Successful Alumni Storytelling Through Video: "Fueling Innovation" at IIT

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Recently, a few members of the EverCrew went out to the CASE Summit in San Francisco, where we engaged in all the latest trends in institutional advancement, especially in technology and social innovation.

Clearly, one of the things we’re known for at EverTrue is our fashion sense

One of the best parts of the weekend for our team was learning about the 2013 Circle of Excellence Awards Winners, which honors exemplary programs in all disciplines within advancement.

One winner that blew us away was the Illinois Institute of Technology, which won a Grand Gold Award for its fundraising video, “Fueling Innovation: The Campaign for IIT”.

The video, produced by Madhouse, is some of the best work we’ve seen in institutional advancement, and since it’s recent release in February it already over 7,000 views on YouTube.

It’s so successful because:

  • it has a unique style that draws the viewer in

  • the production values are incredible and augment the video’s content

  • it has a clear message and intended audience

Planning an Alumni Brand and Setting Objectives

We were so wowed by the video that we reached out to Lisa Notter, the Senior Director of Advancement Communications, Events, and Stewardship at IIT. When she told us about the origins of the video, she stressed the importance of setting specific objectives whenever considering a new social media strategy.

“Our goal was to create a communication that would inspire philanthropy and involvement in our campaign,” she said. “Our campaign doesn’t just have a monetary goal; we have a goal of increasing alumni engagement and helping to find the next generation of volunteers.”

The video marked the launch of the Fueling Innovation fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $250 million, and Notter stressed the importance of nailing down the branding of the campaign prior to beginning any talks about video production.

“We had already worked for months identifying our brand, and we planned to express our message through stories about students, alumni, and faculty who had developed world-changing inventions,” Notter said. “We went through an exhaustive process of selecting vendors, and we really liked the approach of Madhouse. Then, we really tried to educate them on the Fueling Innovation brand positioning.”

Strategies for Promoting an Advancement video

According to Notter, the effects of the video were more than her team could have ever expected.

“We debuted it a big event with our top donors and trustees on February 7th,” she said. “It was the first time we had shown the video and one of our trustees stood up in front of everyone and cheered really loudly. And it wasn’t that type of event, where you would do that – so we knew we were on the right track.”

But that first big launch isn’t enough. In order to most effectively promote a video or another piece of innovative content, an advancement office needs to constantly brainstorm creative ways to generate the most engagement possible. For IIT, the answer was simple: events.

“We’ve used it at all of our campus and regional alumni events throughout the country,” she added. “And our admissions department has used it – they’ve taken it to China, around the world. We’ve really gotten our money’s worth out of the video, because it’s being used in all sorts of ways that we didn’t even imagine.”

IIT’s technique is one that we often see repeated by some of the most successful alumni offices – if you’ve a great piece of content or a new initiative, make sure to share it constantly and throughout your programming, so you get the maximum return on investment.

For Notter, the video’s effects are just starting to be seen.

“We’ve still got until the end of 2016 for this campaign,” she said. “Obviously we’re not going to show it to repeat audiences but there’s still a lot of secondary regions where we haven’t shown the video to yet. We even pass it out on thumb drives sometimes at events. We’re really pleased with the reaction we’ve gotten from the community, and that’s what counts.”

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