My wife and I went together to our twenty-week ultrasound appointment the other day. Our daughter, due in August, looked to have all her bits and parts in the right places. I have to admit though, if the ultrasound tech told me that there was actually a swing set and sandbox in there, I could have been convinced. Hard to tell what’s what on that screen…

At one point during the appointment, Kathryn, my wife, asked me whether I thought my son (age 2) or my daughter will be tougher to handle as a teenager.

Since I was a bit of a handful in high school, I predicted that my son will be more “experimental,” shall we say. I have no doubt that my daughter will give me a run for my money too.

In honor of predicting what kind of troublemakers my kids will be in 15 years, here’s a little forecasting for university advancement professionals in the year 2029 since that’s what I’ll be doing to escape the shenanigans of my children.

Readers of my previous posts will not be surprised my predictions are slanted (if not horribly biased) towards how and why digital will replace traditional work within our space.

1) Attending digital conferences will be the norm.

We will attend our favorite conferences from the comfort of our office, home or the local coffee shop. All sessions will be live streamed and attendees will have the ability to toggle between sessions and tracks on their desktop computer or mobile device. My prediction is bad news for hotel meeting space sales people.

2) Digital engagement pros will host live “content networks” with daily and weekly reoccurring programming.

Industry leaders within the alumni population will work with university administrators to host regular programming on Youtube-like content channels. Shows will often have little to do with the university and its goals in a direct sense. Instead, the content will often be live, alumni produced, possibly region-specific, and designed to promote thought leadership external to that of university faculty and staff. The university’s giving messages will be layered within this content like ads.

3) Alumni Career Services will be known as Alumni Connection Services.

Administrators will provide services more engineered towards teaching alumni how to develop their own personal brand and become more searchable on the web rather than traditional career counseling.

4) Front line fundraisers will make most of their “asks” using video conference technology and tens of thousands of dollars will be saved in travel expenses.

Tech savvy Generation Y’ers and Millennials will be running businesses and will be of prime giving age in 15 years. Most business transactions and even interpersonal relationship development will be fostered using the digital space.

5) The idea of the individual “Giving Day” will be just a memory.

All web content will contain fundraising messages of various shapes, size and prominence, and everyone will understand that’s just how it works. Universities need cashola so every day will be a “giving day” as more and more universities think of giving at the annual level as just another way to engage. The constructs that make for great giving days will be on-going, rather than geared towards a single fundraising push.

6) Teams within advancement shops will be deployed specifically to cultivate relationships with digital influencers.

Gifts of “social capital” from digital influencers will be cultivated like major gifts and units will be created containing a compelling cross section of fundraisers, engagement and mar/com pros to work this important angle.

7) Lifelong learning programs will contain compelling digital literacy training designed to teach alumni how to make websites, build and manage a digital presence and help crowdsource content.

As pros in this area, I believe this is how university communications departments will be able to engage internally outside of their silos and develop compelling and measurable goals that impact advancement.

I hope most of these predictions become realities over the next five years rather than fifteen because man, the pieces sure do fit together in my digital-is-everything head. I think it all comes down to how we’re teaching digital literacy and inbound marketing to both internal stakeholders and to our constituents. Does everyone in our offices have a webcam and know how to record a Google+ Hangout On Air?

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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