Authentic video engagement: the win-win-win

Our alumni are humans, too. And just like us, they crave transparency and realness. As we all aim to break through the noise of inboxes and capture the limited mindshare of our consitutents, it’s our authenticity and relatability that will draw folks back into the fold.

A question for the reader: Which invitation would you rather open?


The answer is pretty obvious, right? And, here’s why.

The average attention span is 8 seconds (source: devrix). The average person spends 100 minutes per day watching video content (source: oberlo). And our brains process images 60,000x faster than text. 

To break through the noise, you’ve got to lean into the power of video. 

If you needed further convincing, we monitored ThankView video sends across our entire customer base, and we found that ThankViews get over 2x the open rate and over 12x the click-through rate of traditional emails (source: EverTrue analysis).

AND donor retention increases as much as 65% when donors received a ThankView video after making a gift (source: EverTrue analysis).

These video stats caught the attention of our friend Ellen Whitlock Baker when she started her role as Assistant Vice President of Alumni Engagement at Seattle University. 

Right off the bat, Ellen needed an efficient way to introduce herself and SU’s new president to thousands of Redhawk alumni. She needed to build internal and external trust. And she needed to do it quickly.

Luckily, Ellen had landed with a forward-thinking team that was ready to lean into a new tech tool: ThankView. Over the the next nine months, Ellen and the SU Alumni Engagement team partnered with folks all across campus to launch a three-pronged video campaign to introduce new leadership to the SU community and build enthusiasm, recognition, and rapport.

The presidential video campaign culminated in a summertime event: Seattle University Night at the Seattle Mariner’s baseball game. Sports are a great unifier, and Ellen’s team hoped that after President Peñalver completed his tour of major US cities, a broad invitation for alums to join him as he threw out the first pitch at the August Mariner’s game would be a hit.

They were right.

The goal was to attract 250 alumni attendees at the Mariner’s game. In the end, they sold out the game with over 1,000 attendees. Ellen’s team is digging into event attendees and video engagers to build and deepen relationships with SU alums. 

Three-part presidential video campaign

Using the presidential video campaign as a template, the Seattle University team shared their advice for other shops who are ready to lean into the power of video to reach more alumni with authentic and personalized video messages. Check out their step-by-step guide for using video to generate authentic alumni engagement. 

Step 1: Choose your moment.

First things first. You’ve got to aim to work smarter and not harder. 

Think of the on- and off-campus events where you are already investing major and time resources. (You know…Giving Days. Athletic events. Reunions. Commencement. Campus traditions and celebrations.)

And amplify them with video! 

Step 2: Choose your campus celeb.

Remember “Cameo,” the app that lets you send videos from celebrities?

Think about your campus celebrities. You know, the folks you get really excited to see in the campus dining halls. Your student leaders, favorite faculty members, and university leadership are your celebs.

When you showcase them in videos to alumni, everyone wins: You get the chance to work closely with campus leaders. Your celebs get the chance to shine on camera. And your alums receive a personal message from a real-live person at their alma maters. 

Step 3: Film a simple video – and share it broadly.

Here are some of the SU team’s basic video production tips, after filming this video with President Peñalver in his office on Ellen’s iPhone: 

Once you film your video, send it alongside a personalized message to a targeted subset of alumni. The Seattle U team did this via ThankView, the personalized video messaging platform in our EverTrue Suite of products. (Request a ThankView demo here.)

And then – get more legs on your video. Share a short version of it on social, and track engagement. (Another plug for our tech – you can monitor social engagers via EverTrue, and compare them alongside giving trends, wealth information, and career insights.)

Note: This image uses dummy data for "Matched Constituent Stats" numbers

Step 4: Create some FOMO.

A little bit of healthy Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a good thing. 

Film a video while you’re at the event and share it with invitees who couldn’t make it. When non-attendees get a glimpse of the event highlight reel, we bet a few of them will register for your next event!

Ellen filmed this video while she was at the Mariners’ event. It includes some footage of President Peñalver right after he threw the first pitch. Her team used the video to build some FOMO and promote the next SU alumni event on the calendar – so smart. 

Step 5: Track engagement.

In ThankView, when you send personalized videos to alumni, you can immediately track which folks opened your message, if they watched the video, how much of the video they watched, and if they clicked on the link to the event registration page.

ThankView stats - Attended event
Sample of ThankView analytics for video message to event attendees

Bonus data alert! All of these ThankView video engagement insights flow automatically into EverTrue and can be viewed alongside data points like giving patterns, career changes, wealth insights, and donor interests. And then you can use those insights to create an even more targeted, meaningful, next video campaign. It’s a virtuous cycle of targeted and personalized engagement!

Step 6: Follow-up and deepen pipeline.

Our Donor Experience partners around the country take a video-first approach to their outreach AND they partner it with consistent, politely persistent follow-up.

They’re seeing incredible results. Check out this example from our friends at Louisiana Tech University. They sent video recaps to event registrants, followed up with the folks who opened the ThankView message, and added new prospects to gift officer portfolios.


You have on-campus celebrities (faculty and leadership) and built-in campus ambassadors (students). Partnering with them to create personalized video messages is a win for everyone. 

Wins for donors: Donors receive strategic, personalized outreach that creates better feelings of connection. 

Wins for the featured “campus celeb”: They get a chance to shine on camera and become a broadly recognized member of the campus community.

Wins for the institution: By embracing the digital transformation that is happening everywhere, you’re building a sustainable culture of philanthropy and a pipeline of future engagers and supporters.

Want to learn more about building an authentic and scalable video engagement strategy at your institution? We’re here for you!

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