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The Two Brands Every University Should Have


Nearly 40 percent of working Americans have a college degree.

Nearly 10 percent of those have a Master’s degree – often from a different institution than where they got their bachelor’s degree. That’s a lot of people with an emotional tie to an institution and they are all lining up to donate to their alma-maters, right?

Not exactly.

Actually, getting alum donors is pretty tough and requires the university to create a culture of philanthropy that allows a philanthropic brand to stand alongside the university’s brand.

So often, universities are recruitment and education first, fundraising second. But the universities that are successful at fundraising and turning their alums into donors have two distinct brand voices – each unique to their very different audiences. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that the two should be totally different. On the contrary, they should still live within the same brand structure, however, they should reinforce each other and play to each other’s strengths. The university’s overarching brand shares its credibility and history, while the philanthropic brand should create feelings of inspiration for the future, while reminiscent of the past, and ignite action and create ongoing engagement. It should sound different because it is connecting with its audience at a very different time in their lives – and for a very different purpose.

For most alums, the choice to invest in a university endowment or scholarship fund is weighed alongside their investments to any other charity. Even though a social-service agency is fundamentally different from a university, donors look at them equally.

Today’s donors – and college alumni – aren’t giving to their alma-maters just because they went there, they give because they feel a connection and are excited to support the broader impact the organization makes in the community.

Check out Webster University, who has grown their philanthropic brand by speaking to their donors differently.