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Ashland University

MARKETING STRATEGY / Website / CMS / Video / Photography / Design / Data Metrics / Social Media / User-Generated Content / Layout

So, here's a cool story.

01 The Setting

For more than 140 years, Ashland University has been an educational institution offering students the opportunity to flourish academically, socially, and spiritually. During that time, the school has continually lived out its commitment to Accent on the Individual.

When the Office of Advancement began preparing to launch a six-year Institutional Campaign, they needed a strategy that would engage a broad pool of new and young donors as well as secure the major gifts that would fuel the campaign forward.

02 The Challenge

The Institutional Campaign began as an idea, but not much more. The University needed a comprehensive strategy to serve as the foundation for the creation, launch, and ongoing marketing for the Institutional Campaign.

Ashland University’s advancement and marketing teams are small but mighty, but they knew that the undertaking of a successful institutional campaign would require a partner that could develop and execute a marketing strategy that would help them to connect deeply with donors and alumni in a variety of contexts.

03 Strategy & solution

So, together, that's exactly what we did. Tapping into the school's mission of Accent on the Individual, we started with Campaign Execution Guide, which defines the tone, structure, and strategy of the campaign. Then, based on the Execution Guide, we built a campaign designed to tell 1,000 stories of Ashland called “The Campaign for Every Individual.”

Then, based on the Campaign Execution Guide, we built a marketing campaign designed to tell 1,000 stories of Ashland.

Utilizing video, photo, and written stories, we built a website specifically for the campaign, created a brand video, and then built a marketing structure designed to engage the target audience with compelling, deeply personal stories.

As the campaign moves forward, we continue to create cornerstone content that tells the story of Ashland University through the stories of its students, alumni, staff, faculty, family members and friends.

As the campaign started humming along we moved into phase two of our partnership with Ashland University, building them a full new Advancement site and created another brand video showcasing for alumni the importance and benefits of giving back to their alma mater.

We’ve expanded the focus from storytelling to volunteer engagement, developing and executing a strategy to engage and nurture alumni and friends into a relationship with their alma mater that invites them to give back and connect with students and faculty through giving their time.

Underpinning the beautiful and engaging content is a strategic digital marketing plan that has taken data management for Ashland University’s advancement team to the next level.

Now, the advancement team can tell in real time what actions a donor takes on their website, what stories are resonating with them, how engaged they are with Ashland University, and measure the value of their donor and alumni relationships with data that is based in user behavior, not putting their full stock in wealth screening and past giving alone.

Underpinning the beautiful and engaging content is a strategic digital marketing plan that has taken data management for Ashland University’s advancement team to the next level.

04 The Outcome

Overall, from the word go, the response was incredible.

The Campaign for Every Individual, as of December 2021, has generated 3,350 new donors, which amounts to a 51% increase in new donors and a 10% bump in overall donors. Through this campaign, Ashland University has raised $47 million, with an email open rate of 42% and a click rate of 5.6% (all being insanely above expectations). So far, the ad campaign has reached 86,000 new people with 3 million impressions.

The Campaign has generated a 51% increase in new donors and a 10% bump in overall donors.

After just two months from launch we realized that 1,000 stories would be far too low a target. People continue to engage with the stories, sending in their own, and, as the campaign approaches its second phase, the foundation is in place to hit—and exceed—the University's goals.

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