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Quick Tips from AuctionStar

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

What can we learn from auction fundraisers?  I have always found it useful and productive to share my event experiences with my clientele.  The opportunity to understand how others are handling challenges with their auction fundraisers in effect provides a chance to all of us come together, collaborate, learn and ultimately return home with ideas and best practices that will help organizations achieve their goals.

Auction Tip #1:  Manage your auction fundraiser like a business.  Savvy auction chairs recognize that the gala evening fundraiser has the potential to raise hundreds of thousands in just a couple of hours.  Attend to all the logistics and details for your event as soon as an event date has been established.  Provide your management teams the handbook from prior years with their specific objectives.   Your event night timeframe for fundraising is critical so make each minute count.

Auction Tip #2:  Know your attendees.  Every organization is different in its demographic profiles.  Common attendees range from the bargain shopper, supporter, big spender and your beneficiary.  Keep both your fiscal and mission objectives in mind when putting together your guest list.

Auction Tip #3:  Product selection.  If you have diligently done Auction Tips one and two, then your auction team will have identified the particular products that will fulfill your financial goal.  Make the selection as unique as possible so that your auction items are not identical to all the other events in town.

By Valarie Minetos

Marketing & Sales Director

AuctionStar Software & Event Services

www.BarcodedAuctions.com

Copyright (c) 2010 CrestWare Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Do You Know Christa Heibel?

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight

IMG_0351Christa Heibel, past President and founder of CH Consulting, LLC, is considered an expert in building integrated sales and marketing campaigns for both small and large organizations by incorporating technology with marketing efforts.  An accomplished speaker, writer, and sales trainer, Christa has spent years developing cutting edge telemarketing techniques for political campaigns  She has also led outbound sales efforts ranging from Fortune 100 telecommunication launches to market research and membership renewal campaigns. Prior to joining Connection Strategy, Christa worked extensively in the software and telecom industries managing call centers, outside sales and customer service teams.  She has been consulting with national organizations on marketing and constituent services for nearly 20.

How is your new assignment of heading up new business development for Connection Strategy going?

It’s great!  I am so excited to be back in the client side of business.

I have spent the last few years working in the operations side of the business.  Being in and out of call center management for almost 20 years now, it gives me an increased confidence as I work with a client to develop the right solutions…because I have confidence in what I am selling.  I KNOW the team that works with me will deliver what I package for our clients. The plan is to grow our client list to include more colleges/universities, non-profits and associations to take advantage of our years of fundraising and communication expertise.  I am very excited to do that!

You mentioned non-profits, colleges/universities and associations.  That seems broad- are they your focus?  How does that fit?

Yes, these are our target markets.  At a glance they may seem slightly random, but what we are focused on is donor and membership based organizations.  Our sweet spot is fundraising, event turn-out, and membership communication.  We thrive on integrated and targeted methods.  This means our solutions yield high returns for our client’s investment.

The key is our intimate knowledge and experience in making phone, mail, and internet messaging work, together through strong data analysis and wise segmentation.  Targeted messaging and increased results is what we do.

Sounds interesting.  So you are more than a call center?

Absolutely!  We are a full service, integrated communications firm.  Call centers are at the core of our fundraising projects but we have developed data solutions that are CRITICAL for improved ROI.  We have also recently released technology products to support good communication and services to help from planning to project management.

I know some people still have a hard time with telemarketing, but last year our parent company raised over $16 million dollars through phones.  Despite DNC and heavy state registrations, I think it comes down to data, scripting/messaging, and the quality of the Agent on the call.  Telemarketing is still one of the most successful and cost effective ways to communicate with your members, donors, and shareholders.

Does it work every time?

I would be telling a lie if I said it did, HOWEVER, if it doesn’t work then it is usually a sign that the scope of the project needs to be adjusted.  This means a meeting is needed to re-evaluate the target audience, messaging, and approach.

A good firm works with you and ALL of the pieces of your communication plan to make the phones valuable.  99% of the time, with a good partnership between the organization and our firm, as well as the right integration of complimentary pieces (email, text/SMS, video, direct mail) phones will be a key component of your organization’s success.

