Segmentation and journey planning for university advancement – a model (part 2)


Having outlined the concept of the model in my previous post, I’d like to offer my thoughts on how you could make this work for your team – big or small.

I’ll cover determining the journeys and involving your team in this process. I’ll also look at maintaining the model,what you can put in place to make this easier and also what to do with ‘super contributor alumni’ who support multiple causes in various ways.

Finally, I’ll add an important warning.

Determining your institution’s journeys

I’d recommend first speaking to the audience and channel specialists within your team to help determine the content and structure of each journey. Just because colleagues are not currently planning and delivering co-ordinated journeys for each group, doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about how they’d do it if everyone was committed to change. They’re also likely to have analysed results at an activity or programme level, and so should at least have a good knowledge of what components may work best for your particular audience.

Aside from looking within, there is also plenty of information in the industry about what kinds of communications and events increase satisfaction or warmth, and what types of appeals are likely to work best with each audience group. To start exploring what’s out there, check out Donor Relations Guru’s curated resources and Bluefrog’s blog. Put these components together, and you’ll have a journey that you can at least try, test and adjust.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about projects 4, 5, and 13 as the Commission on the Donor Experience progresses, as their recommendations will also be valuable for this discussion.

Here’s a quick example that I’ve generalised so you can see what’s possible:

Segmentation and journeys model v1 - Page 1

How could the model run and be maintained?

Consider your tech

Content and structure aside, there are probably a few things you can invest in to make the process of constructing a model like this easier (if you haven’t already). Integration between databases and marketing tools can cut down on the manual export and import of data, and speed up the process of analysing what’s working. The most efficient and user-centred way for journeys to run is triggered by individual behaviour as opposed to on your calendar – integration with best practice tools makes this possible without the need to substantially increase workload.

Going back to my original scope: channel, frequency and solicitation preferences should ideally be controlled by the audience, and you will require some ability for your alumni and supporters to update their preferences. This will also help relieve some of the pressure on the team to nail their assumptions when planning the journeys at the outset.

Of course, you can deliver some elements of this model without the best practice technology, but you’ll need to focus on moving groups onto a manageable monthly calendar (with comms and events that are duplicated across more than one journey) as soon as possible.

Be realistic with the number of segments

Whether or not the technology is there, decisions will need to be made about how many journeys for the contributor group (and therefore causes) can be managed before content generation becomes impossible. And for the non-contributor group, a healthy debate should arise about what strategic contributions you should be aiming for – clearly only those for which you’ll commit to having a contributor journey attached should make the cut. If segmentation and journey planning doesn’t make the case for tighter campaign scope, I don’t know what does!

Keep it flexible and fresh

The audience for each journey could be refreshed or adjusted at any time, either through triggers in behaviour that automatically bump someone, or the alum could opt themselves out by updating their preferences.

However, just because you could move people around constantly based on behaviours, doesn’t mean you should. For instance, you may not want to add people to your potential contributor journeys once they’ve started if resource or tech is an issue for your team – instead you could remove people as needed until the next intake on another journey.

There is also no need for the journeys to be happening to the exact same timeline, they could be entirely automated and triggered and could overlap. Although depending on the technology you’re using, simultaneous journeys would be advantageous if communications data production is still manual and planning generally happens on an annual or quarterly cycle.

What do I do with super contributors?

You’re probably thinking about what this means for those super-committed alumni who volunteer and donate, and/or donate to multiple causes – are they going to be overwhelmed, travelling on several journeys at once? And how do you know what to solicit them for?

Ultimately it’s a judgement call and the way I’d approach it is by asking, what do you think they’re expecting? Keep in mind that they can ideally choose to consolidate their communications and alter the channel if you’ve got a functioning user preferences portal. I’d guess that if they’ve decided to contribute to something, they want to know about the impact of that contribution and get regular updates. Perhaps more is more when it comes to the contributor journeys?

A final word of warning

It’s my firm belief that if you want to move from activity-based planning to segmentation and journey planning there can be no half-way houses. Implementing even one or two protected journeys on top of current calendar-based activity is a sure-fire way to spectacularly increase workload and compromise the integrity of what you’re setting out to achieve.

On the other hand, large-scale change will be seen as a risk to performance by senior managers. Here is my take on it:

  • Integrated segmentation and journey planning that puts your audience at the heart of communications delivery can only be a good thing for how they experience your institution. If your current programmes are delivered on an activity basis, there is probably very little chance that you know what individuals are receiving from you. If you’re worried that you might be bombarding your 45+ alumni who live in London with event invitations, appeals and newsletters, you need to take control of the experience. By taking control, you’re mitigating the risk of a poor supporter experience – which already exists using your current processes.
  • Can you afford to keep increasing the workload of your team? If you’ve discovered that personalisation and tailoring offers you better results, where are you drawing the line? If segmentation on an activity basis is growing and becoming more complex, you will soon back yourself into a corner of unsustainable workload. It’s time to work smarter.

But there are a few things you can do to mitigate risk when attempting large-scale change:

  • Ensure you have the commitment of leadership to the concept, and that this leadership is present and functioning well. Sailing through this level of change without a strong leader who has the respect of the team (and who can visualise where you’re heading) will lead to compromising the benefits of the model, or losing the trust and motivation of the team to see it though. Segmentation and journey planning is not for the faint hearted.
  • Bring in project management support and some ‘outside eyes’. Can you afford to take key staff away from delivering current programmes in order to co-ordinate and manage the project? A consultant or contractor could also provide valuable perspective to leadership on any change management issues that arise, supporting good decision making and protecting the integrity of the project.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has started to implement segmentation and journey planning in their advancement team – what challenges have you faced? Equally, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s chomping at the bit to give this a go!

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