In this free, 45-minute webinar, learn how advancement professionals from UNC Charlotte and Coe College are leveraging texting to enhance and improve alumni engagement and fundraising.
Hear from a panel of advancement professionals who have begun to utilize texting to communicate with alumni for both engagement and fundraising purposes. Topics for discussion surrounding texting in advancement include:
- How to implement creative texting strategies
- Sharing success stories and positive outcomes
- Identifying potential pitfalls (lessons learned)
- [Mongoose Announcer] If you are joining us for the Texting in Advancement webinar, you're in the right place. Thank you everyone for joining. This in Texting in Advancement, Best Practices and New Opportunities, with Coe College, UNC Charlotte, and Mongoose. This webinar will be recorded and transcribed, and will be distributed to all attendees within the next two days. Introduce to you our moderator for the day. It is my pleasure to introduce to you our moderator for the day, Lauren Jaeger. Lauren is Director of Client Development here at Mongoose, and has been with us for about two years. Prior to joining the Mongoose fam, Lauren spent over a decade working in advancement, and we're thrilled to hear what she and all of our panelists have to share with you. And with that, I'll kick it off to Lauren.
- [Lauren] Hi, everyone. I'm so happy to help moderate this discussion today. While I might not be in the trenches with you all in the same way I was working directly in higher ed, I truly enjoy working with you all in this new capacity. Thanks for joining us. If you're not familiar with Mongoose, I'll keep this short and sweet. We're focused on improving higher education, communication. We have a blog, we share case studies, white papers and podcasts, present at conferences, and of course, host webinars, all focused on helping colleges better reach, engage, and communicate effectively with current and perspective students, parents, and alumni. Well we developed a texting platform called Cadence, today's discussion is product agnostic, meaning this is not a sales pitch, it's not a product demo. We've learned a lot from our clients along the way about texting, and we are really excited to share some of those strategies today with you, with our panelists. So what are we going to cover today? We first will, you know we hope it will evolve organically, but we'll touch upon current challenges facing us as we connect with alumni, and how texting offers opportunities to better reach those goals. We'll meet our gracious panelists, who will discuss lessons learned so far, and the evolving best practices in creating a successful texting strategy. We hope you'll be so inspired to begin, although you already have by joining us today, that we'll share additional resources for you to plan your next steps. First some housekeeping. Everyone has been muted, but that doesn't mean we don't wanna hear from you, we absolutely do. At the bottom of your screen, just press the Q&A box to submit questions and comments throughout the presentation. We'll definitely address those questions at the end, so please be sure to submit those throughout. Outside of speaking face to face, texting is the dominant medium for communicating today. Institutions across the country are benefiting from using text messaging platforms for enrollment, student engagement, and success, so it only make sense that its advancement offices evolve to better engage alumni, the use of texting is growing there too. Best practices are being formed right now, and new opportunities for your institution are being uncovered by those using the medium today. The institutions we'll hear from in just a moment have already begun to use texting as part of their multi-channel alumni engagement strategy. So what challenges are institutions meeting with texting? Let's think of it in terms of 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, versus today. Communication. We used to love to believe that alumni read your long, glossy alumni magazines covering diverse subjects. Let's be honest; most of them just flip to the back and read class notes. At least I was guilty of doing that. But they can also get those sorts of updates on their Facebook or Instagram feed today. Now, alumni expect information targeted to them to acknowledge their unique experience, interests, and their needs. Alumni Engagement and Event Management. Long gone are the days of mailing actual invitations outside of your most formal events. Can you image today's recent alumni writing a check and finding a stamp to RSVP? No one trusts online RSVP forms for free events especially, and the attendee rates are so low. And invitations and event details can get lost in the tsunami of emails that we all receive. How 'bout fundraising? One example, a phone-a-thon. I saw a meme recently that summed up our views, many of our attitudes against unsolicited phone calls. It said sorry I didn't pick up the phone when you called. I don't use my phone for that. I definitely got a chuckle and could relate. How do we keep phone-a-thon alive or replace the success we once had with it? Stewardship. Let's face it, there's always room for all of us to improve on how to love on our donors, as I like to say. More creatively and genuinely thank them, and share with them exactly what their impact has been. Well let's welcome our distinguished guests, early adopters of Texting for Advancement, who will share how they are finding success in some of these areas. With us we have Tad Fundermann, Data Services and Outreach Specialist from Coe College in Iowa. Hi, Tad. He might be muted. We also have Emily Porter
- [Tad] I'm here.
