Learn With Us
Learn With Us
Access podcasts, videos, articles, and more.
Discover With Us
Discover With Us
Discover the best new software, tools and services for enrollment marketing — and even your next gig
Subscribe With Us
Subscribe With Us
Join 3,000+ enrollment marketers in wrestling with ideas that are reshaping higher ed
The Past, Present, and Future of Advancement Marketing in Higher Ed
[00:00:00] Zach Busekrus: All right, Ashley, we are we're live welcome to the show
[00:00:21] Ashley Budd: thank you so much for having me it's so good
[00:00:23] Zach Busekrus: to be connected Yeah, likewise, it's uh, it's a privilege I feel like you're one of those people that I followed on LinkedIn for so long and seen Content from and whatnot for four years, but we've never actually spoken.
[00:00:35] So this is like, uh, this is like a real treat cool Well, I want to I want to dive in there's loads I want to talk to you about but I actually thought it would be fun to hear A little bit about like your own story first, right? Like where, when did you first fall in love with, with marketing and, and specifically like higher ed marketing?
[00:00:54] And did that happen at the same time or did one come before the other?
[00:00:58] Ashley Budd: Uh, I [00:01:00] will, we'll, maybe we'll find out while I explain my story, if there was a spark or not, but I went to a technical university and I went to Rochester Institute of Technology and enrolled in their least technical major that they offered.
[00:01:16] So I have a painting degree. I have a bachelor of fine arts from RIT and I, yeah, and I. Was always like the art kid. It was always super creative and thought, you know, as a teenager, you follow what you're good at. Right? Like if you're good at this stuff, like keep going. So spent a lot of time drawing naked people, you know, and doing the arts thing and then needed a job in college and worked in the admissions office.
[00:01:49] Okay. So. Started as a tour guide and then I think at one point told them that they shouldn't put me out on tour anymore because I was like disgruntled Instead they put me at [00:02:00] the front desk. Why not put me as like the face of the admissions office So I had a role that was like a little bit more like a staff role Okay, and I ended up working there over the summer and then was on the path to graduate early And was realizing then that I could be an artist.
[00:02:19] This is what I went to school for, but, um, I would not be able to live. And make money, uh, just doing that. I could do it. I could sell art, but I could not pay my rent if I did that. So I asked the director of admissions if I got into a graduate program. Would I be able to be a graduate assistant and get some scholarship money that way so that I can then figure out a real job?
[00:02:45] And he's like, absolutely. This sounds great. That's fine. Pulled out the. Giant perspectives and we looked through programs and I had been a communication minor. So, there was a pretty neat program that [00:03:00] actually had I, like, I went to school. Like not wanting to do any math, there was no math in the BFA program.
[00:03:06] So an MBA was actually really appealing to me, except for that whole finance part. And RIT had a program that was communications and media technology, where I got to take all of the marketing classes at like in the MBA program, but it was not an MBA. So I didn't have to take all the finance classes. I took communications classes.
[00:03:26] In the liberal arts school and then the marketing classes. And it was a great mix and I ended up moving into a full time role rather than grad assistant role in the admissions office. And it was also 2007. Okay. So it was right about the time when we were asking, you know, Should RIT be on Facebook? Would that be creepy?
[00:03:49] And we're like, yeah, it would be. So let's do it. And they taught myself HTML, started doing the. Parent and student perspective, student [00:04:00] newsletters I had because I had the art and design background, like started redoing all of their publications, make them look more updated. And so I kind of got my hands on a lot of things.
[00:04:11] And because the public social media boom, Twitter happened at that same time, all of these things were happening and there was not a marketing office either. So it. It's still wild that almost 20 years ago, most of higher ed did not have like central marketing teams at all. A lot of them were in, if you were a tuition driven institution, it was the enrollment team that was doing the marketing.
[00:04:33] So I ended up building RIT's social media presence, grabbing all the handles, setting up all the roles, all of that sort of thing from that role in admissions. The spark might've been like, can I make money off of any of this? Is there enough creativity in it that I'll be satisfied, but yeah, good timing and the intersection of tech.
[00:04:53] I think I had lots of osmosis from like the much more technical [00:05:00] people that I spent those college
[00:05:02] Zach Busekrus: years with. This is so great. You're, you're taking me back. Like, uh, I'm remembering. Yeah, even a few years later, like still talking, I was working at an agency and consulting with folks who had Facebook pages, right?
[00:05:17] And Instagram was like, just, just coming out. And I literally remember like the news of Facebook buying Instagram for a billion dollars and people being like, What? Yeah. Yeah. What? A, a, a, a site where you just upload photos and you can only do it from your phone and you have like five filters that you can choose from and then click post like somebody just bought that for a billion dollars and what was crazy about that time, right?
[00:05:41] Which is so hard to forget now is I actually remember, I don't know if I should share this on air, so I'll leave the name out, but I remember for several institutions that are very well known. We were, when we were creating their accounts for them, we were using like, I was using my like personal password for, for a period of time because like no one over there, like what, you know, had their act [00:06:00] together.
[00:06:00] So they weren't creating the accounts. I would create the account and have full access to well known institutions, Instagram handles or Instagram accounts. And then eventually, you know, they could, they'd go and change the password, but like to think about that happening now, right. Would it like, what a sin, what a sin.
