15: Cornell University and the Future of Advancement Operations w/ Ashley Budd

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ashley Budd, Director of Digital Marketing (Advancement) at Cornell University talks about the latest advancements in alumni tools, technology and AI that are changing engagement and fundraising at Cornell altogether.

Find a breakdown of this episode here.

Attracting today's new post,traditional learners, means adopting new enromant strategies: Keelikseducations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrolment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and Helex has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most pressing andromant growth challengesdownload it today for free at Helocks, Educationcom, playbook, you're, listening to enrolment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to UNROMAN GrowthUniversity, I Mari Golson AVP of marketing, ATD healets education andwe're here today with Ashley Bud, Director of Digital Marketing atCornell University serving alumni fairs and development. Actually, thanks somuch for joining us today. Har Thanks for having me actually- and I have beenfriends for a while she's, also my biggest nemesis in the game, Dotson Cov,which, if you all play two dots on your phone, you really got to check out dotsand Co and try to beat us we're going to have a great conversation today onthe future of university advancement operations. But before we get into that,actually cannou bet the listeners a little bit better understanding of bothCornell University and your role. There sure I am in a digital vertical withinour advancement operation at cornel and cornel's, a big place. It's the largestIvy League school and, like many large universities, we havedifferent silos operating across campus advancement is both the alumni affairswing and development wing for the...

...university and it's a big staff. Wehave close to four hundred employees in our division, so big place lots of lotsof people working towards engaging alumni and offering them benefits andoffering them activities to say in touch with the university on theengagement end and then also I'm tying in the all. The fund raising aspects ofthe university, which is really important for a place like cornel I'mdifferent than some other tuition driven universities. Cornel really doesrely more on development to keep the keep the doors opened. So we are a big staff. I mentioned I'm in part ofa digital vertical, which is really unique in advancement. We have a webteam, social media, digital marketing, all reporting directly upto, the vicepresident for the division, so we're not HOUSD in alumni affairs or indevelopment, W we're kind of in our in our own vertical, which is really cool.It helps us work on both sides, a different program areas on both sidesof the House, ind that division awesome yeah. It feels like advancementoperations are kind of at the beginning of this digital renaissance, with newtools, new technologies, making alumni engagement and fundraising, moreeffective, never before what are some of the biggest or newest or shiniestalumni tools, R or functionality that you're currently finding the mostsuccess with the cornel or excited to start investigating, yeah advancementis an exciting place to be right now, and I did spend the first half of mycareer in enrollment and made the switch thinking that I was going or tothe dark side, this fundraising wing of higher education. But I did itbecause I thought most of the business models in higher ed were kind of tappedout on their enrolvement side, and I was really curious to see what kind ofa shift we were going to see. As you...

...know, those tuition, derven programshad peaked, you know bigger classes and raising tuition costs. Were you know wekind of hit that bubble so to see a lot of universities trying to unlock fundraising as a means to keep doors open. I, as really important so cornell'salways been on the forefront of not only fun, raising being I in the topfive universities for fun raising dollars each year, but also known fortheir willingness to take risk and try new things with digital technology.With all that said, ' looking at what universities are doing compared to someother private sector companies were still we're still behind in terms ofwhat technology is available and what we're taking advantage of. So one ofthe things that I'm really excited about is actually our website itselfand we launched a new website. It's actually still in a soft lunch phaseright now, so I'm a YEU head over to alumni do cornel, Datdu or the givingsite. Also is part of our recent launch, giving Da Cornell that Evu you're goingto find a beautiful website for the external audience, but it's really anew tool for the university and for our constituents and it's rather than just offering for sure,wher or nice storytelling, even which has been something that we've beenworking on for the past few years, it's more of a utility and it'ssomething that we own, rather than relying on some third party products 'm.So that's EEN, a shift for us an a shift for the staff to start tounderstand that our external facing website is a tool for people to use. Sothat's one of the things I'm excited about. We, you know we're still in softlunch phase, we're just kind of scratching the surface of what the siteis going to be able to do for us and over the next couple months, as westart to roll out all f the different bells and whistles that exist for theSA functionality. We're going to we're...