- [Lauren] Oh, hi, Tad! And we also have Emily Porter and Shayna Long, both Assistant Directors of Annual Giving from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Hello, ladies.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelists] Hi, there.
- [Lauren] Many thanks to you three for sharing part of your afternoon with us and providing insight for our audience today. Let's learn a little bit about your institutions. Tad, let's start with you. Tell us a little bit about your role at Coe, and what inspired you to bring texting to your alumni outreach.
- [Tad] Sure, so I started out working here at Coe a few years ago, splitting my time between Admissions and Advancement. And obviously Admissions, texting's been a big thing for a while, and we kind of took in Mongoose three years ago or so, and I kind of spearheaded that, in terms of managing it day-to-day. And because of my split time in Advancement, I thought let's try and do something over in Advancement. That's kind of where it started, and we brought it over just to kinda test things out, see where it was goin'. But that's kind of how we got into it. So far we're kinda keeping it more on the engagement side of things, not so much the fundraising, but we're looking to expand that a little bit here in the future, so.
- [Lauren] Okay, great, thank you. And Emily and Shayna, tell us a little bit about UNC Charlotte, and how you all were inspired to start texting. And I understand that you all have experienced a lot of growth recently. So how did that contribute to your wanting to text?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Yeah, so, we are a large, public, urban research university, and we have nearly 30,000 students, and over 120,000 living alumni, and really a third of our alumni are young alumni, just because we've had so much growth. And what we felt that we've been seeing is phone-a-thon and emails just really aren't getting through to that audience, and we really wanted to target them, especially because we're in a capital campaign currently, so we were looking for a medium that we knew we could get through to these young alumni, and really have a conversation where they were living, which we felt was text message.
- [Lauren] Great, awesome. So, I'm gonna kick it back over to Tad with my first question. We're really gonna just open this up as a guided discussion. And so I'm gonna start with Tad. Once you identified the need to text, what were your first steps? So obviously, you all have had texting on campus already. What was the first text that you had sent in your role in Advancement?
- [Tad] So, um, kind of how it all started, we had homecoming starting up in a couple of weeks, when we decided let's give it a shot. And so we thought the best way to do that was just to send out a quick text just reminding them that registration was open. So it was a very short and simple, like, hey, don't forget to register for homecoming, it starts here in two weeks, and talking about that. Just a very simple intro text, just to see how they responded, and see what our alumni thought of it. But that was kind of how we got into it. And it worked out really well to start, so it was a great first text for us.
- [Lauren] So it was kinda well-received? Was there a way that you identified who that text was gonna start with?
- [Tad] Yeah, so what we did is, we just kinda looked at who was already kind of looking at homecoming, who was already registered, that kind of thing. And just made it more about, like, hey, homecoming's starting. We were such a smaller shop, that we kind of just had all of our DO's and our VP look over a bigger list of about 200 people, which I know is not very big for some people. We just looked over it by hand and removed people that we knew we didn't wanna text, so it was a very fine-toothed comb list, just because we wanted to give it the best shot possible to work, so we could continue to use it. So that's where we kinda came up with our list.