Specific to fundraising efforts, what are the most critical pieces you bring to the table at Connection Strategy?

As I mentioned earlier, our well trained and highly experienced Fundraising Agents take care of a big part of the personal communication, in addition to the critical nature of good data.  From who we are targeting, to a quality list, and analytic capabilities, we’re very good at this part.

We have also established HUGE success with automated calls for fundraisings efforts since 2005.  We use pre-recorded messages with direct mail pieces and see a 15-35% increase in response rates for both college admissions and fundraising efforts. We even help collect tuition very effectively.

The newest piece to our efforts is Tele Town Hall which has become an instant success.

What is a Tele Town Hall?

This revolutionary, interactive communication tool allows you to engage with thousands of friends, supporters, members and donors, in live, real-time, personal communication with the touch of a button.  Our system dials thousands of outbound numbers per minute. The custom designed dialer uses VoIP technology to automatically connect a pre-selected list to your live event.  Pre-recorded messages are left on un-answered calls.  A web-based control screen allows the VIP Speaker to see real-time stats: who accepts their invitation, who we left messages for, how many people are in the question queue, and how many people are participating via the web. VIP Speaker initiates call from any phone and can connect additional guest speakers located anywhere.

Sounds cool… is there anything else you are doing that people should know is part of your solutions offerings?

There are a few…

For starters, we have a sister company that does full service online design and development including online giving, E-commerce, SMS, member log-in, social networking, database integration, animation, video, and blog.

We are also leading the way in the era of digital marketing by implementing unparalleled techniques for social media. Text Messaging app development and deployment which is producing great results in reaching the age 35 and younger audiences.   And of course, full service consulting services that help you every step of the way in defining and developing the right plan, to market research and through project management.

Let us know where in your process we can step in and assist!

Annual-Fund Revenue Fell in 2009

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates

Fewer people gave money to colleges in 2009, and those who did gave less than usual, a study of annual funds has found.

Participation in annual funds has been on the decline for a few years, but 2009 marked the first time that annual-fund revenue dropped as well, according to the 2009 Index of Higher Education Fundraising Performance. The report examined donations to 61 public and private colleges during 2009. Although the negative trends were more marked at public colleges, there were few positive signs for either group.

The study was done by Target Analytics, which is part of Blackbaud, a provider of software to nonprofit groups.

The median participation rate for all colleges dropped from 15.9 percent in 2008 to 12.4 percent in 2009. The colleges in the survey reported an average drop in revenue of 8 percent per donor. Annual-fund revenue declined 13 percent over all—15.6 percent at public colleges and 11.2 percent at private colleges.

These numbers are consistent with the results of this year’s Voluntary Support of Education survey, which reported a record 11.9-percent drop in donations during 2009. That survey, which examines all giving and is conducted by the Council for Aid to Education, found that alumni participation hit a record low, 10 percent, and that the average size of alumni gifts fell 13.8 percent from the previous year.

“Donors were simply giving less,” Shaun B. Keister, associate vice president for development at Pennsylvania State University, wrote via e-mail. He helped analyze the data for Target Analytics.

The drop in revenue could have resulted from what Mr. Keister called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Worried that donors would say no, colleges asked for less money—and so donors gave less.

The colleges that managed to defy the downward trends were those that “infused more effort” into their giving program, he said.

Rice University, for example, achieved a 10-percent increase in revenue and a 1-percent rise in participation by reaching out to young alumni—traditionally the group with the lowest participation rate, said Darrow G. Zeidenstein, vice president for resource development.

“If we hadn’t done that program, we probably would have been down 2 or 3 percent,” he said.

The full report is available at Blackbaud’s Web site.

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‘Karmas’ Become Dollars For Charities That Are Mobile

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

By Kate Rogers

Non-Profit Times

Sixth graders from low-income families who attend Eberhart Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side needed Net Book computers to increase their technology skills. Donors across the country made this happen on Feb. 19, without spending a dime.

Through the use of a simple iPhone app, CauseWorld, which partnered on the project with New York City-based DonorsChoose.org, consumers checked in at restaurants, clothing stores and supermarkets on the app, turning their retail therapy into dollars donated.