[00:06:17] And yet that was
[00:06:17] Ashley Budd: commonplace. Strange. Yeah. How, and then the ebb and flow, I think another like part of this journey that it's probably interesting to talk about is where people saw investment and then where they pulled back and put in and pulled back and trying to figure out like what channel are we really supposed to be paying attention to and yeah, what does hold the most value and how much human like staff or student resources to put into the stuff.
[00:06:44] I think it's fluctuated with. How social media has changed too, because in that time, it was a much more helpful space to be in the public and sharing and [00:07:00] storytelling and doing all of these things in like a very public way. And it was probably, I don't know, probably that like 2014, 2015 time where like, and the ended up starting to pull back more and get more private again.
[00:07:13] Private spaces. And so, yeah, that was a weird, like. It went from Facebook being just more of a private community of people who had gone to college. If you went to college and you had a dot edu, you were able to be there. And then I pushed into this, like. Wildly public
[00:07:30] Zach Busekrus: space. Yeah. I'm always curious about people who've been in this space for a while on how they view the emergence of, of new platforms.
[00:07:37] Right. And whether at the time, right, you're back in 2007, it's new, it's novel. You latch in, you go and you acquire all of our it's handles. How has that affected the way that you see. Things like tiktok, like when tiktok came onto the scene, right? Like, yeah, was it, was it immediately obvious to you that school should be on tiktok?
[00:07:59] Ashley Budd: [00:08:00] No, not immediately obvious. I don't think and I think there's a real Like cost to investing in them too. So now that i'm, you know, I think I had a very different mindset as An assistant director on a team with like a million other job responsibilities, right? Like when I was doing all of that at RIT, I was also on the road as an admissions counselor and like gone half the year.
[00:08:22] You know, like it was a small part of my job. No one had really. A central full time social media position. Yeah. RIT certainly didn't. By the time like TikTok came out, I think that there were some really interesting approaches to like, should we invest in a full then staffing this full time and having a full time strategy?
[00:08:41] Or do we just throw that same amount of effort into advertising on the platform and seeing what we can do with an advertising budget. We can get in front of people faster. We don't have to curate this organic audience. We can just kind of get there. And learn from it and then decide whether it's a channel we need to be on or not.
[00:08:58] So that [00:09:00] advertising layer, I think like that totally blew things up. And so I think I'm a little bit more cautious. Yeah. I'm also in a, my audience isn't everybody. So I think now that I'm an advancement. And I'm not trying to recruit the entire world. I have like a pretty defined group and know where they are and know enough about their needs that I can kind of slow roll it a little bit more being in that side of the, you know, the other completely other end and not in that central position either, where I'm like the sole talking head of the.
[00:09:42] University. Yeah. Like that team can probably make those decisions and we can follow along.
[00:09:49] Zach Busekrus: All right. We're going to play a game guys. Okay. So first and foremost, get a pen, get a paper, pull out your notes app on your phone, whatever it might be. Okay. [00:10:00] Got it. Great. All right. What keywords does your website currently rank for?
[00:10:04] Take a couple seconds. Right? One, two, three, four. I'll give you a few, not just a couple. What doesn't it rank for that you think it should rank for? Okay. One, two, three, four. Now, what are a few keyword opportunities that you could be winning on? If you just simply tweak some of your existing website copy.
[00:10:23] Got it. Okay. How'd you do? Ooh, not so hot. Not sure what you can, what you're currently ranking for or not sure what you could be ranking for. Well, that's okay. Because our friends at DD agency want to help you answer all of these questions. DD agency is a higher ed specific marketing technology agency.
[00:10:42] that has conducted countless SEO audits for colleges and universities across the country. In these audits, they detail where you currently rank, what you could be ranking for, exactly how copies should be tweaked on website pages, and so much more. If this sounds like something that you could benefit from, give the guys at [00:11:00] DD Agency a ping and be sure to mention that Enrollify sent you to claim a 10 percent discount on any of their SEO offerings.
[00:11:07] This. So head on over to enroll fify.org/dda SS e o. That's d D A as in DD, agency ss e o. Or simply follow the link in the show notes below that will guarantee you get a 10% discount off of your audit. Alright, head on over to enrollify. org slash D D A S E O, or simply Google DD Agency, find DD Agency's website, and be sure to mention that you heard about them through Enrollify when you request your audit.
[00:11:34] Alright folks, back to the show. I'm glad you brought that up because I want to press into this a little bit and Understand how that has changed the way in which you see your investment of time And and and the actual marketing strategies and tactics that you employ so right in theory, this is an owned audience You have you probably have um, you know, the alumni you have at least You at least an email address, probably also [00:12:00] like their actual physical address.
[00:12:01] You have probably a lot more information than people who are trying to organically attract top of the funnel inquiries, right. Might have through organic search strategies. And so you're starting from a different place. How, how do you think about the marketing strategy, marketing tactics and strategies that work for that audience?
[00:12:17] Doesn't need to be more curated. Like, do you, do you take any. Notes from creators and how they interact with with their owned audiences are like where how do you think about building out strategies and tactics? For an audience that you do in theory own and yet you own them kind of but like You know having having their information Is one thing being able to remind them that they're they had this great experience and they should give you money Is is another
[00:12:48] Ashley Budd: yeah, the challenge of like getting people to just give you money is like such an exhilarating challenge, like if I can figure out how to get [00:13:00] something in front of someone that's going to compel them to open their wallet and just give me money with really just like feels in return, I think, like, That I thought I was going to the dark side when I went from opening the doors of higher education to people in New York City to now, like, asking people for money.