- [Lauren] That's great. I think that's a good first use of texting. You don't want to alienate a lot of people, so trying it out with some of your closest individuals I think is a smart way to go. Emily and Shayna, once you all identified the need to text, now you weren't a client of ours before reaching out to us, so I'm sure you all weren't over there sending text messages from your personal phones, so how did you assess choosing a texting platform? What features were important to you?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Yeah, so we began looking for a texting platform in early January of last year, and it took us about three months to find Mongoose Cadence, but we came across a couple different platforms, and really what it came down to was the features available. With Cadence we're able to have a split-screen while we text alumni. And so that's really important 'cause when you're having a personal conversation with someone, a two-way conversation, you want to make sure you know exactly who you're talking to, if they're a donor, if they were involved in a student activity on campus, just so we can again just personalize that information when we text them. That was really important to us. And also that Cadence is a number, a ten digit number, that is something not all companies had, and that was important to us because we wanted to look less spam-y as possible. Especially when we're texting young alumni, people can be kind of un-trusting and wanted to make sure that this is a real person, and so as much as we could make it look like a real text, even with merge-able fields within a text, like personalizing with first names, majors, and things like that is really important to us, and that's why in the end we went with Cadence.
- [Lauren] Thank you so much. I said this wasn't gonna be sales-y, but... I appreciate the plug. So you all got the platform, obviously, you're here today. And you got your contacts loaded in there. How did you first identify who you wanted to start texting with at UNC Charlotte, and what was the first text that you sent?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] So we actually had two kind of softballs that we threw out for our first text. And the first group was donors who helped send our marching band to Normandy, France to perform. And so we sent out a text to everybody who supported the band, thanked them, and then just asked them if they wanted a link to watch a performance that they had just completed in Normandy. So we thought this would be a really good group to test with, they'd be most likely to receive these texts in a positive light. We sent them from our Executive Director of Alumni Affairs, and we got great response, and people even thought it was coming from her, those who were in our building didn't know that we were actually sending it, which was kind of fun. And then our second, kind of larger dive into texting was a young alumni poll. We sent a text to over 10,000 young alumni, and we merged in some of their information, and just asked them how they felt most connected to the university as they were a student. We tried to make it really easy for them to respond, they just had to use a letter. And that went over really well, and we were happy with the results. We had over a 40% response rate for that.
- [Lauren] For your first or second text that's pretty great. Awesome. Anything else you wanted to add to that before I move on to the next question? Alright. Well, next think I wanted to talk about, let's talk about opt-out and record keeping. One thing that we're not gonna belabor today, which I'm sure many of you have questions about, is the fact that non-profit institutions can legally text alumni, just as we can call them for phone-a-thon. We can provide more information about this if you're interested, and we'll list where to find that at the end of this presentation. Tad, let's engage with you a little bit here. So talk a little bit about how your texts have been received so far, and what to do when an alum does want to opt-out from receiving texts in the future. How does that work within the product, and where does that get recorded?
- [Tad] Sure, so overall the texts have all been received great. The worst text we received is, hey I'd prefer not to receive these texts. So, no real bad responses or anything like that. Everyone seems to be on-board, and it's becoming like a really personal way to contact people, so that part of it's been going really well for us. In terms of opt-outs, so in Cadence you can easily opt someone out, there's just a quick toggle switch that we do. And then I'm able to export it, and because I work in Advanced Services, I just kind of work with our team down here, and we are getting them opted-out in our database, so that way for future polls, they're not included. But they're also opted out in the system, so that way we can't even text them, even if we accidentally included them on a list. There's a few different ways that we mark it just to be on the safe side, that we don't text them again. It's just kind of a multi-layer process for us.
- [Lauren] Really good. I think the key is, similar to phone-a-thon, is you know we kind of assume opt-in at some point, and then we kind of pull back based on their preferences, which I think is good, not just good marketing, it's just good practice to do that. We don't wanna be texting people who don't want them. Just as we don't wanna
- [Tad] Agreed.
- [Lauren] Call people who are not gonna be happy that we called them. Shayna and Emily over at UNC Charlotte, anything to add to what Tad has said about how you all process your opt-outs, or how you might even assume alumni opt-in? Talk to me a little bit about your process.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] So we do a similar thing that Coe College does, where we assume opt-in, and we will track the opt-outs in our CRM, and also we'll use that toggle feature, which is great. We also use a template that we, when we're responding to individuals that want to no longer receive text messages, we'll just say I'm happy to take you off our list, just make sure if you would like to receive this message, you text star to this number. So it's been nice to be able to make it like a nice way to engage them and make sure that they feel comfortable, and again, making it sound like it's coming from a volunteer and a real person, and not a robot.
