Updated 2021

This whitepaper updates The Napa Group’s regular insights on Alumni Relations and on Advancement over the past several years. Now that the intense phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding, new data can be coupled with previous trends to provide a high-level view of trends in these organizations.

As we wrote in January 2020, before the pandemic temporally disrupted higher education and society, no longer can alumni associations stake the claim of “gatekeeper” of connections between alumni and of alumni with the institution. With LinkedIn and other social media, alumni can directly connect with each other and the institution easily and efficiently. This is forcing alumni organizations and institutional “advancement” programs in general to position and articulate their unique value propositions for their alumni and their institutions in new ways…

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For university marketing professionals – and for the presidents for whom they work – the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything.

That’s the conclusion of Dr. Teresa Flannery, who was in the midst of writing her book, How to Market a University, when the pandemic swept over the world and forced instantaneous change on higher education.

“The pandemic has made apparent the value of the work that we do on literally a daily, almost hourly, basis,” she says. “The value of our work has never been greater, [particularly for] the strategic communications area.”

She adds that the pandemic underscored the importance of the marketing tools necessary “in order to do this well, like enterprise customer relations management that makes all of our communications with stakeholders about the pandemic more efficient, accurate and measurable.” Read more >

As more arms get vaccinated and society creaks open its doors to a semblance of normalcy, workers and organizations are considering how, when and if they should return to their shuttered offices and classrooms.

First, there’s no one answer, just as there’s no one type of industry. Clearly, many professions have successfully shifted to a blend of virtual and in-office work to provide for customers; telemedicine being a primary example. Many restaurants, unable to serve customers inside, quickly ramped up online ordering and delivery services to try and weather the emergency until they can safely reopen.

But coaxing office workers back into the office is giving managers some pause as they weigh the advantages of continuing remote work and reducing real estate overhead. These trends have only strengthened the broader trend toward remote work and the rethinking of office space and office real estate as we know it.  The conversation now is moving in the direction of providing a hybrid workplace — one that provides the flexibility and security of virtual work, while preserving the need for office space to safely collaborate, launch new initiatives and mentor coworkers.

This has substantial implications for space utilization in all industries. For our higher education and independent school clients, however, is the era of fundraising campaigns and bond financing for new buildings in the rear view mirror? Such potentially multi-layered reassessment may have widespread impacts on educational costs, budgets and marketing in a post-COVID environment. Read more >

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Events of the past seven months have leapfrogged consumer behaviors ahead 10 years. The digital laggards – people who were slow to embrace digital engagement, communication and shopping – have become relatively experienced practitioners. They learned quickly to go digital when that became the only way to stay connected and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic – as well as to do business, shop, donate, attend worship services and experience museums and theater in a remote, stay-at-home, socially distanced world.

It’s time for university communications practices to fully leap ahead into digital-first practices because too much is at risk. Institutional leaders and communicators in central and advancement offices must re-engage stakeholders (across the spectrum from enrollment to philanthropy) by redefining the value proposition for higher education for their colleges and universities – how they’ve adapted, how they will be different and how they will sustain quality in agile, hybrid and even virtual environments. While university communications and marketing offices have accelerated digital communications in recent months, for organizations of all shapes and sizes, there is no turning back. The behavior of their customers has changed.

The attached PDF describes The Napa Group’s approach for developing and implementing a digital-first strategy in colleges and universities as part of a comprehensive strategic communications program. It’s scalable to non-profit organizations of all sizes.

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Worldwide, organizations and employees together underwent a major upheaval of routines, management processes and collaboration methods when remote work became the prevailing business model at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly five months in, new routines have taken root and each day at home is now business as usual. But without the critical touchstones of in-person collaboration and celebratory milestones ubiquitous to the workplace, and a daily routine that lacks important structural components such as commutes and lunch breaks and even post-workday beers, many remote employees are feeling the drudge of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting (or similar online platforms) without social outlets to offset the mundanity.

We’ve culled through the best resources so you don’t have to – use this quick reference guide as you manage your remote and hybrid workplace.

