We go behind-the-scenes with the 20-city VCU Alumni Tour to see how the team used EverTrue for strategic event programming and successful outreach to hundreds of newly discovered alumni.
Making It Real
As Virginia Commonwealth University heads toward the conclusion of its $750 million “Make It Real Campaign for VCU,” the Office of Alumni Relations is capitalizing on the current momentum and looking ahead to a post-campaign environment.
Connections among alumni and the university are strong in the Richmond, Virginia area where 40% of VCU’s 200,000-plus alumni live and the alumni relations team runs regular events. But the further you go from campus, the fewer university-sponsored events exist.
“A lot of our cities were cold [without recent events or local engagements],” said Parks Smith, director of alumni volunteer programs and professional development at VCU. “When our men’s basketball team made its Final Four run in 2011, a lot of regional chapters started up groups to watch the games. But we wanted to get people involved beyond watch parties.”
Join us in DC this Wednesday to watch the Rams take on the GW Colonials! Your ticket also includes passes to a pregame event and a limited-edition t-shirt. Purchase your tickets today:https://t.co/4zzdXimdk6#VCU #VCUAlumni #LetsGoVCU #ThisIsRamNation pic.twitter.com/rTETEKtK1w
— VCU Alumni (@vcualumni) February 4, 2019
The 20-City Alumni Tour
So the team drew up a 20-city Alumni Tour that would take VCU to areas where it hadn’t visited often — or in some cases, ever.
But since alumni in these cities weren’t used to VCU being in their neighborhood, the team wanted to customize the events for each city, generating turnout and creating opportunities for ongoing engagement.
They started by using EverTrue to find the most digitally engaged alumni in each area, looking for active Facebook fans in each region. Then they took it a step further and analyzed the types of content these alumni liked or commented on, helping tailor each event.
“We used data in EverTrue to find our ‘color-bleeders’ — our most passionate VCU alumni — and then find out what they’re interested in,” Parks said. “Did they care about the VCU Brandcenter, the School of Business, or engineering? We sent them catered messaging to get them more involved with the event or the university.”
Then VCU dug into the enriched career information from EverTrue’s TrueView insights to design events that resonated with local alumni by quickly pulling lists by industry and location. In Charlotte, North Carolina, they found a high population of business school alumni, so VCU held a networking event there. Where in Washington, D.C., there were a large number of teachers, so VCU ran a happy hour for educators.
— VCU Alumni (@vcualumni) July 30, 2019
TrueView insights continually deliver new location, job title, company information, and more, letting colleges track the movement of graduates as they change jobs and move across the country. So VCU relied on EverTrue to identify lost alumni and people who’d moved to the tour cities but had yet to notify the university.
Caleb Capaz, senior project manager of Strategic Marketing and Engagement, used EverTrue to expand tour invite lists by 25% in key cities, helping VCU engage more alumni throughout the tour.
Caleb compared VCU’s own information to EverTrue and found there were hundreds of alumni living in cities like Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh that VCU didn’t know about. But, thanks to this new information, VCU invited them to tour events and can now begin engaging them on a more personal basis.
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Without EverTrue: 654
- With: 812
- Difference: 158 (24% increase)
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Without EverTrue: 846
- With: 1,085
- Difference: 239 (28% increase)
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Without EverTrue: 307
- With: 376
- Difference: 69 (22% increase)
“The future is now,” Caleb said. “EverTrue is the best tool on the market to find people where they are, to engage them with what they want to be engaged with, and to add strategy to solicitations from annual giving to major gifts. You can finally segment without having to ask a ‘query wizard’ do it for you in the CRM.”
Engaging With “New” Alumni
Through the Alumni Tour, which concluded in November, VCU was able to meet hundreds of alumni face-to-face in cities around the country. Many of them, for the first time. They’ve increased engagement with thousands more constituents and will continue building regional networks to provide local connections among graduates.
“We’re wrapping up a campaign now and thinking about what’s next. We’re building the top of the funnel now and that starts with engagement,” Parks said.
All of that gives VCU a solid foundation, which the team is poised to turn into stronger volunteer programs, more opportunities for annual giving, and major gift pipeline for the next project or campaign.
Parks Smith, director of alumni volunteer programs and professional development at VCU, talks about his experience using data from EverTrue during the Alumni Tour.