- [Lauren] Great. And one question I'll pose to either of you who wanna answer, you can kinda let me know who, one question we received from a participant for the webinar was any advice about sending links with the text messages? Yep. Okay go ahead.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Sorry. At UNC Charlotte we have sent links. We try not to unless we really don't want, or don't have the time I guess is a better way of saying it, to respond to every single person, and making sure that that link is already in there. We just had a giving day, and we'll touch on that later, but basically we were able to send a text message with our giving link in there, so that people go ahead and go log on, since it is a time-sensitive campaign, and make a gift, instead of asking if they would like a link, and then sending it.
- [Lauren] Great. Tad, do you have anything to add to that?
- [Tad] Very similar approach. Big thing with me that we've learned over the course of Admissions and Advancement Texting is to not really give them everything that they need in the one text, unless, like, they were just saying, you don't really have the time to reply, or whatever it may be. Because the better chance of getting a reply and actually having an interaction is when you don't let them have everything. If you ask them a question or whatever it may be. And so that's how we approach it too. We tend not to include links, until they say yeah, send it to me. We did a text with our first destination survey, 'cause our Careers is housed in Advancement, and we said do you want us to send you the link for the survey, as opposed to just including it. So a very similar approach to that.
- [Lauren] Great. And you know in our line of work, or should I say my former line of work, and your current line of work, any opportunity to increase interaction is always gonna be ideal, right? Get that conversation going.
- [Tad] Yep.
- [Lauren] Tad since I'm speaking with you, who is physically sending and replying to text messages for your department?
- [Tad] Sure, so on our end, I do all the backend work in getting the text ready, and getting the list pulled and organized and shared with everyone in the office to make sure it's good to go. And then I work with a couple of people in our office that do a lot of emails and stuff like that, to figure out the exact wording of the text. But then I get it all set up and ready to go, and I'll click Send. But usually then for replying, because the vast majority of ours are alumni engagement related, our Director of Alumni actually does all the replying. So I'll send it out, but she physically is there replying to every single one, which is part of the reason we keep our texts kinda smaller, in that one to 300 range, and so that way she is actually able to. Or we'll just space 'em out more, so she can reply. But she's the main one that does it. For the Careers one, it was sent from Barb, but I did a lot of the replying, just timing-wise it worked. So it's usually just a staff member. Whoever is available to actually reply.
- [Lauren] Great. So it's kinda fluid. What about UNC Charlotte, Shayna and Emily? Who is sending and replying to texts for your department?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] We have, fortunately, a lot of staff within our department that we've been able to train using Mongoose Candence, and so when we send a bulk message like Shayna mentioned earlier, that 10,000 texts to young alumni, we were able to have five people on board, and all on the platform responding, so we were able to respond to those young alumni when they texted us within ten minutes of receiving their message. So that was good to be timely. But again, we use those templates, and they are super helpful in being quick in responding to people. And you're able to customize the template within the message too. So even if you want add an emoji, it's great to be able to do that. We try to have a lot of fun with our responses, especially to young alumni. Most recently we've been asking some students in our call center to be trained, and they helped us during our giving day, to respond to some messages as well.