[00:13:18] I was like, Oh, my gosh. All the cringing. It's so satisfying when you can do that. So the question with the audience, like, definitely you start with something that's way more defined. Yeah. And so there's not that. There's not that whole, like, step of work to get them there. They're handed to you, which
[00:13:40] Zach Busekrus: is a blessing.
[00:13:42] Ashley Budd: But then there are, like, then you have to decide what you're going to do with them. Like, what's your purpose? What are, like, what is your purpose in communicating to them? And then where can you, I mean, my approach to it, I'm trying to be as empathetic as possible with this audience. What is my purpose in [00:14:00] communicating to them?
[00:14:00] And then where can I meet them in their life where they could be philanthropic or they could have a volunteer experience or they could make a connection with a faculty member or a student that's like also valuable to them, right? So thinking about that long term relationship with the university and why do you buy into it?
[00:14:25] And they're going through.
[00:14:31] The enrollment process that they are buying into a lifestyle, right? Like they are buying into this brand for the rest of their life and they expect it to provide them value for the rest of their life. Not the same for every institution, you know, not the same for your commuter community college. You probably don't have the same kind of lifelong brand affinity that you, that you know, you're buying when you, when you decide to attend.
[00:14:57] Private 4 year or certainly 1 [00:15:00] of the elite schools. That's like, really banking on that being part of the purchase decision. So I think that that value exchange has definitely evolved with the generations. But like greatest generation, and we still have some of the greatest generation in our alumni pool.
[00:15:17] Like they tend to be like a lot of people who went to school on the GI bill. Um, a lot of people who just feel like what an incredible experience that I need. Like I am feeling debted. Wow. And the generation after that, I think the baby boomer generation, there was still kind of a mix of that happening.
[00:15:37] They feel like They, they give back because of what the institution gave them, um, and Gen X, not so much, but Gen X, like, really also was part of like that big. com bill and the return on their investment. Totally different than the sticker prices. So the [00:16:00] millennials got right. Like, so it changed a little bit, but yeah, that evolution of like, You, you stay connected to give back and make sure you like that.
[00:16:09] The next generation gets what you got. Like that is, that has pretty much devolved, changed, evolved over time. And so our offices need to think about what the value is. It's not just that you get to hang your diploma on the wall and you have that, like. Um, the Andy Bernard caricature is like the perfect 1 for Cornell, like, yeah, right.
[00:16:32] The brag worthy ness is not enough, but it so I think about constantly putting the creative team into situations where. They need to put themselves in the shoes of our audience and in the future in like a future state. So we're pretty much generating content at least a quarter ahead. So soon we'll be thinking about like, okay, new year 2024, what are people going to need from us?
[00:16:59] [00:17:00] And it ends up creating totally new. offers for alumni that you wouldn't necessarily think that your university would be providing. And even some of the things that you would think that your university would provide you like career support and access to information and all those kinds of things aren't like.
[00:17:18] Actually how the alumni offices were originally designed, which were the world, give you a reunion event and we'll just still see you for money all the time. So, um, yeah, so definitely trying to meet them where they are and make connections that. Are helpful
[00:17:36] Zach Busekrus: and valuable. I have several follow up questions there and, and, uh, you know, I, I just want to recognize that you are at, at Cornell, right?
[00:17:44] And so, right. Sure. Yes. And given and giving and giving, like, giving this, this perspective is. You know, it is a perspective. It's super valuable. It also might be, it also might feel very different to somebody who's listening on the other end, who is working [00:18:00] in, even if they are working in advancement, working for, for a state school, right.
[00:18:03] Or, or even a smaller private that. Um, is not, it's not an elite school and with, with all that said, I do have a lot of questions for you about like how, how this works at Cornell and like how, how you and your team work. Cause I think it's always helpful. I always find it helpful to look at like examples of places where things are, you know, working.
[00:18:23] There is kind of a, a, a loyal following. Not that you guys have, I don't, I have no idea what your budget is, but presumably you might have a little bit more money to play with than some other people. Right. And so like, because of all it, I think it's super helpful to highlight these examples in these stories and then, and then everyone can make it their own in, in their context with the resources that they do have and the situation that they do find themselves in.
[00:18:45] So with all of that said, do you guys get any sort of indicator when you get a new list of a graduating class or, or maybe it's you're. Revisiting a list of folks who graduated maybe for their 10 year anniversary and you're you're looking through these these names [00:19:00] again Is there any sort of like indicator score of like?
[00:19:04] How was their experience at Cornell? Like, are there any, are there metrics that you guys use to understand? Hey, Zach, Zach's a five. Like he was very average. He wasn't that involved. We haven't really heard from him. Probably not worth too much of our time, energy and attention versus Ashley. Who's a nine and was super involved and she was a known entity on campus.
[00:19:27] And now she's, you know, working for this big law firm or whatever. Right. Like, yeah. Yeah. Uh, do those sort of metrics exist and does your team have access to that? And do you use that to inform your marketing?
[00:19:40] Ashley Budd: Not exactly the way you're describing it. I think we, as part of the advancement work, engaging students as part of that too, and we know we will have stronger alumni body if we.
