement services, explained “it’s not enough to see what an alumna gave last year. You need to see what activities the alumni engaged in while they were on campus.”
Barbee is excited about an upcoming campaign using this data. Denver, a big hockey school, recently hired a new coach. The university is inviting students who participated in hockey teams or attended hockey games to meet-and-greets with the coach or to attend future games.
Recent alumni concur that this level of personalization makes a difference. The majority of alumni surveyed (89%) said they would be more likely to take advantage of post-graduation opportunities if they involved groups or activities that they participated in while in college.
To these administrators, sharing data across the student lifecycle to personalize communications is critical to institutional sustainability and student success. And they aren’t alone—87% of administrators surveyed think their institutions will not be able to stay competitive without integrating their data across departments in the next five years.
But breaking down data silos is not easy. When asked how the University of Denver was able to overcome this barrier, Barbee pointed to the support of senior leadership. Marlaire too is fortunate to have executive support and to have her advising initiatives integrated into CVTC’s strategic plan.
For more resources on how you can improve the student lifecycle at your institution, visit our Enhancing the Student Lifecycle webpage.