In other words, there was an app for that.

Nonprofits are upping their tech game by creating smart phone apps, which enable donors and constituents to give or volunteer in quick and simple ways, without the limits seen in text-to-give campaigns. More importantly, charity apps bring something different to the table; they combine education and fun.

CauseWorld users earn between five and 10 “Karmas” for each store they check in at on the app, and can accumulate up to 10 karmas to give to a charity. For each 10 karmas donated, sponsors Kraft and Citibank donate a fixed rate, which varies from cause to cause. Donors also have the opportunity to learn more about each cause before donating to it.

Users donated 772,595 karmas to classroom projects at DonorsChoose.org, totaling $7,725.95, according to Jonathan Evans, director of vendor relations at Donorschoose.org.
“It’s very peer-to-peer,” he said. “They (users) decide where funds go, and there’s a direct connection between a need and an individual who wants to help.”

The app was created as a way for corporations to use marketing budgets and join forces with charitable causes, according to Cyriac Roeding, CEO and co-founder of shopkick Inc., in Paolo Alto, Calif., which created CauseWorld. The application, which is available for iPhone and Android phones, was downloaded more than 300,000 times during its first two months, and has added Proctor & Gamble to its list of sponsors. Roeding said the app taps into the passionate mindset of those who want to do good but can’t always afford to make donations.

Soon, CauseWorld users will be able to earn karmas by scanning the barcode on Proctor & Gamble products in stores across the U.S. Roeding said there is no way to tie purchases to karmas as yet, and support from the app’s stores is not needed.

The ASPCA in New York City launched an iPhone app called Pet Safe, after previously successful interactive marketing campaigns and social media engagement. The app works as a consumer tool, and gives users complete access to the charity’s toxic plant database, which can also be viewed on the ASPCA’s Web site. It lists the plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses in alphabetical order, along with photos, warning signs and a breakdown of the plant, showing what parts of it are and are not toxic. Users can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center.

The app allows users to donate directly to the charity, and can also link them back to the ASPCA home page, which is now mobile-optimized for smart phones. From there, users are given the option of signing up for email alerts and charity information.

Betsey Fortlouis, vice president of member communications at the charity, said the ASPCA has the number one toxic plant database in the country, and hopes to extend it to include common household poisons.

“Right now, we are trying to figure out how to re-reach the 70 million homes in America with pets, in a more fun, hip, forward-thinking way,” Fortlouis said. “The demographic is changing. It used to be little old ladies with seven cats at home sending in a monthly donation. But now, we are seeing more savvy, active members, and we are looking to reach more people like that.”

Creating smart phone apps should be a natural move for nonprofits that are investing in current technology, according to Beth Cathey, business development consultant at is7.com in Richardson, Texas. The gap between smart phones and PCs is narrowing, Cathey said, and charities should take advantage of the opportunity to engage a rapidly growing audience.

“Mobile giving strategies should be a part of your plan. Instead of spending time and money on the latest thing, figure out how it compliments what you are already doing,” she said. “Make a smart phone-optimized Web site, so you are not scrolling and scrolling. That is the kiss of death when you are trying to get someone to give you money.”

Web optimization is extremely important for nonprofits to consider, she said, because it allows donors to get information and donate within seconds, anywhere they might be.

“Its almost like impulse buying at the grocery store,” she said. “They can access it wherever they are, and whenever they get inspired.”

Nonprofits like VolunteerMatch.org in San Diego, Calif., are making volunteering easier. On its new iPhone app, the organization links volunteers to one of its 70,000 participating charities based on their age, location, interests and skills. Robert Rosenthal, director of communications for VolunteerMatch, said because volunteer listings have become increasingly niche-based in recent years, the charity hopes to take advantage of such interests by making it more simple to connect volunteers and their choice causes. The app, which is free to download, is similar to the charity’s Web site, which allows volunteers to search for opportunities in their area.

Using GPS technology, the app looks up volunteer listings based on a person’s location, Rosenthal said. The app will evolve over time to give people volunteer information based on what the phone itself already knows about the person.