[00:19:56] Insert ourselves into the student experience and help enhance [00:20:00] that. And so we do have staff members who know the students. Yeah, we have, um. Individual advancement teams within colleges within student campus life within athletics. And so generally sure, we know, okay, these students were part of these student boards, or they were involved in clubs that tend to produce really strong alumni affinities.
[00:20:25] The band, the marketing band, and like, some of the glee club and chorus, like, these people that will come back for, like, the tradition of the university. Right? So there are some kind of key indicators like that, where we could say, oh, maybe we should reach out to these groups or these student leaders. But what we don't do is the scoring we don't do, and we don't do it for alumni either.
[00:20:49] And we started, we started looking into engagement modeling and scoring probably at least a decade ago and decided at [00:21:00] that point that we were just going to have like a binary metric. Either you are or you're not. Paying attention to us and we can stay engaged. But for me, it's like, are they even paying attention?
[00:21:10] That's what I want to know. It's either you're off the grid or you're like, kind of hanging out over here. You kind of know what we're doing. And I think that is that has all we've. It's what we've needed is just to know whether. Whether they're engaged, whether they're paying attention and not the depth of engagement.
[00:21:28] So we'll use it for prioritization. Yeah. Right. If we need to make some phone calls, if we need to segment an audience to, you know, convert at a certain rate, we'll use that are that engaged metric. But where I think the binary metric versus like one that has all sorts of weights and measures in it is helpful as an equity of.
[00:21:51] What opportunities are getting in front of people, because the things that you would value more are also things that are not accessible to [00:22:00] everybody. So I've been a proponent of that binary. Either you are or you're not. And let's start from there. If you're paying attention, because you're just following our stuff on Facebook, or you're paying attention because you're a board of trustee member.
[00:22:13] I like equalizing that and putting the same kind of asks in front of. People just to see, to give them the opportunity to respond. So yeah, some of it's in there, some of it's not that, you know, I think people would be shocked at the kinds of systems that we use. They're pretty outdated Cornell advancement does not have a CRM, but the things that we can accomplish without.
[00:22:37] Some of that I think are, um, scalable and valuable to small shops,
[00:22:44] Zach Busekrus: big shops. Yeah, I've always, I've always like felt that advancement teams. Are are underutilized. Not that the staff is underutilized, but like that, that the opportunity that exists for this [00:23:00] strategic unit on campus to to really become this, like, accelerator for for alumni.
[00:23:04] And it's like this, like, true resource for students well beyond. They're, they're, they're tenure at, at their respective college or university. And, and I think about like my own experience, because it's, you know, the only one I've lived through and I went to a large state school and I had a very like non traditional experience.
[00:23:22] I was traditionally aged, but I was working full time. And so I took a lot of like evening classes and I was taking a lot of online classes, but I was able to convince, um, the head of the school of business to let me do several independent studies with. Just faculty, uh, which was just a crazy, cool, amazing opportunity, um, which I am super, super thankful for.
[00:23:42] And, uh, that reason alone is a reason why I would give. Now, unfortunately, there were lots of other things that happened at the university that I wasn't particularly fond of. And so I, I have, I have not actually made a gift to this respective institution, but. Every communication I've received from them since [00:24:00] graduating has been asking me for money like that's literally the only communication I've ever received Which I know you're smiling you're laughing like that's true I think of a lot of people's experiences and yet I was thinking the other day like I was actually met up with a Professor of mine.
[00:24:14] He and I are connected on LinkedIn. We had coffee. It was great I was telling him I was like, you know what like what I don't understand is When I'm in the market for like, if I was to be in the market for like a new job, right? Why would I go find a headhunter? I'd rather go and find like somebody at, you know, my alma mater who is connected in the space, right?
[00:24:33] Who's re, I'm still living in the, the region that I went to school in. And, and that should be like, That should be my first stop because you guys know me like, you know, you know what I've done. You have a vested interest in seeing your alumni like succeed and be big and be successful. Like, I wish that was the first thing that everyone thought of when they thought about a career change or even just a job change is like.
[00:24:55] Oh, let me go to, to my, to my advancement team. And maybe it's a different unit on campus that really [00:25:00] needs to, maybe it's career service, you know, I know it's different depending on context, but what are like, what are your thoughts on like the role of the advancement department? Not historically, but like moving out over the next decade.
[00:25:13] Ashley Budd: I think so. This is something that I've been toying with seeing. So we've created a lot of new non traditional like offers for alumni, which ended up being. I think what we're doing is a creating more of like a lifestyle brand. So like, we're putting more, like, we're putting, putting more swag in front of people, putting more, like, you need a new zoom background.
[00:25:39] Why isn't it from your alma mater? Like if you're like all of those kinds of things, like we've been putting out back to school, it's back to school season, right? Like very much like any retail brand would be kind of like taking over their entire. website or communications with like this back to school vibe.
[00:25:58] So we're trying to like [00:26:00] tap into what is happening in your life and how do we insert Cornell into that. In a lot of cases, it's not coming up with something that's specific because you were an alum. It's just like, you're a human and it is August and don't you want a new notebook or here's some like custom Cornell bullet journals pages because that's might be what you need in your life.
[00:26:21] So there's that part of it. Like How can we just be a kind of omnipresent, like, lifestyle brand? Um, I think the other, the other direction where, where my head goes is more like an industry news source. So, think about like how many people graduate from... Every other institution, but we'll subscribe to the Harvard business review.
