My wife tells me she’s making “Buffalo Chicken Sliders” in the slow cooker this New Year’s Eve. We’re having our friends over from across the street. They have an infant. We have a two-year-old. The sliders might be the highlight of the evening and with an adult beverage or two consumed, we’ll all be in bed by 10pm at the latest. Say hi to Ryan Seacrest for me.

Although my personal New Year’s resolution will be to eat fewer Buffalo Chicken Sliders, I’ve identified five professional resolutions to guide my team’s alumni engagement strategy efforts in 2014. I thought I’d share them with you here.

1) Find 50 alumni digital influencers and schedule Google Hangouts to meet them

It occurred to me recently that I need to be developing relationships with alumni digital influencers as if they’re major giving prospects. I believe that digital engagement and annual giving have a natural and strategic intersection in the area of “social capital.” I believe universities that deploy actual resources to cultivate relationships with digital influencers will realize all their wildest dreams in 2-3 years time.

2) I’m going to take a Google Analytics course and develop a comprehensive strategy

I find myself regularly perusing the data for our UVA Global Network website using Google Analytics, but I’m not using it strategically to positively impact event registrations or volunteer inquiries. I want to be a Google Analytics master-wizard-marketer. I’m going to get to one of these courses in 2014.

3) I’m going to find a way to measure “time” as it relates to engagement as a precursor to giving

My own personal “holy grail” here and perhaps the most elusive statistic of all; how much time goes by, on average, between the first act of engagement and the first gift to the university. Also, how many “times,” on average, must someone engage before they give? I’m going to figure this out if I have to comb through each individual record in the database one at a time. I’m serious.

4) By the end of 2014, we’ll have a detailed performance report for our email marketing efforts

I think of this more as a resource we can provide our regional volunteers as they work with us to promote upcoming events. I want to be able to offer best practice ideas for when to send emails, how to segment, and generally, how to construct a better performing (and better looking) email.

5) Find one alum representing each of our schools/units, as well as our regional alumni networks, who wants to host a regularly occurring live digital event

Taking a page from the playbook, I believe the future of digital alumni engagement is to host live web programming using Google Hangouts On Air on a branded content hub complete with different channels. I want multiple live events (shows) per week with alumni hosts generating the content. One can dream, right?

So there you go, my 2014 digital alumni engagement resolutions. I’ll report back throughout the year on my progress. Please let me know if you add any of New Year’s resolutions to your 2014 goals!

Ryan Catherwood is the Director of Engagement Strategy at the University of Virginia and Co-Host of “Advancement Live.” You can follow him on twitter @RyanCatherwood and connect on Linkedin.


Article Author

Ryan Catherwood

Ryan Catherwood

Higher Ed Live blogger and Former Host of Advancement Live
Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services, Longwood University

Ryan Catherwood is the Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services at Longwood University. Prior to joining Longwood, he was the Director of Digital Strategy in the University Advancement office at the University of Virginia. His work is dedicated to strategies that utilize events, crowdsourcing, inbound and content marketing, email marketing and social media community management in order to drive alumni and student engagement, participation, connections, networking, volunteerism and giving at Longwood University.


Ryan Catherwood

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