All this time spent on video calls has its problems. We rely on it to connect with people, yet it can leave us feeling tired and empty. It has given us some semblance of normal life during lockdown, but it can make relationships seem unreal. This feeling has spurred talk of a new psychological affliction: ‘Zoom fatigue.’[1]

Employee engagement and strong leadership are inarguably the most critical elements of productivity in business. But how do you keep employees engaged from afar? How do you create equilibrium in the work/life balance if the two are now enmeshed? Read more >

Nearly six decades have passed since the Civil Rights Movement, a bellwether crusade for equal rights that seemed certain to galvanize the long-overdue eradication of racial bias. And yet, right now in 2020, with continuing Black Lives Matter protests across a country still in the throes of a global pandemic, it is apparent that any progress already made toward black equality is vastly overshadowed by the volume of change still needed.

Despite laws in place to prevent overt racial discrimination, biases remain deeply rooted in American society and individual ideologies. The questions are being asked across our institutions and media – What has worked? What hasn’t? What must we do to finally get it right? Read more >

(Updated November, 2020)

This resource guide provides informative and thoughtful articles about the current and future state of higher education as a result of the COVID-19 disruption. Here’s what we’re reading. We will continue to keep it updated with selected material. We trust you will find useful data and insights. (Some of these may require a subscription. If you cannot access them, please contact us for assistance.)

Reopening:

Chronicle of Higher Education (numerous articles – here are key ones to date):

Reopening plans – The Chronicle is tracking more than 1,200 colleges serving primarily undergraduates and not including those that were already 100% online; it includes searchable tracking table to find institutions by name – here is the status of July 31. In the last 10 days, the number of “in-person” institutions has declined noticeably while the “hybrid” model and online have increased. https://bit.ly/2DkQoxa

  • Fully in-person (2.5%), primarily in person (21%) on July 31 versus planning for in-person – 53% (July 20)
  • Hybrid (16%) versus proposing a hybrid model (defined as mix of online, in-person, hybrid or blending learning) – 32% (July 20)
  • Primarily online (24%), fully online (3.8%) on July 31 versus planning for online – 10% (July 20)
  • TBD (27%) versus considering a range of scenarios – 3.5% and waiting to decide – 1.2% (July 20)

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Updated Fall 2020

These unprecedented times call on all of us to bring our best expertise and insights to lead organizations with resilience and agility through COVID-19 and plan smartly for a sustainable post-pandemic future. Even though the first “crisis response” phase is past, every week brings a blizzard of ideas, perspectives and approaches. We’ve collected our picks among the “best of” resources to assist you as you make critical decisions for the next 6, 12 and 18 months, and plan for the longer term.

Many of these resources have provided open-access to their articles and research, while a few may still require a subscription or membership. If you’d like to discuss the implications for your organization, we’re happy to share our additional insights about turning “best of” to the “best fit” for you.

We know many of you have made very successful adaptations to the ”transition normal” and are ending the year with new innovations and streamlined effectiveness. We wish you continued success as you embrace the coming months and tame the uncertainties ahead.  Read more >

Implementing a platform business model, in contrast to a vertically integrated organization, centers on a dynamic platform directed at the customer experience. This has impacts on the entire organization with respect to key functions (such as sales, marketing, communications, IT and analytics) as well as their alignment and governance.

While “digital” is often the reason that organizations consider a platform model, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution nor is it as simple as creating a single unit focused on digital; rather a comprehensive digital strategy is necessary to support the core strategic drivers of the business – and position the organization to respond to business opportunities and build the teams to respond with digital (and other) tools. Questions include: Will the impact of digital be focused on overall IT integration? On systems and software that provide deeper analytics for product development and sales? On marketing and communications? On social media?

Agile companies have more fluid structures in which day-to-day work is organized in smaller teams that cut across business lines and market segments. The old view of “dotted lines” begins to fade as talent and tools are reallocated according to the business need. Digital technologies facilitate a more customized tactical approach to customers as part of a larger strategy. From both IT and marketing/communications perspectives, it’s vital to understand the “whole customer” (the strategy) and what tools (the tactics) are most important to engage them.

Here’s how to design your organization for the customer experience…

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In a crisis, let purpose and strategy be your “go to” pillars.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced organizations to move quickly to redesign work, home and social interactions in real time, choose priorities and accelerate change at warp-speed. This crisis challenges the very pillars on which we’ve built our universities, Advancement organizations, schools, businesses and nonprofits.

As companies and organizations navigate ambiguity and redesign a range of futures, several foundational practices can provide valuable pathways and platforms for re-engineering. Now more than ever, 7 pillars of organizations managing change effectively are driving their decisions as they plan for the next 12-18 months.

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