“This allows us to more quickly give people things that are more relevant to them,” he said. “It filters based on what you care about. It’s so important to make it easy for nonprofits to connect with volunteers.”
Once a volunteer signs up for a nonprofit on the app, the charity will reach out to the person on its own. From there, volunteers can share charity information through their own social media accounts, Rosenthal said.

The app debuted at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas last month and had more than 400 downloads in its first week, Rosenthal said. The charity is working on creating versions of the app for other smart phones.

Los Angeles, Calif.-based MobileCause is making app creation and deployment easier and cheaper for nonprofits with its uGive software. Charities can launch their own iPhone app in just four steps, according to MobileCause President and Co-founder Daniel Scalisi. Nonprofits can upload video content and photos, link their Facebook and Twitter accounts, connect their text campaigns and self-publish using the platform, Scalisi said.

The app can be maintained and updated through the same steps. The software comes as part of a bundle from MobileCause, which includes text to donate and $5 and $10 text to give campaigns, for $99 per month.
“With an app, nonprofits are immediately exposed to a whole new audience,” Scalisi said. “We realize there is much more to a donor relationship than text messaging, and the trigger for us was the app marketplace was meaningful enough to pursue it. It was critical for us to make an app simple to create and deploy.”

Close to 35 nonprofits were using uGive by press time, before its official release, Scalisi said. uGive is free to download and gives users access to all participating nonprofits. They can sort and save the nonprofits they want to learn more about and follow. Users can also share information about the charities with their Facebook and Twitter communities. Donations can be made in just two clicks, Scalisi said.
“It’s a far richer experience and its more personal, because (the phone) sits right in your hand,” he said. “Its more immediate and simple, and the device is so much more pervasive and accessible than a desktop PC.”

Apps can typically cost charities upwards of $10,000 to create and hundreds to maintain. However, the ASPCA’s app was created free by the Treviso Media Group. The charity is not projecting to make a ton of money from the tool, Fortlouis said. Instead, the ASPCA is seeking to enter into the world of interactive marketing and gauge its success.

“The purpose of this is to get our foot in the water,” she said. “This will be cool for us, because we didn’t have to spend money on acquisition mailing, and we can reach out to people in a new way. We are very limited with our budget, so we want to figure out where else we can go with this.”

Although the nonprofit had not previously worked with mobile fundraising, it did offer pet tips of the day through a text messaging campaign. Fortlouis said nonprofits are often limited during mobile campaigns, because donors can only give up to $10 and charities cannot access their home or email addresses to cultivate a relationship with them. Such is not the case with a smart phone app, which will allow the ASPCA to access the users’ contact information.

Text-to-give campaigns will not completely disappear in the wake of newer technology, such as charity phone apps, is7.com’s Cathey said. However, they will become more advanced and give donors more options.

Many donors and nonprofits become frustrated with such campaigns because the donation amount is limited and it can take up to 90 days for a charity to actually see the money raised. “The fact is that organizations forget that a donor only has one relationship with them; they don’t have email, direct marketing or text-to-give options to choose from,” Cathey said.

“Organizations have to use analytics to figure out how donors want to engage with them. If you want to be the recipient of a donation, then you better make it quick and easy for donors,” she said.

Roeding said charities should get in the app game as soon as possible to take advantage of mobile technology’s vast user base.

“It’s embedded in your daily life,” he said of mobile technology. “As a nonprofit, people are in love with what you do, but there are only so many people who are directly engaged in your charity.”

Taking Advantage Of Direct Mail Postage Savings

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

usps-300x300With the U.S. Postal Service facing an estimated cumulative shortfall of $238 billion by 2020, it is seeking approval for an overall price increase of about 5.6% starting in January 2011. Add to that tight corporate budgets and it’s easy to understand why marketers are intensely focused on looking for flexible solutions that meet their direct-mail delivery time frames yet stay within the budget.