- [Lauren] Great, awesome. And we just got a question come in, and I was gonna save it 'til the end, but it's my next question on my list here, was that you all used texting for your Day of Giving campaign recently. Tell us a little bit about that. I know it was only like two weeks ago, so any preliminary results you'd be comfortable sharing. And the question that was submitted was, does UNC Charlotte use the text platform for Stewardship messaging during their giving day? So the first part was, tell us a little bit about your Day of Giving, how you used text messaging. And then any preliminary results you'd gleaned from that experience.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Sure. So we are still getting data in, because we just had so much data, so many gifts, which is a good thing. But we did send 12,000 texts during our giving day, which is 49 hours, and we sent them to board members, previous donors, former student athletes, Greek alumni, and alumni living in specific states, as well as RSVPs for some regional giving day events. And they all had separate messaging. We tried to segment our audience as best that we could, so that they were receiving a text message that would be most relatable to them. So some of the results. We did have 29 new donors to the university from texting, and we had 120 total donors, so that was awesome. And we also use these text messages along with some of our emails, to announce challenges during our giving day to help us unlock some of those. So it was really great. We thought it worked to our advantage, it was very timely, we felt that we got more instant responses from texting over some of the email or social media that were sending out. Because it's a 49 hour campaign, we tried to do anything that we can to be really timely with this.
- [Lauren] Great. Really good. And then was there any particular Stewardship messaging follow-up that you did via text to thank donors who gave, either immediately as they gave, or any hopes that you hope to be able to steward donors in the future, using text?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] So we did not do that during the giving day, just because of the volume that we were trying to get out and respond back, it was kind of a full-time job for two to five of us during the 49 hours. I would love to do that in the future, if we can get a few more people on board. The only stewardship that we've done thus far has been with that Normandy marching band text message, one of our first ones, we thanked the donors, and then asked them if they wanted to watch the performance. But we are looking to do a few more stewardship-style text messages as the year progresses.
- [Lauren] I love that. And that was one of your, that was your first text message, wasn't it?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] It was.
- [Lauren] I love it. Tad, you all had homecoming recently. Right?
- [Tad] Yes.
- [Lauren] Tell us a little bit about the way that you used texting for your homecoming outreach.
- [Tad] Sure, so we sent a registration text a few weeks beforehand, about a month actually, before homecoming actually happened, just to try and get more people to sign up. That went over really well. But one of our favorite ones that we've done now twice was we actually sent a text out to people signed up for homecoming, reminding them that check-in was going on, but also asking them to take photos while they were on campus, selfies, and just pictures of them on campus, and send 'em back to us, so that way we could kind of share them on our social media and stuff like that. It went over really, really well. Some people only sent one photo, some people didn't send any, but then we had a few people that sent us like 10, 20 photos from their time on campus that weekend, so it went over really, really well. So that's kind of how we use it around homecoming in particular this year, and I think we'll continue to expand on that every year for homecoming.
- [Lauren] Great. I'm gonna go a little out of order of my questions, and you had just mentioned the selfie thing, and you had told me a little anecdote
- [Tad] Sure.
- [Lauren] About a funny selfie incident, and that leads to my question for both of you, but we'll start with you Tad. How do you handle funny or downright odd text messages that you get from alumni? And tell us some.
- [Tad] Yeah, so. Yeah. The one you're referencing we actually sent out a text on our Day of Giving back in April. It was to prior Day of Giving donors, just kinda reminding them that it was the Day of Giving, and asking again for selfies, that we would share on social media that day. And one of the best ones, it wasn't even from an alumni, we texted an alum, but it wasn't her phone anymore, and the other person on the end still sent us back a selfie saying I don't know who this person is or what Coe College is, but here's a selfie. It made us laugh, especially in the 24 hour Day of Giving, where you're already stressed, it made the whole room a little bit happier during the day, so. With those, it's literally just, you gotta have fun with it too. I mean these people do view it as like an actual personal text. It's not an email correspondence with 'em, so you can have a little bit more fun with it. If they were gonna have fun with you, so make sure you just kinda have it back, is the way we approach a lot of that, so.
- [ Lauren] Yeah, it seems like a lot of alumni, it's almost like they wanna test the fact that they are texting with a human and not a bot, or some sort of auto-reply thing that's happening, so.
- [Tad] Yeah. Yup.
