The Blue and the Gold (and the Green)
Pot o’ gold
Notre Dame’s hope, of course, is that Irish Online’s valued offerings will increase connectivity and engender alumni support for the institution.
“It will enhance our fundraising. Just like the more qualitative the experience is for our students, the more qualitative the experience is for our alumni, the more that will make people likely to give back to the university financially — no question about it,” Nanni says. “The more people stay connected, the more they have meaningful engagements with the university and other members of the Notre Dame family, the more that that will enhance our fundraising. Enhanced fundraising is not, however, our only goal. We hope to facilitate relationships and foster life-long learning.”
The alumni association has valid e-mail addresses for about 50 percent of the alumni body, and its goal over the next few years is to get that number up to 90 percent. Nanni says the viral marketing of alumni-to-alumni contact — aided by a “tell a friend” feature on the Irish Online homepage — will boost the number of e-mail addresses.
The technology also makes it easier to manage alumni, which are, on the whole, very engaged. About one-fifth of alumni are dues-paying members of their local clubs, and a large number participate in local service projects. Irish Online offers the association a content-management system so it can keep a file that tracks alumni interests; what they want to hear about from the university; and what they want to know about their local communities. Having that information makes it easier for the alumni association to deliver alumni the information they want — the first step to breaking through marketing clutter.
“If you choose to play in the online world, you have to accept that, in that environment, everyone else in the world is out there,” Bellairs says. “If there is an alum out there who only wants to know about the tennis team, the English department and the band, I need to find a way to customize my message so that that alum is getting information from me and from the university from those three areas, because that’s when they start to pay attention to your message — when they can recognize that message is for them.”