Too frequently, however, the focus on saving money is on how the piece is produced while savings that can result from the right postal solutions are overlooked. Production oversight is important for saving a few pennies per thousand pieces, but there are many mailing options that offer the opportunity for more significant savings. It takes understanding the options and when to use them. Let’s take a look:

• Destination entry. The USPS offers postage discounts for standard-class mail to those that deliver their mail to its large automated sorting facilities. But for this option to make sense in most cases, the discount needs to exceed the freight cost by a large enough amount so that the administrative costs are worth the difference. This method is best for a large mailing or one with a very dense geographic coverage.

The highest discounts are available for those that can ship their mail to a Sectional Center Facility (SCF), which is a processing and distribution center for post offices in a designated geographical area. If it doesn’t make economic sense to use an SCF, then shipping to a USPS Bulk Mail Center (BMC) or utilizing co-palletization might be the best option. For some mailings, a combination of these options works best.

• Co-palletization. A service provider authorized by the USPS to offer co-palletization services can combine trays from multiple mailings together on the same skid, qualifying for SCF postal discounts. Each mailing is presorted and produced independently but may be merged onto one pallet, maximizing collective postal discounts. For midsize mailings, co-palletization often is the best option and is frequently complementary to BMC drops. If freight costs are outweighing the savings of BMC/SCF, co-palletization should be considered.

• Commingling. For mailings that have multiple letter shop versions, or small quantities of about 20,000 to 30,000 pieces that are delivered to a widely dispersed geography, commingling can maximize postal rate savings for first- and standard-class mail. A lower fixed postage rate can be gained by combining components with other mailings than what would be achieved by mailing components separately.

However, for some small mailings, commingling may not be the best option. For example, with commingling it is more difficult to control actual arrival dates. Keep in mind, too, that commingling is often offered because a service provider has invested in expensive equipment and wants to use it.

There are many complex variables when considering all the postal options available today. When planning a campaign, consider sending your service provider an exact data file that is scrubbed of confidential information, leaving only the address information—a so-called “dead file.” In this way, any service provider expert at postal optimization can consider all the campaign’s variables, determine the best postal fit for the job and provide an accurate bid. A confidentiality agreement can be signed too, if desired, which allows you to securely compare providers.

It is also important to know if a mailer has a system for real-time tracking and reporting, as well as access to the Postal Service’s PostalOne information management system for more time-efficient and cost-effective campaigns.

Finding the right postal solution to best fit the requirements of a direct-mail campaign, at the best rate, lowest freight cost and fastest delivery might take a little homework, but the savings gained for marketers looking to save their companies money is well worth the time.

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10 Key Online Fundraising Trends

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

donate-keyboard
While direct mail is still king in bringing in funds, online fundraising remains an ever-growing channel that is vital to the future of every organization. Studying the trends and understanding where opportunities lie going forward as today’s online generation reaches prime giving age are musts. To that end, nonprofit technology provider Convio recently released its Online Nonprofit Benchmark Study.

Here are some key findings from the study:

1. Online giving grew 14 percent despite a difficult economy. Overall, 69 percent of organizations raised more in 2009 than 2008, while 31 percent saw declines in their online fundraising.

2. An increase in gifts drove fundraising gains. Of those that grew fundraising in 2009, 92 percent saw an increase in the number of gifts in 2009 compared to 43 percent of organizations seeing an increase in their average gift amounts.

3. Donors were still giving, but smaller amounts. Sixty-one percent of all organizations saw their average gifts drop in 2009.

4. Regardless of mission, online fundraising continued to grow. The only exception was disaster and international relief organizations; there were more significant disasters in 2008 than 2009.

5. Small organizations grew fastest. Organizations with fewer than 1,000 e-mail addresses on file grew online revenue by 26 percent and gifts by 32 percent.

6. E-mail files continued to grow strongly. The total e-mail file grew 27 percent in 2009 to 39,100 constituents.

7. Web traffic continued to grow for most organizations, but at a slower rate. Sixty percent of organizations grew their website traffic from 2008 to 2009. Web traffic growth in 2009 was at 6 percent compared with double-digit growth seen in previous years.

8. Web traffic was strongly correlated with e-mail file growth. Thirty-eight percent of an organization’s success building large e-mail files could be directly attributed to the amount of traffic to the organization’s website.

9. Registration rates dropped. The rate at which organizations converted website visitors to their e-mail files declined to 2.12 percent in 2009.