- [Lauren] Same for UNC Charlotte. Have you guys had any funny anecdotes or interesting interchanges that you had with alumni via text?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Yes, we have. You never know what kind of response you're gonna get from an alum when you're texting them, especially about giving, and especially young alumni. And during our giving day two weeks ago, we had an alum respond back to one of our challenge texts and say if you send me a picture of a possum, I will donate $149 dollars. And so we did, we jumped on and sent them a picture, went to Google, typed in possum, and got the first image that came up, and they responded with a well that's a healthy looking possum, and a receipt. So they were funny to engage with. But again, you just never know what kinda text you're gonna get, so it's good to have fun and be prepared.
- [Lauren] Great. That's so funny. Tad, what do you think are the biggest lessons you've learned so far while texting?
- [Tad] The big one is definitely in the wording, and what you do with your text itself. Our first text that we sent at last year's homecoming, we didn't really ask a question, it was very much just, hey don't forget homecoming check-in is today. It was very simple, which was great for a test, but we realized without any kind of call to action or a question, you're not really gonna get a lot of replies, and if you do it's gonna be very simple ones. And so that was the biggest thing we learned, is always having that question, or some sort of call to action with that, whether it be asking for the selfie, or saying are you able to attend an event, whatever it may be. The one with the survey link for the first destination survey was our best-received text. It had over a 55% reply rate, I believe, and that's because we asked a very specific question, and it's younger alums. They tend to reply at a much higher rate, they just tend to reply much shorter texts, is what I've seen, so.
- [Lauren] Okay. And Emily and Shayna? Biggest lessons learned so far?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Yes, so we have learned again, kind of what Tad talked about, when expecting a response, and not really knowing how long people will take to respond, or their length of response, I guess. So we texted young alumni a poll asking them whether they identify more with their college major, or other units on campus. It's something you showed earlier in the webinar. And that, we saw people were responding really quickly, with just a letter. And then we also asked young alumni, a different segment young alumni, to give us advice for students coming back to campus this semester, and people spent a lot of time answering our messages, and would send us paragraphs of advice, which was great, but we weren't expecting that. And so we were able to take the advice they gave, and post it on social media, and got a lot of engagement that way. And also gave a shout out to those alumni that spent the time to answer our advice question. So again, just keep in mind what kind of a response do you want to get from these alumni when you are texting them. And also, just have fun. Like I mentioned earlier, the possum text, you can't write that stuff or make that stuff up, so. Just be prepared and have fun, and use emojis. Definitely use emojis, people love that.
- [Lauren] It's the little things.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Yes.
- [Lauren] For both of you, let's kick it over to Tad. What's on the horizon for you as far as texting goes? What's next, what are you looking forward to trying out?
- [Tad] Sure, so we spent the vast majority of our time on event engagement, whether that be trying to get them to register, or reminding them that it's happening, that kind of stuff. Our plan this fall or early spring in January would probably be more of that thanking alumni through text. Trying to do some more of that stewardship that you were talking about earlier. Especially with younger alums, they seem to really like it, so trying to do that. As well as really getting into the fundraising side of it. I'm not sure if we'll try that this fall, but hopefully next spring for sure, once we've got our opt-in base up a little bit. But that's kind of what's next for us.
- [Lauren] Great. And are you all collecting, I know that we talked about kind of assuming opt-in for some segments of alumni population, but do you advertise that it is something that alumni can opt-in to anywhere, and if not, is that something you'd consider in the future?
- [Tad] We talked about adding it to some of our forms, we haven't yet. I think that's something we will probably do in the future, just to help with that. The other thing that we do is, we assume opt-in that we can text them, but as soon as someone texts back in a positive manner, we for sure mark them as an opt-in, so that way we know the difference. 'Cause when you've seen some of our texts that we've sent out, at the end of 'em all it says if you prefer not to receive texts, please let us know. We remove that line then, once they've already replied once. So it makes the texts a little bit shorter, and more condensed and everything like that for 'em, so. That's kinda what we do with opt-ins right now.
- [Lauren] And to the point that you just said about the line in the initial text that you said if you prefer not to get these, is that written in a robotic way, like text something to opt-out, or is it more conversational?