...going to see that pay a big role in howour alumni and our donors are able to interact with us part of that is, youknow us thinking about those interactions or now the really squishyword that we use a lot in highered that engagement, much points so trying tosurface new ways for our alumini and donors and parents of current studentsto be able to interact with the university and in a digital way, whichis the way we interact with a lot of different brands. You no organizationsthat were close to have already moved in this direction, and so the website'sgoing to offer us some new tools to be able to keep people in touch that I'mreally excited about. Let's talk about some of those bells and whistles: Howwill the new website, how do some of these new tools technologies, make iteasier for alumni to participate, whether it be easier to financiallygive back to the university or engaging in other ways? Yeah, I mean, I thinkpart of it is reorienting the site to create some logical pathways for peopleto interact and instead of presenting everything that the universitty offers,based on our assumptions of what that person might want or who had looked atour old website or reflection of our organization and kind of you know, weoffer these things in volunteerism. We offer these things for getting ratherthan orientting it that way, we're really trying to start with with theperson and rather than just put them on a path say. You know, we know that youwere in a Greek organization, so we're going to show you everything about justthis Greek organization and put you down this path. We've opened the siteup to be really exploratory and the pasth are basemore on lifestage, whichwe found to be a really really key indicator for when people come back tointeract with the university and what...

...what they want out of it at differenttimes in their life. So when a student is graduating from the university, theythey don't know much. They kind of need a orientation about what it means to bean alumnus and all of the services and benefits that come with that. So it's awe offer kind of a nice primer for a new student. If you're kind of in yourmidlife after school, you are maybe Youre a new parent, maybe you're,moving to a new city and you're looking to connect with other cornelians to dosome networking or just meet other people like you. So you might findyourself on a path for different networking and events near you. Ifyou're, you know a senior and you power finding. You have some more freetime on your hands. You'll find yourself on a path where we're showingmore of our travel programs and learning opportunities, some giftplanning opportunities. So it's much more service oriented in the way that the content introducesitself and then, as far as some of t e, the functionality that isn't rulled out.Yet we're going to be looking more at transactional communication and the ability for people to kind of giveus give us feedback on what they're. Looking for so incorpreting some andthese important feedback loops, so we can keep keep the content fresh andkeep them connected. I love that idea that you talked about of making theengagement an making the alumni fairs journiyg on our website personal, andyou also kind of acted. You know a little dismissively toward merelyshowing them the Greek organization that they were a member of, while Ithink from many conton universities. That would be a step up in terms of ofcustomers engagement today, but there are more and more. These tools arereferencing. Their AI capabilities is the future of successful engagement.What use cases are you the most optimistic about in terms of whatartificial intelligence might uncover from your alumnidatabase and Theydeceseto help you more effectively engage in...

...personalize their journey on your side,yeah personalizations, really interesting, because we went into thisredesign project thinking you know, personalization is going to be key.This is what people want they want us to know. You know they've already toldus so much about themselves that we should be able to reflect that back tothem, but actually what we found, especially with Cornalians, is thatthey have a lot of different interests and their interest change over time, soto kind of pigeonhold them to what we know about them now would we'd behiding a lot of things that they might be interested in. So that was a big, abig switch in our in our philosophy, an on personalization, as we were goingthrough the discovery process and talking to people. We found that youknow we needed to actually present them with more than just a narrow path that we, you knowpersonal is based on what we knew and also I' thinking about our ownresources being able to come up with personalized content. Would you know bereally prohibitive, with our staffing and being able to produce the amount ofcontent, we would need to create those individual personalized path. So thatwas a nice finding and I think where we're going with exploring artificialintelligence is really exciting, partly because it's a little less exotic thanit used to be we're. Seeing our official intelligence come into ourworlds in a lot of different ways that are making were more comfortable withit. It's more accessible, Cornellis, actually hosting conference coming upand December first small advancement conference and we're going to beexploring artificial intelligence. In fact, on advancement, hopefully we'llbe able to livetream some of that, and you can kind of share that infrmationback with you, but were yeah. We're. Definitely thinking about these massivedata sets that we have and they live in. You know data warehouses that arereally hard to dig through awesome. We've got a lot of notes fromindividual meetings, either alumni...

...engagement officers or gift officerswho go out and meet with people, and they type up reports and unless you'regoing to sit down and dig through, you know decades of meetings with apotential major major gift prospect that stuff just gets buried and wouldbe missed. So thinking about the wayis that we could crawl some of thosereports and surface important, important information about a person or trends we're thinking about so both thebehavioral Algorithms, that we could surface from event, activities, whether it be in person, events orevents that happen online to also some of these predictive algorithms. Whenwe're when we're sourcing kind of qwords through reports, what are peopletalking about? What kind of causes do they care about? What are the trendsthere and how can we match those with the the things that Cornell is doingeither in in research or student experience, so Yo can match? You know,match our people with things that they really care about and show them that atthe university were making strides to to change. You know whether it's thescertain experience that they hear about or Cornell's influence on theworld at large, so digging into the datasets. Are you know, that's reallyinteresting, also kind of on the the Front End Thinking about providingbetter service to our alumni, offering you know, chat, Bux or something thatwill help them surface. What they're, looking for quicker on our website sortof thinking about that on the front end: Yeah, there's just there's a lot ofemerging tools and techniques that have the potential to really change coreengagement and fund raising, and even the communication functions in ouroffices, so we're trying to get ahead of that. We certainly don't have allthe answers, but we're investigating it and trying to think about how to futureproof some of these technologies that were implementing now and thinkingabout the the website that we just launched and making sure that we'reable to kind of plug in some of these...

