How independent schools can be more data driven.

Mar 23, 2023

Many independent schools and universities are looking for ways to do more with their data. 

As you know, every organization is different. But despite having different missions, audiences, and goals, we can all do more with a data-driven approach.

You’re more likely to inspire your donors to make a difference with a more personal and relevant message. And in this sense, independent schools are like any other nonprofit!

If you work for an independent school, your mission is probably related to creating opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders. We think everyone can agree this is an important outcome.

And you will need your community’s support to accomplish this mission.

So, here’s how your independent school can be more data-driven, raise more money, and build a brighter future.

The year someone graduated is more than a number. It's a four digit code that represents a key period of growth.

Appeal to the sense of self.

True or False? Emotional stories are the most effective way to inspire giving with your appeals.

It’s false!

Now, we’re not saying that you should ditch your stories or how you play on the emotions of your donors altogether.

Appealing to emotion and reason are still key parts of any appeal story.

But you should focus on connecting with a donor’s sense of identity. And this is especially true for educational institutions!

There are a few easy ways independent schools and universities can get started being more data driven and donor centric.

Using an alumni’s graduating year as the focus of your appeal is a great way to start.

DOWNLOAD: Show and Tell - Compelling storytelling for nonprofits.

As we learn, grow, and discover ourselves during the formative years of our lives, we develop a special connection to the place where it all happened. The year we graduate isn’t just a number. It’s an important part of our personal identity.

It’s a four-digit code representing that period of growth.

That’s why a phrase like, “a lot has changed since you last walked these halls in 1999,” pulls a donor in. It brings back memories of walking through those halls to their locker every morning, the day they graduated, and everything in between.

READ MORE: Is your nonprofit suffering from boring storytelling?

Show your audience you really know them using versioned content to make your messages more relevant.

Make it unique.

Using variable content in your outreach can help drive those points home. But you will need a clean and organized data base to do it!

Take the example of using a graduating year from the example in the section above.

You can do much more than simply mention the year a former student graduated. Why not include a class picture along with your appeal to make an impression and bring up some old memories?

Or go even further and take some clippings from the school newspaper to remind students what was going on around the time they graduated!

You could take the same approach if a former student played on a sports team or was a member of an academic or social club. Bringing up memories of the big game, the theater club’s annual production or another significant event in someone’s life is a great way independent schools can be more data-driven and donor centric.

READ MORE: Are you keeping good data hygiene?

Alumni, current parents, parents of alumni, and parents who are also alumni need to hear different messages.

Know who you’re speaking to.

It’s great to bring up those memories. But it’s also important to think about where someone is now.

Segmenting audiences and reaching out with versioned communications for each group is another way independent schools can be more data-driven and relevant with their outreach.

For example, alumni, current parents, parents of alumni, and parents who are also alumni have very different relationships with your school.

So, you should not be reaching out to these groups with the same message.

After all, the examples above wouldn’t motivate a parent of a current student the way they inspire your alumni. However, current parents will be much more interested in the current day-to-day happenings at your school than a former student.

And parents of alumni will need a very different message altogether. You will need to create messages that inspire this group to provide the next generation with the same opportunities their children had as students at your school.

And of course, you can take segmentation as far as your data allows!

You can create a segment of former student athletes and put emphasis on your athletic programs for this group. And do the same for students who were members of a debate team, photography club, or other specialized activity.

READ MORE: 3 messages your school’s alumni want to hear.

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Build on what’s there.

It’s great if you’re thinking about ways your independent school can be more data driven. After all, it’s not always easy to make a change and try something different.

Our biggest piece of advice is to use your data to appeal to a donor’s sense of identity.

Educational institutions have a natural opening here. After all, your donors spent four important years of their life there as students. Or they are probably the parent of a child who did or is currently.

This means most of your donor base already feels connected to your organization.

Your school has a special place in their heart. And they understand how important the experience was for shaping them into who they are today.

The key is using your data to remind them of that and showing them how they can provide a similar experience for the next generation.

Still have questions? Click here to schedule a free consultation with an amplifi development strategist!

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DOWNLOAD: Show and Tell - Compelling storytelling for nonprofits.