[00:26:48] They didn't go to HBS, but they subscribe to their content because it's helpful industry content. And it's extremely valuable. And from like a marketing perspective, looking at performance [00:27:00] metrics on industry news, like the most opened and clicked through stuff because it's helping someone get a leg up in their industry.
[00:27:07] And why wouldn't universities align themselves that way to be maybe it's niche industry leaders or it's regional or whatever their differentiator is. But those are like, shockingly, both of those venues are pretty new concepts for. Advancement teams and I feel you with the, like, everything that they send me as an ask thing.
[00:27:30] I. Do consult and work with other small, large public, private universities. And a lot of times I'm brought in to do an audit, either organizational audit or communications audit. And I always bring out this pie chart that shows. The amount of like the volume of communication that's getting sent and in the pie chart, what slice of that is an ask?
[00:27:54] Yeah. And it's like the entire, like, there is no, there are no slices. Like, it's basically like, all you're doing [00:28:00] is asking. It might not always be asking for money, but you're asking them to show up. Like you're asking them to show up to something or. volunteer for something or like, it's mostly asks, like, we want you to connect with us.
[00:28:12] We're asking you to do something. And it's like, where's the give and take and return? Where are you even just like, raising awareness, making personal connections with these people, um, stewarding them, thanking them for being part of the community, like all of the other stuff that has to be in there to have a solid relationship.
[00:28:29] It's not. And so that's usually a light bulb moment for folks like. You actually need to dial back the asking way, way back and put a lot more emphasis on community building and making that personal connection with the university and their life because universities are very tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny part of anybody's life, right?
[00:28:54] Like your everyday life, you're not thinking about your institution. And so we have to do a lot of work to [00:29:00] insert ourselves into that everyday story. Yes. And I think. It will make the asking easier, right? If we do all of that other work up front, then when it does come time to ask, it's like, oh, yeah, of course, like, I don't even need to think about this.
[00:29:12] I don't even need to rationalize with it because I understand what you're asking me to do. I understand why it makes a difference. And so, yeah, of course, that's, you know, so really kind of like shifting that emphasis from the continual ask to all of this other stuff. And When I give those reports back, it's daunting because now it's a whole like new communication suite and a whole set of offers that they've never built before and a whole different way of working and thinking about the audience.
[00:29:41] Zach Busekrus: like, what, what, what, what I think is just, and this is so obvious, right? From a consumer's perspective, right? It's like, Hey, I paid you for my four years of education already. Yeah. Like, like we're, I don't owe you anything. Right. No, it should keep serving you. Exactly. Right. And like, and like, keep serving it.
[00:29:59] Yeah. [00:30:00] And it's like, and yet at the same time, right? Like there are brands. Like that I have, that I continually pay every month. I've had subscriptions too, for, you know, twice, three times as long as I went to school. Right. So it's not, it's not that I'm not, it's not that I'm opposed to paying you more money.
[00:30:15] Right. It's that I don't want to go to grad school right now. And so it's either that offering to come, to come in, you know, Take a grad program or to just give you money out of the generosity of my heart because of my Because of the experience I had however long ago, right? And and that that is not That is not compelling them.
[00:30:34] I have a eight month old kid, you know that I gotta feed right now like I don't have tons of extra money to give to you and even if I did There are there are people that are like way, you know, they're in line before you what I will say Which I'd love to see way more of is like the, and of course I love business.
[00:30:50] I love entrepreneurship. So this is going to be skewed to that kind of persona. Right. But what I would love is I'd love, like, let's say I wanted to, I'm preparing a pitch, I'm going to go fundraise, [00:31:00] right. For a new startup. I want to start or whatever it is. What I would love is I'd love the school of business at the school to be like, Hey.
[00:31:05] You know what, like, we've got this thing where you can come, you can just, you know, practice your pitch with our students, right, or whatever, like, find ways, right, to provide value to me where I'm at in my professional journey, that one, don't cost you anything, like, I'm not asking you to like paint, you know, to do anything other than let me come talk to your class for 15 minutes or whatever it is, right, but that, that, that small thing might, Right.
[00:31:29] Rekindle my love for my alma mater. And then the next time that email comes, Hey, I might write you a check. Right.
[00:31:36] Ashley Budd: I think what most people don't know is the fundraising structure is built around. Universities need to balance budgets, right? So the budget is set and then anything aspirational that the university wants to do is pretty much needs to be raised because you can't like put something fluffy and aspirational in a.
[00:31:58] Budget that you're trying to balance. Like the [00:32:00] budget is set to really make sure everything. Is accounted for that needs to be accounted for the students get the services that they need the salaries get paid. Like, that is pretty much where the budget ends. Otherwise, it's going to get to scrutinize, like, aspirational stuff can't fit in a budget.
[00:32:16] So when universities want to do something, like, when they want to be Harvard, or they want to be what, you know, everyone's doing these other things, like, that's where the fundraising comes in. And you get large chunks of money that you want to put an investment account so that they keep earning you money over time.
[00:32:32] Those are your endowments. And then the rest of the aspirational stuff needs to come in and be current. You like, be able to just like, spend immediately and. That's the way they've always been organized. So you have like these annual fund teams that were doing the current use money. And okay, we want to raise, I don't know, we'll say 3 million this year that we can just spend the share.
