Campaign Engagement Strategies: Tracking More Than the Money


We frequently enter the campaign event planning process at the point where careful attention is being paid to tracking the influx of contributions that will move a campaign from the quiet to the public phase. Less frequent is the tracking of the levels of constituent engagement that will ensure that key players are primed to receive the information and subsequent calls to action.

Thanks to the expertise of internal staff and Cracker Jack fundraising consultants, most schools are adept at ushering the institution and targeted individuals through the leadership phase of a campaign. But what about connecting with the masses or perhaps more importantly, the mid-level donors and prospects who will be called on to fill in many of the zeroes associated with campaign funds – the “potential benefactors” as one advancement colleague calls them.

In our experience, mapping out a clear engagement strategy that takes into account audiences and initiatives and the types and frequency of connection points is a crucial ingredient to campaign success. Here are a few key elements we believe are essential to track when thinking about constituent engagement around a campaign.

Who are the audiences you want to involve in the campaign?

List them, slice them, dice them, don’t be afraid to play favorites and get granular. Creating a hierarchy will allow you to develop the customization necessary to garner attention and interest in this big, busy world. Do the research and ask the questions that will help you and your team figure out the affinities and influencers that truly connect your audiences to U.

What are the campaign initiatives and priorities that will resonate most deeply with each audience segment?

This is the time to make the matrix. Don’t worry that someone or something will be left out. Your job is to ensure that doesn’t happen and it won’t, because you are really good at what you do. Embrace the little blocks that remain empty all the way down the column. The purpose of this exercise is to expose them and then fill them – identifying either the right people to care about a specific need or the right opportunities that will excite particular people.

Where do certain audiences like to receive their information about U?

Do you know if they read the print publications you send their way? Are you monitoring the success of your online outreach? Can you think of ways to track these activities? Of course you can! It will be no surprise that we consider face-to-face meetings and specifically events to be one of the most active ways to connect. Remember: every person who attends an event has raised his or her hand to say they are ready to listen and learn.

When should these connection points occur?

The frequency and timing of your outreach efforts is crucial to establishing both a rhythm and a sense of readiness along the engagement path. This means coming together with internal peers to acknowledge that, to the intended audiences, you are One U – not Athletics or the Alumni Association or a gift officer from a specific school or unit. It is imperative to track all touches coming from U – be they in print, online or in person. Timing can be everything when it comes to moving the message and money forward.

And finally, how will you know you are successful?

As most of us will agree, the plan should be nimble enough to take advantage of special circumstances but not so Gumby-like that it stretches to the point where the original structure is unrecognizable. Understanding the definition of success around a particular component of your engagement strategy and how it factors into the end-game will inform how and what to measure in order to track progress in a meaningful way. And figuring out how to weight and aggregate the information should also help you stick to the plan or at least consider ad hoc opportunities more carefully. More isn’t always more.


Best Practices
Interested in trends and best practices in higher education experience design?
Let’s connect!