10. Constituents more reluctant to open e-mails and click through. Open rates for fundraising appeals and newsletters remained around 20 percent, but clickthrough rates for both declined in 2009.

To view the entire study, click here.

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Anyone Can Make a Difference

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates

difference

I recently made a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN with my husband. As we maneuvered our way from appointment to appointment, I caught myself staring at all the portraits of donors and names of halls and wings in honor of someone. It made me wonder; how much money does one have to donate to have a building named after them? As much as I’d like to dream, I definitely know my husband and I are not candidates for that type of gift. But, if down the road Mayo would like to target us as potential donors, what messaging will they use?

Creating messaging that will appeal to your donors and encourage them to act is always the goal. While you want to acknowledge the donors that have given you those multi-million dollar gifts (you can dream too), how many people receiving that messaging will be able to relate? Acknowledging the smaller gifts may have a greater impact on your donors. You can get them thinking about how any size gift can make a difference.

While working as a production coordinator for The Stelter Company I read through countless donor stories that came across my desk each week. While many of them had the same structure and message, the ones that stuck out the most were those featuring donors who gave on a much smaller scale. If they got me thinking, “I can do something like that too”, I can only imagine the impact they had on their target audience.

So while Mayo may never have a portrait of the Durand’s gracing a wing, if they can appeal to me on a level I can relate to, their chances of getting a smaller (and equally important) gift are pretty good.

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7 Signs of Successful Study-Abroad Programs

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates

photo_6359_landscape_largeInterest in study-abroad programs has never been higher among American college students. In 2008 the American Council on Education and the College Board published a report documenting that a large proportion of students plan to study abroad and want their institutions to offer a wide range of international education opportunities.

So why do as few as 1.5 percent of college students travel overseas to study every year?

The answer involves a series of obstacles that prevent enthusiastic students from seeking the opportunities they desire. As the report states, “barriers to student participation are real, including security concerns, high cost, academic demands that accommodate neither study abroad nor other international-learning experiences, and lack of encouragement by faculty and advisers.” Also, many colleges do not foster the international-learning experience. They may talk the talk but don’t walk the walk; they construct many of the barriers that hamper students.

It’s just a matter of time before those institutions find themselves at a huge disadvantage when recruiting undergraduates. A global college education is increasingly becoming a crucial part of being competitive in today’s job market, and students are demanding it more and more. They are talking and blogging about “unfriendly” study-abroad practices and where to stay clear.

So what is a successful study-abroad program? What does a “study-abroad-friendly” university look like?

Here are my seven signs:

Support from both the administration and the faculty. If the administration supports international education, but there is no buy-in from faculty members, will students study abroad? The answer is yes, but not many. If faculty members support international education, but there is little or no administrative buy-in, will students study abroad? Probably, through a “decentralized” approach, or where there are many barriers, an “exit” approach. Many land-grant institutions, like the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and other universities, like the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, adopted the decentralized approach, whereby faculty members pioneered and paved the way for international-learning experiences long before the administration stepped up to support them. The exit approach is the most extreme: Students completely withdraw from the university in order to study abroad.

All in all, things tend to work out better when both administrators and faculty members are on the same page. Administrators have the power of finance, while professors have the power of influence. Where the two converge, there are bona fide results. In an ideal university, professors are globally minded, appreciate international experiences, and have opportunities to engage in the international-education process. Administrators are supportive through both actions and words.

Variety of program options. Nothing frustrates me more than colleges that don’t allow their students to participate in study-abroad programs that are not their own, or make it very difficult for them to do so. They may restrict financial aid, withhold course equivalencies, and/or deny valuable academic credit. Colleges that encourage study abroad offer a portfolio of programs, supported by the academic departments, to meet students’ needs. They also provide a degree of flexibility that allows students to individualize their potential experiences.

Preparation for risk. Colleges with long-term successful study-abroad operations prepare for the inevitable. They develop study-abroad programs carefully and have thorough application processes that involve judicial affairs, health services, disability services, the counseling center, and other key offices on campus. They also have appropriate health insurance, contingency plans, crisis-management protocols, policies, procedures, training, and orientations designed to promote health and safety throughout the international experience. They encourage teamwork and use the campus as a support network. Some successful universities, like Michigan State University, have even named an administrator to oversee the health, safety, and security of travelers.