[00:32:53] And it's not your mark to anything. And it's going to be super helpful. And then You've got major gift fundraisers who are bringing in the [00:33:00] big checks, and those are basically just going into your endowment and we'll just sit there, but what they didn't account for was like direct funding, but they didn't account for it was the millennial crowdfunding generation that we are, we're like, sure, a dean, I like picking on the engineering deans, because they're practical, and I've been around engineers forever.
[00:33:21] But like the engineering Dean has had these like teams of students and they want to go on like all these competitions and stuff. Well, that's not stuff. That's like, I'm going to make it always into the budget. Yes. And so he would, the Dean would be like, okay, like, you fill out your paper and I'll give you money to go on your trip.
[00:33:39] Right. And there's like, kind of a process for the Dean giving those funds. Well, now, if the teams can direct fund themselves. Because they have alumni who used to be on the team where they have, like, they got parents, they've got their aunts and uncles that can kind of direct fund them. Then what happens to the Dean's money?
[00:33:55] Well, maybe the Dean doesn't need as much, or maybe they're going to allocate it somewhere else. So they're like, [00:34:00] crowdfunding really like kind of blew up. That whole system. And it was also teaching us, the millennial donors that we can direct fund stuff. And so when they say like, give to the annual fund and you're like, but where does that go?
[00:34:19] And what does that do? Versus someone saying like, Hey, Zach. There's this team of entrepreneurs that have a pitch competition in New York City and the bus, like they need money
[00:34:31] Zach Busekrus: for their bus. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. Like the dean could
[00:34:34] Ashley Budd: say, give me annual fund money, and maybe I'll pay for their bus. Or a student being like, I need some bus money.
[00:34:39] And you're like, of course. Here's your bus money. Yeah. Like, good luck. Tell me how it goes. There are other schools that have broken through the internal politics, basically to say, no, actually we're going to skirt around that. We're going to let people direct fund. We're going to give the donors what they want.
[00:34:54] And it's, but it's really scary for these institutions to kind of break their whole like financial [00:35:00] model and let people direct funds.
[00:35:03] Zach Busekrus: Yeah, it's like that whole, like, like the whole charity water model. I think that they're seen as one of like the more iconic contemporary nonprofit organizations where they could literally show you, Hey, you're, you know, X dollars went and built this exact well.
[00:35:17] And like, we're going to, you know, uh, Skype you in as you see this drilling happen and that was your dollar exactly. And like that. That made us, that made me feel like really, really, really compelled. And therefore you translate that expectation across, across all these other arenas. Right. And yet, right.
[00:35:36] Like what, what also, I think it really just presents a fun marketing challenge, right? Like, okay, Hey, if you do, if you do need the annual fun. To, to, to be filled, right. To what, what does that mean for your, for your team? Like, how, how do you make the annual fund attractive?
[00:35:54] Ashley Budd: Talking about scholarship is hard.
[00:35:56] Yeah. Um, I'm working on like raising some money for [00:36:00] scholarships and. I really wanted to be able to, I want to break it down for small donors. Like I'm not doing anything over a thousand, but I'm not expecting anybody. I reached to make a gift over a thousand dollars. Yeah. Yeah. That's a whole different animal.
[00:36:13] I'm just trying to, like, get people to participate, right? And, but like. The average scholarship award for a Cornell student is 50, 000. Like, I can't get, you know, your 25 gift to feel like it's helping that student. Like I, it would like, maybe we can buy a coffee during finals and that could feel good, but like 25 for your scholarship does not feel good.
[00:36:39] And so trying to like break that down and the best I can do requires. a graduate economics degree, where I can say, if we come together and raise 25, 000, that is worth the spending power of a 625, 000 endowment gift.
[00:36:57] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Okay. Wow. That's the
[00:36:59] Ashley Budd: best, but like, [00:37:00] that takes a whole. Like you need to understand a whole lot for that, like, sure.
[00:37:04] That's compelling. If we, you know, we all pull our money, but then it's like, and then a student got a semester's worth of funding. It's a real daunting thing to, even for people who receive scholarship, who might feel like, yeah, scholarship's important. We got to make sure. It's not just all the wealthy kids that can go to school.
[00:37:25] Like that is actually a compelling cause for a lot of people, but man, it's hard to get it down to like, why is my dollar matter? That is, it's really hard on that kind of a scale. So we do see a much higher acquisition of donors when it's that direct funding, or we saw it when we could be really specific about the need, like.
[00:37:51] During the fall of 2020, when we did a scholarship drive, it's like, like, we have a huge chunk of students whose parents have lost their jobs. They're not working. [00:38:00] They are asking us to redo their financial aid packages. We budgeted for this and now we actually need current use money. Like, and everybody, every like cent counts like that, that works.
[00:38:13] Zach Busekrus: That was real.
[00:38:14] Ashley Budd: So I like, I agree with you. It is a challenge. The other place where I think we found. Success is offering things that are valuable and putting like an option to give a donation. So giving something for free that is of clear value and putting on that registration form. An optional gift where you're like, wow, I'm going to get like a cooking lesson from this, like James Beard or winning alumna teach me how to cook Chinese dumplings over zoom.
[00:38:50] And this is awesome. I would pay for that. And instead we're offering it for free. And you know, your donations go to the [00:39:00] campus grocery for. Low income students, right? Like that kind of really super tangible stuff. Really, really fun from a marketing perspective to like, try to put the pieces together and see how we can start drumming up support.