...new things that have to totallyredesign again once ai is here. It's super exciting and I love that balancethey're, trying to strike between utilizing the information about thealum to provide a a better and more cussomize experience without assumingyou know exactly how, when and where they want to engage. That's awesome,acthlly as an Ivy League institution. I'm sure national rankings do matter tocornel whether or not you'd like them to alumni participation. Scores are acritical factor in these rankings. Can you talk about how digital engagementcan count as participation and how you're able to quantify this sure? YeahI mean raings. Are you know theire blessing and a curse right 's as aprofessional? You don't want to be held to a number, but the reality is that youknow our alumni base does care where we show up in national rickings properspective. Students still will use it when they're looking at schools and andour trustees care, they care a lot about not only the rankings, tbut, aureparticipation rates, and so when we think about participation wheretraditionally advanceent offices have been calculating participation based onthe number of constituents who are giving to the university who arevolunteering on behalf of the university or who are attending eventsN. those kind of the top three I'm thinking about people giving back intheir time, talent and treasure, and so what you're saying now is is a trend tostart counting digital interactions as participation, because when you thinkabout it, how meaningful it is to have a phonecall with someone is just as meaningful to have an online conversation withthat person attending an event in person is just as meaningful as tuninginto a live stream and watching it for the entire time. So we're thinking about the way is thatpeople truly are interacting with the...

...university an a meaningful way. Some ofthe ways we calculate that in hard numbers. We are counting those livestream participants, so anytime we're live streaming and event we'recollecting or enough information through a log in tolink that back to a record. That's really important, not just counting thenumber of people who yese but actually record who those people are so thatthat's a shift for the back end of the house. We're also counting people whoare volunteering online. We have a social media ambassador program andthese are over five hundred alumni parents andfriends of the university who have signed up to be social ambassadors andshare important content about the university on their own social channels.And we, you know, we try not to share just w pretty pictures and that lighthearted kind of social fun stuff. We really use it for strategic initiativesand to get the word out about important university announcements, importantfrondrasing initiatives, and so those who sign up as a social ambassador arecounted just the same as if they were volunteering, an another role as aboard member or showing up to do a you know done in the DA done inday kind ofvolunteer activity and then we're also king atbook interactions, and we do sothreshfold. So I like one post, not going to give you participation creditlike our content, more than five times in a calendar Yer or if you'vecommented at least once you are going to get participation credit, becauseyou know you're paying attention and you're raising your hand and the waythat social media interactions are trending, where it takes a little bitmore to get a comment or like out of someone because it you know it isshowing their own. You know they're...

...taking their own personal accounts intoplay there, that we do want to give them that credit of being connected tothe university in a way that we wouldn't have counted before and sothere's you know we're servicing a lot of constituents who we might have feltHadfallen off the grid, who maybe you know, don't have a close connection tother Alma mator anymore. Don't really you know they're not responding toemails or phone calls. Maybe in the past we would think you know they don'tcare. They don't have the connection looking at some of these socialchannels and seeing what they're excited about what they do care aboutand how they're commenting. It really shows that theyre they are engaged andthey are excited to stay connected to the university, such good stuff.Actually anything else. You want to leave us with today for alumni theirsprofessionals looking to maximize their effectiveness, fun, raising engagementcores, I would say the an important thing is thinking about how you'regoing to connect the work that you're doing back to how your division isholding you accountable for that work. So you know you might be doing all ofthese things already. You probably have a facebook page for your university.You Ere probably already thinking about how to extend the imperson events thatyou're doing so well to an online platform, but the tricky part is goingto be how how can you give people who participate credit for their ownparticipation? If you really wanted to tie back to a true participation,number that's going to influence your rankings. We need to think about howyou're going to collect. You know at the very aleast an email address, name,email address, maybe you're asking for their university ID, and so it doestake an extra step and getting yourself organized to really influence the thenumbers that are important. So that would be where I would startworking awesome. Actually thanks. So much for doing is today and getting usall excited about where advancement is trending. What's the best place forlisteners to connect with you if they...

...have any followup questions, oh I'm allover the Internet, you, my website is actually Bucom, soyou can find me there and all my social accounts on twitter. I'm actuallyunderscore bud so yeah. It's a egeasy, Google search to find me awesome thanksagainst so much for joining us today. Ashley, I think ter o talking Mideos,always you've been listening to enromantgrowth university from helics education to ensure that you never miss anepisode subscribe to the show in Itunes were your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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