Fair value, a fair price. Study-abroad-friendly universities are not always cheap and they’re not always nonprofit, but they are usually open about their financial model and net gains. I read on a student’s blog this year that an American college is going to charge $30,000 tuition to award credit for a $5,000 partner program run by another university. That college should be clearer and more open about its budget. Otherwise, it looks like a 600-percent markup to put its name behind some courses, which they neither develop nor teach.

Eastern Illinois University collaborates with higher-education institutions around the world to maintain quality study-abroad programs for students. We negotiate discounts for students and price programs at cost. While abroad, our students often encounter other students paying three or four times as much for the same academic experience.

Every department has options. Each college needs to connect international-learning experiences to academic needs. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, for example, has developed its well-known “study-abroad major advising sheets” to do that. Those sheets help students, academic advisers, professors, and study-abroad professionals match overseas programs with academic programs. They are built from study-abroad course articulations and shift the focus of study abroad from an “extracurricular” activity to a “scholastic” one. And the sheets do more than engage various people in a discussion; they help the college identify programming gaps in academic areas that lack study-abroad opportunities.

Students earn valuable credit. There is no standard for study-abroad credit. An American college may accept academic credit from language schools or institutes overseas based on its own criteria. Successful operations recognize and accommodate the “study” in study abroad. They put mechanisms into place that encourage students to take their courses seriously. Approved courses abroad replace major, minor, and general education requirements in their undergraduate-degree program or fulfill course work or practicum experiences at the graduate level.

A commitment to go green. Middlebury College awards “sustainable study-abroad grants” to assist students with research and projects related to environmentally friendly practices. It also has a Going Green guide, a Green Passport program, a carbon-offset program, and a comprehensive list of sustainable travel resources. We in higher education can’t possibly be promoting global citizenship if we are inconsiderate of how international travel affects the environment. Wise colleges have an awareness, understanding, and concern about the global impact international visitors are having in communities around the world. They do their part in educating students and helping them reduce their possibly harmful footprint.

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Five Easy Steps to Developing a Content Strategy

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

content-comm-techDeveloping a content strategy is the lifeblood of Internet marketing. Consistently updating and presenting your content benefits you in two ways: your customers and prospects become engaged when you share your expertise, and search engines like Google and Yahoo love the rich, buttery taste of new, relevant content.

Many Web sites include tools for adding fresh articles and blogs on a regular basis – are you taking advantage? Here’s how to get started:

1. Understand your audience.

The key to any content strategy is to fully understand the needs of your prospects and clients. What information can you provide to solve their problems and what’s the best way to present it?

2. Develop a blog/article strategy.

First, assign an editor. This could be a marketing director, a visionary executive, or an outsourced professional journalist. The editor’s job is to determine what types of articles and blog posts should be developed and posted on the site. Next, establish an editorial calendar (what topics are we going to post, who’s going to write it, when are we going to post it). Develop some consistency so that your writers can be comfortable and your audience can rely on you for new information.

3. Collect relevant email addresses.

Include an email signup form on your Web site. Make sure your sales and marketing professionals who engage with prospects collect emails, too. Get everyone in the company engaged in this process, and you’ll see your database grow quickly.

4. Build a newsletter.

Now that you have articles and blog posts on your Web site, you don’t have to create as much new content for a newsletter. Simply incorporate headlines and lead paragraphs with links to the articles on your site. Also, you might want to include some of the latest news headlines from your industry. Don’t forget the calendar of events, especially if you are attending trade shows, speaking engagements and conferences.

5. Find additional distribution channels.

If your company has a Facebook page and Twitter accounts, these are obvious places to promote your blogs and articles. Look at your channel partners and see what they are doing–there might be an opportunity to send them article links to run in their communities. Look for associations that your company participates in and offer them your RSS feeds. These opportunities extend your reach in front of relevant audiences.

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Fund Raisers

August 23rd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Cartoons
lacy-cartoons