[00:39:12] And then talking to those people who maybe made their gift for the first time because of Irene Lee's class. Yeah. Talking to them about philanthropy then in a way that is maybe a little bit more meaningful than when they weren't a donor
[00:39:23] Zach Busekrus: at all. I think like, that's like those, those sorts of strategies, right?
[00:39:27] Like. When I think about what it would take for me, right, to want to make a contribution to my alma mater, it is, it is things like that, right? It's like you mentioned earlier, people don't spend that much time thinking about, you know, their, their institution. We're not like, it's not like present on their mind day in and day out.
[00:39:44] And I think that you're right. However, right, college is one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive investments outside of maybe a home. Maybe your wedding depending on your wedding, like, you know, outside of those two things, right. It's an incredible [00:40:00] investment. And what other sort of like immersive product, like on average, students are spending, you know, four and a half, whatever it is, years living, breathing, fully immersed in your product offering.
[00:40:11] Right. Yeah. And so that is a chunk of, of your life where it's like, I don't know how much time you'd spend. As immersed in a brand, right? Mm-hmm. for those four and a half years, a as you do the rest of your life, right? Like
[00:40:23] Ashley Budd: it might be a city, it might be a team. Exactly. It might be like, but those are the comparable brands.
[00:40:27] But those are, yeah, those, those are the competitions. And that's where I think of like, I don't know, am I onto something with the lifestyle brand? I, I think you are. I think you are. Because it's not what we've traditionally been doing. It's certainly not.
[00:40:37] Zach Busekrus: And, and like, we know who, who wouldn't want that.
[00:40:40] Like I show up to that virtual cooking class or whatever it is, right? Like, Hey, maybe I like connect with Ashley. We're like laughing in the chat together. Come to find out Ashley has this job at, you know, company X. And that's actually a company that I would love to work at one day. Maybe we start connecting, we start chatting offline, whatever.
[00:40:56] I connect with her on LinkedIn, right? And then three years later, [00:41:00] I'm, I'm working at this job because we met in this virtual cooking class, like talk about value ad, right? And then right when I get that email for the annual fund, I remember that cooking class and I remember Ashley and I remember the fact that she helped get me this job and my affinity for my alma mater.
[00:41:15] Immediately goes up, right? And that's, that's when you have to capitalize on when infinity is great. And I think that that's, that is the future and what you just described earlier. And I think in that little example I just gave those, that's what I think of when I think of a lifestyle brand are, are those sorts of touch points that kind of grow with you as your context changes.
[00:41:36] Ashley Budd: Yeah. And a lot of it does start. I think, I think what my peers would also say is a lot of it does start with the student experience. And so someone who was living on campus for all four years has a stronger affinity to their alma mater than someone who was commuting or even who just lived on campus the first year and then went off.
[00:41:55] And so you can like kind of, you can see direct correlations with how much they're [00:42:00] engaged as an alum based on what that student experience was. Plus we're coming out of like Three classes at least thought about COVID deeply and their experience. And, and I think the feedback that we've been hearing from alumni at Cornell is like, yes, Cornell is awesome.
[00:42:16] Like we get it. Like Cornell, like you guys are crushing it, right? Like scientific breakthroughs. Like the students are having a great time. It's great. It's great. It's great. But like, not all of it's great. It's not all great. Like Tell me what's not great. It needs help. Tell me what's not like be a little bit more humble a little bit like a little bit more honest in that not every student experience is a great experience and it could be better and we need your help.
[00:42:41] Like how many students could we speak to if we talked about like we were honest about student experience and what they came through and we like listen and like, okay, we don't want it to be like that for other students. So how can we what can we do together to learn from them? Your experience to make it better.
[00:42:57] And I think that is also a tough [00:43:00] part for alumni teams who are like, all about pride. Yeah, all about like, shining a really bright light on the institution and being like, people are going to we want people to be excited. And that's a real turn off, especially for Gen Z. Who's like, No, it's not what you're saying.
[00:43:18] It is. It's that whole, that whole like kind of cradle degree of experience. What was it like when they came in, what were the, what was the experience that they had? And if that's not all great. Then what does the alumni team need to do to kind of write that? Yeah. Or do we just lose those people?
[00:43:37] Zach Busekrus: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:43:38] Yeah. Which is, you know, and, and, and these are, these are all really tough questions, but, but Hey, I, I'm excited that there are people like you, Ashley, who are. I'm just so immersed in this and trying to figure this out. It's exciting. It's exciting. Well, Hey, this has been a wonderful conversation. I really appreciate your time and the great work that you do.
[00:43:56] If folks who are listening to this want to ask you a [00:44:00] question, I know that you mentioned that you do some consulting if they're interested in that. I know that you and one of my fellow podcast hosts on the Internal Fire Podcast Network, Dey, are writing a book or have written a book and it's published or it's going to be published soon on email marketing.
[00:44:13] And so, so. Give us a little plug about like where you want people to go if they want to connect with you or learn more about what you're up to.
[00:44:20] Ashley Budd: Definitely. I'm happy to take connections on LinkedIn. You can find, I'm the Ashley Bud that works at Cornell. My website, ashleybud. com has all my contact information on it too, and consulting services and workshops.
[00:44:33] I write a newsletter you can subscribe to there, and then you can look for the email book that Day kibbles and I are writing, we don't have a title for it yet. It's just called email, but you can find it at email book. co and you can get on the list to be notified when it's published. We probably will also go out to that early list with some advanced readers to get feedback on.
