Structuring your school’s surround sound strategy.

Feb 1, 2024

If you want to reach your audience where they’re at, make an impression, and inspire them to engage, you’ll need to structure your school’s surround sound strategy effectively to rise above the noise.

Remember, it’s not just about increasing the number of eyeballs on your content. It’s about building an approach using multiple channels that play a unique role in your journey to success.

So, part of this is just embracing the way people already connect. We consume, create, and connect with a mix of digital and traditional media daily.

Surround sound communications embrace this and let your audience know you’re there for them, wherever they are!

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You may know this concept as multichannel marketing or integrated communications.

And the results don’t lie! Study after study shows this approach is more effective. Multi-channel donors give more on average and are retained at a rate two times higher than online or offline-only donors, according to the Blackbaud Institute.

There’s always room to grow. So, make sure you keep tabs on the success of every touch in your strategy and make changes as needed. Fix mistakes and build on your wins by applying everything you learn in future communications or for different targeted audiences.

You need to share a cohesive message across all channels to go surround sound effectively.

Extend the experience.

You might already have some idea of the channels that will help your school or university achieve your campaign’s goals. But shouting the same message from different places won’t help you stand out.

Your school’s surround sound strategy is about more than using a blend of channels.

It’s about creating cohesive experiences for your audience.

So, start by thinking about your goal and outlining the steps it will take for community members to achieve it. Once you have your strategic message squared away, you can determine the role of each channel in your campaign.

Consider the order your audience receives your messages and how each touch builds on the last. For example, a direct mail piece with a PURL can lead to a short survey, which can help you apply more advanced personalization later in the campaign.

Remember, every outreach channel has a unique personality. So, your message must adapt accordingly! For example, you’ll have more room to get creative with graphics and images on your website and direct mailers.

And don’t forget to tailor your calls-to-action to the strengths of each platform. On Facebook, you might keep it as simple as “follow us to stay up to date.” From there, you can create posts that steer followers to sign up for your mailing list, which allows you to reach out with appeals and other more personalized messages.

READ MORE: Are you going surround sound with your outreach?

Develop a unique campaign brand for specific initiatives that ties into your larger organizational brand.

Establish your identity.

You need to maintain a consistent brand throughout your campaign. Your school and any specific initiative should be instantly recognizable from one touchpoint to the next, regardless of where the message is being absorbed.

Your school probably has an organizational brand already. But you can go further by giving specific campaigns, like your annual fund, their own brand and identity that compliments the school’s.

Your community should immediately be able to connect the dots between your latest appeal mailer and the follow-up appeal email they just received! So, make sure your brand is front and center. Branded colors, fonts, and images should be aligned across every message and medium.

And don’t forget to appeal to your community’s established sense of self!

This is critical to effectively implementing your school’s surround sound strategy.

Send donors content related to specific programs they’ve supported to help them see the difference they’ve made. Prospective students and their parents responding to a print ad can be directed to a specialized landing page with the same image and message from the ad that drew them in.

It’s all about steering potential supporters to your goal by getting the right mix, maintaining your brand identity, and showing them the next step.

READ MORE: Important fundraising tools for your school.

You're data can help you create more personal communications for your school's segmented audiences.

Be diligent with your data.

Different departments and individuals at your school or university will need to communicate and collaborate to go surround sound successfully. Your admissions staff needs to work closely with the fundraising team, for example.

When someone completes the registration process for their child, they’re not just the student’s parent. They’re a potential donor! So, send them a personalized direct mail piece that welcomes them to your community. Then, plan communications that slowly introduce them to giving opportunities.

As you may have imagined, this also means you will need a centralized database to keep interdepartmental functions running smoothly.

Document every interaction with community members so nothing slips through the cracks. Everyone should recognize the value of collecting additional data for every record in your database.

After all, multi-channel marketing thrives on having several ways to reach and engage your audience!

READ MORE: How independent schools can be more data driven.

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Assess your approach.

You already know there are several metrics that can help you track and measure your success, like click rates, online conversion rates, and your average gift size.

And you can dive even deeper into your school’s surround sound strategy by analyzing conversion rates for different channels or goals. Ask yourself questions like, what was the first way most of our donors engaged with us? Or compare gift amounts and the lifetime value of a donor with another to learn more about their tendencies.

So, don’t be afraid to dig into your data anytime you think of a question you can’t answer about your community. The answers will be there, so long as you maintain proper data hygiene across all departments at your school.

Remember, you don’t have to wait to act on what you learn. Don’t be afraid to use your insights to tweak an ongoing campaign. One of a fundraiser’s most important skills is adaptability. And every campaign gives you the opportunity to earn and learn!

Click here to check out our latest eBook to learn more about amplifying your school’s outreach.

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