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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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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 >

OVERVIEW

With the advent of increased natural disaster frequency, prevalence of cyber-attacks, and a global pandemic (COVID-19) that has plunged global marketplaces into precarious territory, organizations have more reason than ever to plan for unanticipated threats to their ability to conduct business and keep personnel and assets protected. Colleges and universities are no exception. Not only are enrollment cycles threatened but fundraising – ongoing and major campaigns – immediately began to see their investment portfolios and thus operating cash from endowments slide drastically while anticipated pledge payments started faltering.

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The modern higher education “advancement organization” has been evolving since the 1970s as development, alumni relations and communications have become increasingly integrated, yet in widely varying structures with no clear “one size fits all.” The trend toward “engagement” over the past decade linked these “three legs of the advancement stool” more closely and operationally. Besides adapting lessons from business and customer relationship management, institutions have sought to engage alumni on a journey from loyalty to commitment to contribution to generate the sustained financial support increasingly vital to the health of colleges and universities. Read more >

“Risk assessment and compliance” have typically governed strategic plans for businesses but, until recently, the concepts have not permeated strategic planning processes for colleges and universities. Broadened from the traditional association with internal audit finance and operations, enterprise risk management (ERM) offers a more precise lens for higher education executives and boards of trustees to analyze “strategic risk” as they develop long-term institutional visions and goals. Read more >

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University and college presidents and CEOs face an array of disruptive forces today as technologies, markets and customer expectations rapidly change. The institutions that are poised to thrive in uncertain times are shaking up administrative and educational models to be more relevant, differentiated and competitive. Declines in numbers of traditional students, growing numbers of prospective adult learners, competing priorities and stakeholder groups, globalization and growing dependence on private support are among the challenges of leading complex higher education institutions today. They demand enterprise-wide, market-responsive strategic solutions, reimagined academic and co-curricular programs and often organizational redesign of systems and structures. Read more >

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At a time of major change for alumni associations, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are numerous legacy issues related to traditional approaches practiced over decades. Yet in this context, alumni associations are rethinking and, in some cases, radically changing, their longstanding models for programs and services, organizational structures and relationships with their colleges and universities. Alumni needs, interests and approaches to their alma mater’s relevance to their lives are changing; at the same time, institutions are more strategically embracing the opportunities and benefits of alumni relations to engage their largest and most enduring constituency. Read more >

There is no doubt artificial intelligence (A.I.) is playing a greater role in business in a variety of sectors than ever before. “[A.I.] is not the future of the workplace, it is the present and happening now,” according to Forbes. A.I. investment also continues to grow: worldwide revenues for cognitive and A.I. systems will reach $12.5 billion in 2017 – an increase of 59.3 percent over 2016 – to more than $46 billion by 2020, predicts research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). Fifty-four percent of the business and IT executives responding to a recent PwC Digital IQ survey said their companies are making substantial A.I. investments today, with that number increasing to 63 percent in three years. Read more >

Most Agree That Education Is More Valuable Than Ever, But Dynamic Change Continues to Bring Complex Challenges

Higher education is in the spotlight this year, thanks to the presidential election’s focus on cost and affordability, and if there is one issue that thought leaders and educators can agree on, it’s the need for new thinking – especially with respect to financial and operating models. In surveys, discussion papers and reports, the complex topic of financing higher education remains central and influential in other issues from shared governance to new models of learning to data-informed decisions at all levels. Read more >

June 2016

After a few years of a “new normal” following the Great Recession, disruptive forces with evident or potential impacts on higher education are reemerging in the headlines. Certain developments, such as growth in online education or experiments with new business models, never disappeared, and these and other disruptive forces today are presenting perhaps even bigger and bolder challenges that are also connected to ongoing social and political changes. Read more >