[00:44:57] So we'd love to have folks sign [00:45:00] up there, but it'll be, it'll make all your email dreams. I'm
[00:45:02] Zach Busekrus: sure. I love it. And we'll go ahead and we'll drop all those links that Ashley just mentioned in the show notes. If you're listening to this, just scroll on down wherever you're listening to this podcast and click on those links.
[00:45:13] If you'd like to connect with Ashley or learn more about her consulting and of course her book, but Ashley, thank you so much for the time. It's been a real pleasure.
[00:45:27] Hey y'all, Zach here from enrollify. I hope you enjoyed this episode of the enrollify podcast. If you liked this episode, do us a huge favor and hit that follow and subscribe button below. Furthermore, if you've got just two minutes to spare, we would greatly appreciate you leaving a rating and a review of this show on Apple podcasts.
[00:45:44] Our podcast network is growing by the month and we've got a plethora of marketing admissions and higher ed technology shows. That are jam packed with stories, ideas, and frameworks that are all designed to empower you to become a better higher ed professional. But enrollify is far more [00:46:00] than just a podcast network.
[00:46:02] Enrollify is where higher ed comes to learn new marketing skills, discover new products and services, and find their next job. We're a growing learning community of 4, 000 members, and we'd love to welcome you into the fold. You can access our free blog articles, newsletters, e courses, and more, or purchase our master course on how to market a university with Terry Flannery at enrollify.
[00:46:23] org. We look forward to meeting you soon and welcoming you into the community. Again, you can subscribe for free at enrollify.
[00:46:30] Ashley Budd: org.
About the Episode
The what's what...
In this episode, Zach sits down with Ashley Budd, a marketing director at Cornell University, to discuss the past, present, and future of Advancement Marketing in Higher Education.
Ashley revisits the early days of working in marketing and communications and recounts how she had to secure the social handles on Facebook and Instagram for the Rochester Institute of Technology, and also unpacks:
- What it’s like raising money at an Ivy Leage school
- How marketing and communication strategies with alumni and donors need to be reimagined
- Some ideas she has for creating more meaningful relationships with students before they become alumni
- And some hot takes she has on the future of higher ed marketing more generally.
This episode is brought to you by our friends at DD Agency:
DD Agency is a higher ed-specific marketing technology agency that has conducted countless SEO Audits for colleges and universities across the country.
In these audits, they detail where you currently rank, what you could be ranking for, exactly how copy should be tweaked on website pages, and much more.
If this sounds like something you could benefit from, give those folks a ping and be sure to mention that Enrollify sent you to claim a 10% discount on any of their SEO offerings.
Head on over to enrollify.org/ddaseo, or simply follow the link in the show notes below…that will guarantee you get a 10% discount off of your audit.
About the Enrollify Podcast Network
The Enrollify Podcast is a part of the Enrollify Podcast Network. If you like this podcast, chances are you’ll like other Enrollify shows too!
Our podcast network is growing by the month and we’ve got a plethora of marketing, admissions, and higher ed technology shows that are jam packed with stories, ideas, and frameworks all designed to empower you to be a better higher ed professional.
Our shows feature a selection of the industry’s best as your hosts. Learn from Jaime Hunt, Allison Turcio, Corynn Myers, Dustin Ramsdell, Terry Flannery, Jaime Gleason and many more.
Learn more about The Enrollify Podcast Network at podcasts.enrollify.org. Our shows help higher ed marketers and admissions professionals find their next big idea — come and find yours!
About the Podcast
Zach is the Founder of Enrollify. He thoroughly enjoys building new brands, developing and executing content marketing strategies, and hosting podcasts. When he's not working on Enrollify, he enjoys discussing life's quandaries over coffee (or a good bourbon) with friends, building Sponstayneous (his travel brand side hustle), trying out new HIIT workouts, and adventuring across the globe with his wife!
Ashley Budd is a nonprofit consultant and full-time marketing director at Cornell University. She writes and speaks about marketing and leading teams. Ashley works at the forefront of digital innovation in the advancement sector and shares what she knows about connecting with people and raising money for good causes. Sign up for her popular newsletter, Ashley in your Inbox, at ashleybudd.com.
We partner with the best, to provide the best information.
A full-service marketing technology agency
DD Agency is a digital marketing agency for higher education with a propensity for marketing technology. They're the only HubSpot Platinum Partner Agency that exclusively serves the enrollment marketing space. Living out their mission statement "We help Davids beat Goliaths" means DD helps clients develop inbound marketing strategies that use content and marketing automation to achieve their enrollment goals. Whether you're looking for a full-fledged, 12-month strategic marketing plan, or just a fresh approach to a blitz campaign, they're the marketing partner you want in your corner! The DD team is guided by 6 core values: treat clients like family, be ridiculously helpful, challenge conventional thinking, treasure transparency, adapt and improve, and "make it fridge-worthy."learn more
The Enrollify Podcast
Each week, get equipped with insights into how the latest trends in marketing and technology are affecting enrollment marketers. Every episode is designed to inspire new, creative ideas for how to optimize the resources you have to generate the results you need.
LISTEN TO MORE
Subscribe to our podcasts
The Enrollify Podcast Network is your go-to hub for shows that will empower you to grow, optimize, adapt, and reach new heights as an enrollment marketer.