Data Driving Strategy with the University of Memphis

The University of Memphis created its “Bold and Blue” presidential tour strategy by tapping into geographical, wealth, and career data to drive decisions; discover new prospects; invest in the most promising relationships; and open doors for major gifts conversations along the way. Here’s how they did it.

The University of Memphis recently found themselves in a situation that most, if not all, universities have also experienced: A brand new president, and a brand new opportunity to get him out on the road engaging with alums.

But, anyone who has been out on the road with a university leader knows that time is at a premium. So, how did they ensure he was connecting with the right people, and in the right places? Kimberly Grantham, Associate Vice President of University Advancement, and Hannah Waldman, Senior Director of Principal Gifts, dove in to their Bold and Blue strategy for presidential engagement.

Blue and Bold Tour University of Memphis

Introducing the Blue and Bold Tour

First up in the Memphis team’s approach: creating a multi-year strategy for new President Hargrave. Important reminder: Rome was not built in a day (and not everything needs to happen in a new leader’s year 1.) 

Instead, the team’s goal was to develop a sustainable plan to keep the President engaging with more folks (the right folks) for a longer period of time. Here’s how they laid out the strategy, which they came to know as the “Blue and Bold Tour”:

  • Year 1: Who are the top people the president needs to know? Who needs to know him? Where are they located? These questions guided the plan for the first year of his tenure – ensuring he had the opportunity to meet and listen to alums across the country to help inform his strategic plan.
  • Year 2: Once the president’s strategic plan was built with insights from the university’s most invested supporters, the time came to share it broadly. In year two, the Memphis team will focus on expanding their curated prospect lists to broaden the scope of alums that will build 1:1 relationships with President Hargrave.
  • Year 3: The team will continue to build upon these expanded lists, so that the president can provide consistent updates on how his strategic plan is going. The long-term goal is to keep alumni and donors engaged with what’s happening at the University no matter where they live.

Getting started

Once the strategy was in place, it was time to plan how to make it all happen. The team’s first action step was to identify with whom they were going to engage – and where they were going to engage them – using geographical, career, and wealth event data in EverTrue.

Step 1: Build a shared list

EverTrue lets you see exactly where your alumni and donors are located on a heat map. The Memphis team used the EverTrue map feature to zero-in on the locations that had the highest concentration of alumni, and built their presidential event schedule around those insights. By layering in other data points on their map view like wealth indicators and job titles, they were able to pinpoint new locations that contain a population of high-potential (but previously overlooked) donors.

Step 2: Identify high-net-worth donors, and add them to the list

Once the geographical locations were determined, gift officers had the opportunity to suggest folks in their portfolios to add to the presidential prospect lists. (Lists in EverTrue are collaborative, so list owners can invite gift officers to edit and add to saved lists, tag teammates on prospects’ profiles, and comment to each other right in EverTrue.) 

So, a bunch of known prospects made the cut. But, a new campus leader is a great opportunity to connect with new folks, the prospects who have fallen through the cracks for years. To unearth previously-overlooked prospects, the Memphis team layered wealth event data via Windfall in EverTrue to identify unassigned, unengaged prospects with a high capacity.

With Windfall, wealth indicators are visible right alongside career updates, digital engagement notifications, and giving patterns in EverTrue, meaning no potential high-capacity donor will go overlooked.

Step 3: Plan and collaborate on visits

With a whole bunch of known and new constituents on the map (and in EverTrue saved lists), now it was time to make a plan to tackle all of these visits! The Memphis team used EverTrue’s Trips & Meetings feature to collaborate with the team all in one place.

As the team developed each trip, every staff member involved in the Blue and Bold tour was able to view who was going to meet with which donors, and when. All logistics were housed in one place and on one calendar, and as Kimberly noted, these “EverTrue tools helped us stay focused on who we needed to meet”. 

Windfall Weath indicators in the EverTrue platform help you hone in on high-capacity prospects

Next up: The Big Board

The team was aiming for presidential visits in 8-10 cities. In each city, they were hoping to identify 60-100 people to engage, and from there invite ~30 to a small group event like a happy hour or dinner. But, the president also wanted to fill up his schedule with more alumni meetings, sometimes having up to 8 one-to-one visits per day. Utilizing saved prospect lists in EverTrue, they were easily able to expand their reach and keep track of all outreach and booked meetings.

And with this expanded list, came their “Big Board”. The Big Board allowed the Memphis team to map out a national perspective on their principal and major gift pipeline. Instead of focusing on 100 people in each region, the Big Board focused on 100 people across the country with the capacity to give $1M+ gift who are not assigned to a portfolio or haven’t been communicated with in decades (or ever!).

Essentially, the Big Board keeps track of the constituents they simply can’t lose. 

In each region, 5-10 previously-overlooked constituents that really stand out are added to the “Big Board.” Any prospect on the Big Board has a desired outcome attached to their profile. Whether that be a sit-down meal with the president or an invitation to a larger event, a communication and engagement plan gets put into action. 

After each Blue and Bold tour stop, the team reconvenes to make sure everyone who is on the Big Board, or took the time to engage with an event, receives intentional follow up and interactions moving forward. Once they’re on a list in EverTrue, they do not drop off the radar.

How's it going? What's next?

So far, this presidential engagement strategy has been a success for the Memphis team. In year one, the team is living by the motto: “It’s about who is in the room, not how many are in the room”. While it can sometimes feel strange to walk into a room that’s not as “full” as you’d think it could be, it’s important to go back to your original goal: intentionally making the right connections.

The team plans to put their phase two expansion in place by leveraging events they know alumni will already be attending (sporting events, regional gatherings, on-campus traditions like Commencement) and tapping in to other University leaders to bolster the “campus celebrity” roster.

The Memphis team now constantly thinks of how they can best leverage their campus leaders’ time – and they continually look to the data.

Are there a high number of Business graduates in the New York City area? They plan a trip with the Business School Dean there to meet with them. When a gift officer plans a trip to a tech hub like San Francisco or Seattle, the team seeks an on-campus engineer or data science expert to accompany them.

Using EverTrue data to determine regions with a high concentration of industry- or degree-specific alums is a smart way to create an intentional tour for leaders at your organization.

With a wealth of data at your fingertips, there is never a lack of opportunities to slice and dice different segments of potential donors to create intentional, engaging experiences that will keep them connected with your university.

And with a rockstar, forward-thinking team like the University of Memphis has, there are no limits to who they’ll engage next!

Want to learn more about how you can accomplish the same at your institution? Request an EverTrue demo and we’ll show you how!

And if you’d like to hear more from Kimberly and Hannah, check out this on-demand webinar.

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