13 Feb

How some universities are seeing 80% open rates (Hint: it’s not with traditional communication channels)

The trend is clear – alumni participation in charitable giving is on the decline. It’s not like the universities have trouble reaching them. Universities have been quick to adopt new channels – such as email and social media – when they came along.
Nowadays, the problem is getting the alumni to respond.
Only 1 in 4 alumni read emails from universities, but more importantly – and only 2.76% end up responding.

The result?
This among other factors has contributed to a continuous decline in alumni participation – the percentage of alumni that participate in charitable giving to their university has been declining steadily over the past 25 years. Just look at this graph:
 Source: Council of Aid to Education, Alumni participation, 1972 through 2016
Alumni giving is currently at a 20 year low. So, why are institutions failing to engage their alumni, especially the younger alumni?

Universities are facing more challenges than ever

1) Fundraising teams are after increasing two metrics – raise dollar amounts and increase participation, often which are in conflict with each other
2) Intake numbers are on the rise – the population of the alumni base is only getting larger, so even keeping the participation rate constant is an uphill battle

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Total undergraduate fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 1970 through 2026, May, 2017
3) Other charities are stepping up their game investing heavily in paid social – nowadays universities are competing with animal shelters and natural disaster relief efforts
4) Even posting on social media is no longer an effective channel – on average only 2% of your Facebook page followers will ever notice your post. There is just too much noise out there.
It might seem like a hopeless battle for universities. But there is hope. In fact, we believe the future for advancement is brighter than ever. Here is why we are so upbeat about it.

The future for advancement is bright

It’s not that young alumni don’t want to talk to their universities, it’s just that they’ve moved on to different communication channels.
In fact 54% of social media users already today prefer messaging channels over email, phone, or direct mail.
Email rates will never go up. But messaging apps are the new email and not just for millennials. And there is one app that stands out – Facebook Messenger. Most alumni use this app on a daily basis. Surprisingly – much more than Snapchat.
Source: Raymond James, “4Q17 Internet Consumer Survey”, Oct 16, 2017 Techcrunch, Facebook Messenger hits 1.2 billion monthly users, up from 1B in July, April 2017
So we asked ourselves – could a university reach their alumni in FB Messenger?
We invested hundreds of hours developing our smart messaging software integrated with Facebook’s platform. We were blown away by the results.
An astonishing 80% open rate and 5-10x better click through rate than emails.
This kind of alumni engagement could mean a major overhaul and a substantial difference in alumni giving for institutions of higher education.
Messenger communication is becoming ever-more pervasive, and is proving itself to become a new standard of brand interaction.

Facebook Messenger – a new industry standard for brand communication

We don’t have to look far to see that Facebook Messenger is a communication channel that established brands have identified as worthwhile of their investment.
The head of Facebook’s Messenger business division, Stephanos Loukakos, has stated that they anticipate a wave of brands using Facebook Messenger chatbots to interact with their followers:
“We anticipate that messaging will continue to play an increasingly prominent role in the way businesses and people interact, and that these interactions will happen in apps where people are already spending the majority of their time,”
Top brands like CNN, NBA, Western Union, Pizza Hut, even Christina Milian demonstrate that they can engage their followers on a whole new level using Facebook Messenger bots. Let’s look at two examples.

Unicef’s U-Report Global

Take Unicef, which has created a messenger chatbot to quickly and efficiently distribute and collect information about global occurrences through the U-Report chatbot.

Sephora – reservation assistant

Sephora, the leading high-end cosmetics retailer, uses a chatbot to manage a variety of business-related tasks that would otherwise require human assistance, such as booking a consultation.
The chatbot is able to provide and guide the user towards different actions, based on what they’re interested in at the given moment.
As a result of the efficiency of the system, Sephora saw an 11% increase in booked consultations through the messenger chatbot.

How universities can use chatbots to increase alumni participation

These brands, among others, demonstrate that a wide variety of tasks can be automated and accomplished through the use of Facebook Messenger.
Institutions of higher education can, too.
Some of the institutions who are pioneering Facebook Messenger with us are Georgetown, Pomona College, West Point, and University of La Verne.


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