Today's U.S. presidential inauguration reminds me to ask what higher ed advancement might learn from Obama's re-election. It feels a little like dejà vu from Obama's first presidential campaign, when many of us wondered whether Blue State Digital's grassroots tools would transform alumni communities and fundraising online.
That didn't happen. One reason is that most of our profession sat back and waited for folks like Blue State to show up and teach us their ways. They did show up – sort of – but their solutions seemed expensive relative to our budgets, and it wasn't clear that they could resolve the difference between fundraising for Barack Obama and fundraising for graduate fellowships. Some good came of it though: many of us began to ask how donating to a time-bound, cause-related effort compared with supporting a college annual fund.
In 2013 the lessons aren't about building email lists or solicitation via text message. TIME Magazine's Swampland blog explained that it's all about "the secret world" of "data-crunchers."
Some simple lessons for us:
Mashup data from disparate sources to gain novel insights
For example, overlay geography with behavioral profiles.
Limit the number of data sets you use at one time
Related: Correlate and aggregate data sets.
Rank audience members via predictive modeling
Correlate it to your campaign's priorities.
Rank likelihood to volunteer
Giving potential isn't the only thing to rate.
Test and measure
This helps assess the best ROI among possible next steps.
Behavioral data comes from many platforms and channels
Examples: Recurring payments; text messaging; email appeals; online donations.
Finally, there's a key difference between political campaigns and education that is not mentioned:
In political campaigns, candidates make the case for supporting a movement, a cause, or a set of values.
In schools, colleges, and universities, we characterize our needs as those of an organization, a capital project, or a place.