The Louisiana Tech University team recently made a triumphant return to an in-person event season with Celebrate the Legacy: a six-city event series highlighting the bright future of their athletics program. The response from alums and fans was awesome. Many folks registered and joined. Others registered and didn’t show (so that fact hasn’t changed with the pandemic).
The team knew their “return to the road” was a chance to reconnect with their alums in a really meaningful way – but they didn’t stop at the event. After the gatherings, they deployed a simple, scalable process for using video follow-up to turn event registrants into managed prospects. And, ultimately, here’s the ROI:
First things first… why start with video?
When alums register for an alumni event, they may be hoping to find a new gig through an alumni connection, or meet a stellar new employee to recruit to their firm, or get to know the Dean, or give their advice to the new Athletics Director. But regardless of who they’re who they’re hoping to chat with, alums attend alumni events because they want to see people.
For this same reason, alumni (and humans, in general) are more likely to open an email that contains a personalized video. Consider these stats: using video in sales emails increases reply rates by 26% (source: SalesLoft). ThankView videos have a 54% average open rate and 31% average click rate, which is nearly double the industry average (source: ThankView). And 81.3% of donors who made a gift within the last five years and received a ThankView video gave again (source: EverTrue).
Video matters. And since the Louisiana Tech team is all about the most efficient and effective ways to turn alumni engagement into lead generation, they sent personalized videos to alums who registered for one of their six Celebrate the Legacy events.
Starting with video, here are five steps in the post-event engagement process that are replicable and valuable for any advancement team.
1. Send a video.
Ahead of the Celebrate the Legacy events, the Louisiana Tech team crafted a super-simple template message that would be shared via video to event attendees and non-attendees. (The Louisiana Tech team uses ThankView to send video messages at scale to their alums.)
After the Celebrate the Legacy event wrapped up in each of the six cities, the Louisiana Tech team was at-the-ready to send out two ThankView video campaigns: one to attendees and one to non-attendees.
The videos were short (30 seconds), simple, and both versions had a clear call-to-action (CTA). For attendees: Can we schedule a call to talk about how you can be more involved? And for non-attendees: Can we find a time for use to catch up on what you missed?
Click on the below videos to see the whole ThankView messages.
2. Track engagement.
In ThankView, the EverTrue team tracked which alums opened their ThankView messages, who watched the followup videos, and how much of the video they watched.
Both videos saw some pretty amazing engagement.
For the alums who attended the Celebrate the Legacy event, 75% opened the follow-up message. 40% started watching the video. 37% went on to watch the entire length of it.
For the alums who registered but didn’t attend the event, 71% opened the message. 12% started watching the video, and 9% watched the whole thing.
Compared to advancement industry averages, these video engagement stats are pretty darn impressive. The alums watching these videos are basically saying “Hello, look at me! I care!” So, the EverCrew passed these engagers to the LA Tech team.
To quote Brooks Hull, Vice President and CEO of the Louisiana Tech University Foundation, “We take a digital-first approach to alumni engagement. And we know that alumni engagement is lead generation. It’s really that simple.”
3. Cadence outreach to deepen engagement.
There were 55 alums who watched the entirety of the follow-up ThankView videos. That’s 55 alums who attended (or wanted to attend) the Celebrate the Legacy event and were interested enough that they opened and watched an introductory video from a Louisiana Tech staff person.
In a traditional fundraising shop, it might be tough to get these alums on MGO radars, even though they have clearly raised their hands by coming to an event and/or watching an introduction video from an advancement staff member. At Louisiana Tech, the team has invested in dedicated, tech-enabled fundraisers to manage big portfolios and oversee tons of qualification outreach: Donor Experience Officers.
What’s a Donor Experience Officer? Innovative advancement shops around the country are training high-performing, digital-first fundraisers to use tech-enabled cadence outreach approach to cultivate portfolios of 1,000 prospects.
Hot take: Cadence outreach works. You can try it out here. We took some tried-and-true tips from rockstar DXOs and made a DX Starter Kit for you to test out a cadence on a group of your best 25 prospects.
4. Assign to portfolio.
By flagging these engagers for personal 1:1 outreach from a DXO, the Louisiana Tech team took action on the data. This is where the magic happens.
From the group of 55 engagers who received 1:1 DXO outreach after receiving a ThankView, there were 38 alums who were previously unassigned.
These 38 alums are the subset of prospects that, following every event, should be funneled into gift officer portfolios for qualification. They engage with the institution by registering for an event. They open follow-up emails. They watch video content from an advancement staff member. And additional data points from EverTrue hint at deeper inclination and capacity.
At Louisiana Tech, DXO Taylor Cross officially added these 38 qualified prospects to her portfolio, and will now communicate with them on a consistent, 1:1 basis. Boom.
(NB: Since we’ve been partnering with institutions to run DX programs for over two years now, once an alum hits a DXO’s portfolio, the future is really bright.)
5. Measure ROI.
As a final step in this process, DXO Taylor tagged this group of newly-assigned prospects to note that they were discovered and qualified via the Celebrate the Legacy event. Going forward, she will track how many of these alums deepen engagement and eventually increase their giving.
The correlation between alumni engagement (event attendance) and giving has always been hard to prove. This video-powered follow-up from the Louisiana Tech team is a proactive funnel approach that any institution can replicate to tangibly demonstrate the ROI of alumni engagement.
The Louisiana Tech team proved that keeping your alums personally connected after an event is key. Not through a mass “thanks for coming!” email. But rather, though a personal, thoughtful video sent quickly to attendees and folks who registered but couldn’t make it.
Here are some of the main lessons learned from this post-event follow-up via ThankView from our friends at Louisiana Tech:
- Assign dedicated staff person(s) to send personalized follow-up videos to attendees and non-attendees after events.
- Add a CTA to the video message to book a meeting — either to talk about how they can become more involved (for event attendees) or to catch them up on what they missed (non-attendees).
- Keep follow-up videos short (roughly 30 seconds each). This is best for viewers and for the staff person recording the video.
- Pre-load video outreach campaigns as much as possible with written and video messaging.
- Prepare a seamless handoff of the final event attendee and non-attendee lists for uploading into ThankView to ensure time follow-up after the event.
- Be ready to analyze video engagement statistics and determine a next step for the highest engagers.
- Determine where qualified new prospects will go for future cultivation.
To conclude: Hold amazing events. Generate buzz. Follow-up with video right after. Deepen engagement. Good luck! (And if you need help getting there, you know we’re ready for ya.)