The New School: How the Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Programs department rely on Emma for big results

Private design and research university, The New School believes in creating a more beautiful and better-designed world. To accompany their philosophy on design, The New School trusts Emma to easily create stunning, on-brand emails.

The Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Programs department looks to Emma to drive ongoing alumni involvement, donations, and major fundraising gifts. Across the university, departments rely on Emma and our HQ package to hone in on consistency and bring design best-practices to life. With critical tools, like an approvals dashboard and template locking, administrators can free up time to focus on other important initiatives, while trusting that any team member can hop into the platform and send a perfectly branded email every time.

From alumni engagement to annual giving, email makes the difference. 

Carrie Kran, Associate Director for the Annual Giving Programs at The New School, manages communications to alumni, parents, and friends for annual giving appeals. With more than 100 emails campaigns to send out each year, Kran’s team relies on Emma to get the job done quickly and efficiently. 

When it comes to results, Kran focuses on donations as the primary factor in measuring success. And although her team uses email alongside other mediums, like direct mail and social media, email marketing is the main channel used to reach the largest number of constituents. It’s also a tool that helps the school maintain their sustainability value. 

“Email helps us stick to some of our values of sustainability because we are able to communicate with all of our constituents in a way that does not directly harm the environment, which is super important to The New School. With direct mail, we might send to 10,000 people, but with email, we can get that same message across to more than 80,000 people,” says Kran. 

Dustin Bryant, Senior Director for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Programs, said that Emma’s Mailing Score feature makes it easier for his team to see email performance at-a-glance and benchmark against past mailings. With this particular feature, The New School can see high-level numbers that report account performance over the last 30 days. With this information, they can study what actually works for their audience so they can break through a cluttered inbox and reach their subscribers every time. 

Bryant also adds that Emma makes it easy to know what people are interested in, and allows even the most inexperienced email marketer to hop into the platform and send a perfectly branded and effective email. 

“We chose Emma because we’re in the business of building relationships. So the ability to see what people respond to and what messages they get individually is really helpful for us. Also, the ability for a non-experienced email designer to quickly throw together a message that looks lovely and on-brand is also very helpful,” says Bryant. 

Emma helps to solve their biggest issues, and makes email marketing easier than ever.

With such a large subscription list and widely segmented audience to send to, proper branding can definitely be a challenge—especially in an environment like an art school where a flawless and buttoned-up design is key to subscriber engagement. 

Before Emma, their email marketing system required team members to create custom HTML. Plus, they were spending time downloading lists from one system, only to spend additional time cleaning up those lists before being able to upload them to their email marketing platform. This extra work not only took extra time but also hindered the teams’ ability to execute on a flawless and on-brand design. 

Kran says, “with Emma it’s so much easier. Our templates are already set up, and the data that we have in the system allows us to easily create segments, which helps us make sure that the right messages are going to the right people.”


Emma HQ checks off brand consistency with every send. 

With Emma HQ, users have the ability to share templates, set and lock brand colors, fonts, and more. And for The New School, this means that any team member can easily hop into the platform and send a totally branded email with complete confidence.

“With the templates we have set up in Emma, we’re able to stay on-brand with all of our messaging and ensure that, should anyone else other than direct members be sending a message, that they’re going to be forced to stay on-brand,” Kran says. 

Bryant says that brand integrity is of the utmost importance in a university setting. He explains that there’s a sort of nostalgia that alumni feel in relation to their alma mater’s branding. Additionally, in an art school that educates about the importance of brand, maintaining The New School’s brand integrity is crucial. Brands create trust, so when an audience can recognize what they’re receiving and who they’re receiving it from, it adds power to the message. 

“What I love about [Emma HQ] is that it gives you a parent account. As an administrator with not a lot of time, I only have to go to one place to upload one logo, set the hex codes for the three colors we want to use, and make sure that the template is found in that one area. With other systems, you have to go to every individual login and build this ten times over, versus a one-and-done,” says Bryant.

Tailored messages capture audiences and encourage additional donations. 

Since 85% of The New School students receive financial support, annual giving is essential and directly related to student aid. With Emma, the Annual Givings Program can tailor their messaging to what they believe their audience is interested in and segment based on the specific school an individual attended to further encourage donations. 

Kran says, “Emma helps achieve our annual giving goals, which are to raise funds for student financial aid, faculty programs, research, and equipment that students need by helping us reach a large group of alumni and parents and encourage them to give. It’s a more cost effective way than reaching out to everyone via direct mail or phone. Plus, it allows us to get in touch with nearly all of our constituents, instead of just a small group.” 

In a recent email campaign, the Annual Givings team set up a segmented campaign with 44 different versions of the same email. Using data with Emma, they were easily able to set up these different segments based on the contact fields they had in the system. In the end, these highly tailored and targeted messages resulted in $20,000 in donations that came directly from email.

Bryant adds that 80% of first-time donors come in from email. And although The New School does use other marketing channels to acquire these donors, when they review the metrics, email is the medium that has the biggest impact.

Results that do the talking 

A campaign that sticks out for Kran and Bryant is their recent Founder’s Day email, which received 54 gifts for a total of $5,400 in donations. 

Just a few days before the anniversary of the university’s founding, the team made the executive decision to put together an email campaign specifically for Founder’s Day. Because this event happened to fall on a Sunday, the team wasn’t sure that the email would generate legitimate results. However, the 5,400 in donation dollars proved otherwise, and revealed to the team that Sunday sends actually work for their audience. 

Using that data, they moved forward with an additional Sunday send and received a 54% open rate from their non-donor audience. 

What can other universities expect with Emma?

When it comes to administrative responsibilities, it’s no secret that higher ed professionals have a lot on their hands. And in a world that requires marketing to be successful in any space, it’s critical that universities have an easy-to-use tool that makes email marketing and consistent branding a breeze. 

“Emma is a great tool for universities because it’s really easy to use,” Kran says. “So if you don’t have any experience with email marketing, it’s really simple to jump in and create a message based on the templates that you have set up and the fields you have in the system. Anyone can do it.” 

Not only is ease of use important, but universities are also on the search for the most cost effective tool that will allow them to get their message in front of the largest possible audience. With Emma you can do both—easily reach large audiences, while achieving the same potential of any professional marketer. 

“Email is a vital tool to accomplish what we’re trying to do here at The New School, but also in higher ed across the board since many of these institutions don’t have a flourishing budget,” Bryant says. “Email is the only cost effective way to get in front of somebody right now. With email, not only do you accomplish a lot, but you can also reach 40,000 people with just one click.”

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