- [Tad] No, it's purely conversational. It's truthfully just a question of if you're not okay with these texts, just let us know. And they're just rely, hey, I don't wanna receive these texts. That's the way that we want it, 'cause then we'll reply and go okay, not a problem, we'll get you taken off. That kinda thing, so.
- [Lauren] Awesome. Again, starting an opportunity to further the conversation. Is it that you don't wanna hear from us, or you just don't prefer to receive texts, and then you can kinda dig deeper.
- [Tad] For sure.
- [Lauren] Great. Charlotte, Shayna and Emily, how 'bout you, how do you hope to engage text messaging in your outreach going forward?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] We would love to incorporate it more in our call center, with our pledge reminders, and sending a text either immediately that night after we hang up the phone in our call center, or a few days after the call is placed, just to remind them to make their gift, and fulfill their pledge. Also, we'll continue on with our young alumni segment, and hopefully be able to get some more donors to come on board since we are in a capital campaign right now. And potentially Giving Tuesday, which is comin' up in just a month, so we'll be trying to text our alumni, engage them on that day. And then also some more event-based text messages around giving. So we have a couple luncheons coming up, and events that we want to send out a text with a giving link while people are in the room. So all they have to do is look at their phone and make a gift online during the event.
- [Lauren] Great. And what about... there was something else I was gonna say. I just blanked out. Well let's kick it over to a question that was submitted. Someone wanted to know if you're receiving texts from students, it says engaging with them, starting the conversation. I wonder if they're asking a question of, are you communicating with current students as they become alumni? Either of you wanna answer that question? I guess with the career survey, maybe, Tad? Was that probably
- [Tad] Yeah, um.
- [Lauren] The closest to it?
- [Tad] Yeah, and that was to 2017 grads about six months or so after they had graduated, maybe even a little bit longer, so. No current students have been texted through this, or even in Admissions, that's kinda where we've cut it off, is before they're an actual student, and then after. That doesn't mean we won't try it in the future, but for right now we aren't doing anything with students on campus. It's something we're looking at, but we haven't started.
- [Lauren] Great. And then the other question is, do any of the schools register a short code for their school or alumni area? So, I'm gonna actually ask this in two questions. One is, do you do any short code text messaging with your alumni? And the second question is, or comment I'll make is, this might be driving at what the phone number looks like, and so with Cadence and some other text messaging platforms too, you can actually choose a phone number in the area code of your school, and so the school texting number just looks like another campus number. But do either of you use short codes to communicate with your alumni?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] No, at UNC Charlotte we have not, and the number that we're texting from, they can call back, and it's the foundation main phone line, so they can talk to somebody if they have any questions, and actually wanna pick up the phone and call us.
- [Lauren] Awesome.
- [Tad] We're in the same boat at Coe. We don't use any short texting. We just don't like the way it sounds and looks. That doesn't mean it can't work, that's just our personal preference. And then the same thing, it actually comes right back to our Advancement Office if they call it, so.
- [Lauren] Okay, perfect. With the ideas that you all have for moving forward, I feel like we might need a follow-up webinar. I don't wanna put you on the spot or anything, but it would be cool to know kind of how Giving Tuesday goes, and the implementation of it during phone-a-thon, I'd love to do that. So we can talk about that offline. Maybe we can get that rolling. But before we get going, I do wanna cover a couple points here. First of all, I think we should see if there's any other questions. Now would be the time, if you have any questions, to submit those to the Q&A box. And while we're waiting, while we're waiting for any questions to come in, I do have a question for both of you, and we'll start with Tad. Any advice for a school just starting out? You know, they're not texting yet, they're not sure if they want a short code or a long code, or what to even look for. What is your first words of advice?
- [Tad] The big thing is just try it. It's kinda scary at first, I get it, but you gotta kinda go for it. It's just one of those things that you're not gonna know how people are gonna react until you send it. But just like what we did with our first one, it was a very soft text, there wasn't really anything behind it, it was just hey, this is happening, and we fine-tooth combed the list, like I said. Just try it with something small like that, especially if you can partner with your admissions office. I know we're unique in that, but it's a way to kind of use it and test it out, and then you can look deeper at some other texting options if you decide that it works for you. But I just say you kinda have to go for it. It's the only way you're really gonna know if it's gonna work for your alumni base.
- [Lauren] And Emily and Shayna? Words of advice.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist]Yes. Definitely have fun, I know that's something I said it several times. Keep in mind your response that you are seeking. Do you want a longer answer, a quick response, or no response when you're creating your message. And people respond best when they know there's a person on the receiving end of a text, so again, just make it as personal as possible. And also, try and use one call to action in each text response. Shayna, do you have somethin' you wanna add to that?
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] Sure. Make it as easy as possible I guess for your audience to respond, and then try segmenting your audience to find the right message for them. I think that's something that Emily and I have had a lot of success with. And then make sure you're recording all of the information that your audience is sharing with you. We asked for some advice, and like Emily said earlier, people kind of poured their heart out, shared some memories, told us what they loved the most about UNC Charlotte, and we just gathered a lot of great information from that text message, that we took back. And then just also be on the look out at all times for responses, because times really vary. Sometimes they're gonna respond in five seconds, sometimes it's gonna be five days or even a month, and people are still responding, so just be on the lookout for that. It doesn't mean that they're not interested. Sometimes it just takes people a little while to get back to those texts.
- [Tad] I would second that. It comes in at random times all the time, so.
- [Lauren] To that point, as far as outbound messages, do either of you have a texting strategy or a calendar? How do you kind of go about starting a texting campaign? Do you share it across your department so people know when texts are going out? Kinda talk about the logistics of planning a texting campaign.
- [UNC Charlotte Panelist] At UNC Charlotte we have a communication calendar, and so based on what our campaigns are for that fiscal year, we try and place in different texting campaigns. We try to have a text every month to a different audience at least, and so we've been able to work with our communications team on what's appropriate language, and making sure that our partners in Alumni Affairs also know that this text is going out. So again, if anyone catches wind of this text or is confused, they are aware of it, and have some background information as well.
- [Lauren] Tad, how 'bout you all?
- [Tad] Pretty similar. We have a communications calendar for the whole Advancement office, and so we add these to it. What we did this year, once we knew we were gonna go full bore with texting for the whole year, is back in July, August, we sat down with myself and our Annual Fund alumni and Careers head and just laid out the next six to eight months of what's the events, what are the things that we might wanna text about, that's just kind of how we'd started to plan it, and then we'd kind of play it by ear if one event's way low on registrations, but the other one's doing well, we might switch it. Different things like that. But for the most part we'll sit down and plot out six to eight months at a time, so.
- [Lauren] Perfect, thank you so much. Well before we roll on, I definitely wanna make sure that we share some more resources for you all to get your texting strategy going. And so please be sure to check out MongooseResearch.com, where you can read a blog and find the legalities of texting alumni that I referenced earlier in the presentation. Read the blog post about six smart uses of texting advancement, some of 'em we covered today, and some of them we have not. I think there's a big opportunity for texting in some other areas that we didn't get a chance to discuss today. And then also a guide, 15 texting templates for advancement. This is an invaluable resource, whether you're using Cadence or another texting software. We have actually provided this downloadable resource for you to see the kind of text campaigns that have been successful for our clients. Finally, make sure to find us on social media too, where you can stay up-to-date with the most current resources and product information. And then finally, I wanna thank Shayna, Emily, and Tad, for all of their advice they shared with us today, and sharing their afternoon with us. I think we're just at time here, a few minutes short, so get you all off on your merry way to raise those funds with your alumni, and we thank you all for joining us.
Meet the panelists
Assistant Director of Annual Giving, UNC Charlotte
Assistant Director of Annual Giving, UNC Charlotte
Data Services & Outreach Specialist, Coe College
Director of Client Development, Mongoose