Oregon State University Case Study
Learn how Kelsh Wilson developed a comprehensive, message-driven campaign branding and communications program that helped OSU raise more than $1 billion. Kelsh Wilson Design creates message-driven marketing communications, in print and on the web, for education, business, and nonprofits. Admissions / Advancement / Branding / Photography + Video
Oregon State University
A Case Study in Campaign Communications
A HISTORIC CAMPAIGN
With 11 colleges; more than 30,000 students; and a land-grant mission of service to Oregon, the nation, and the world, Oregon State University combines world-class research programs with a commitment to making a difference in the lives of Oregonians. In 2004, OSU launched its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, with a goal of $625 million, to propel the institution forward. The success of this historic effort depended on meeting a key communications challenge: engaging alumni and friends in OSU’s sense of momentum and its vision for the future.
Research and analysis: We learned about Oregon State University’s distinctive strengths, vision, and the potential impact of the campaign, through more than 100 interviews and focus groups.
Message development: We developed a set of messages, reasons for giving, and possible campaign names, that focused on OSU’s impact, potential, achievements.
Message testing: We solicited reactions to these messages through focus groups, phone conversations, and a web-based survey.
Recommendations: Our report of recommendations about the aspects of OSU that appeal most strongly to alumni, donors, and other potential supporters—and would be most likely to motivate them to make OSU a priority for giving—became the basis for selecting the campaign name and developing its brand.
The Campaign Identity
The Name: “This Amazing Place. This Historic Moment. The Campaign for OSU.” grew directly out of our conversations with OSU community members. This name combines a phrase used by many individuals to describe OSU — “what an amazing place” — with an emphasis on the University’s potential to make history, not only through the campaign, but also through groundbreaking research and life-changing education.
The Logo: We created a campaign logo that brings the campaign name to life. The logo conveys a sense of momentum and modernity; the colors and shapes evoke OSU’s wide-ranging research and teaching initiatives related to land, ocean, space, and energy.
THE CASE STATEMENT
OSU needed a case statement that would not only discuss the campaign priorities, but also showcase the University as a place of real impact and a truly worthwhile cause. The opening section, “This Amazing Place,” features stunning photos of OSU people, places, and projects that are intended to draw the reader in, along with message-driven captions inspired by our research. The next section, “This Historic Moment,” details the campaign’s priorities while also humanizing them with real-life stories and profiles.
For the campaign website, Kelsh Wilson adapted the case statement content into a web-friendly format and developed several interactive features, including campaign progress barcharts and online giving capability. We also provided page templates that the OSU Foundation is using to update and expand the site in order to include recent news and announcements.
A Unified Look
The key to any successful brand is consistent application in many different contexts. We worked closely with the OSU Foundation to ensure that all campaign materials would have a unified look and feel. In addition to developing a style guide prescribing usage of the logo and other visual elements, we designed the campaign stationery, business cards, and a set of templates for creating publications in-house. This system of communications earned a Silver Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
MAKING HISTORY: THE FINAL CAMPAIGN REPORT
In 2007, the OSU Foundation publicly launched “This Amazing Place. This Historic Moment. The Campaign for OSU.” By 2010, the campaign goal was increased to $1 billion, and it closed in 2014 with a grand total of $1.14 billion — making OSU one of only two organizations in the Pacific Northwest to achieve this milestone.
To commemorate this success, the OSU Foundation invited Kelsh Wilson back to campus in 2015 — a full decade after our first visit — to create a final campaign report that could serve as a “bookend” to the award-winning case statement. The goals were to help donors see the impact of their gifts, cultivate emerging major donors, and chronicle a historic time in the life of OSU while looking to the future.
Balancing bold statements of accomplishment with supporting stories about OSU people and places, the final campaign report celebrates the campaign’s many successes, including:
- More than 600 new scholarship and fellowship funds
- Double the number of endowed faculty positions
- Over 28 new or significantly renovated facilities
- A 47-percent increase in endowment
This was the first time a client has asked Kelsh Wilson to create a final campaign report. It was an honor to return to OSU and help them create a publication that put the final touch on such an amazing and historic campaign effort. The name, brand, and messaging Kelsh Wilson originally created was able to sustain the campaign for its entire ten-year run and instill a sense of confidence and pride among OSU students, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors.
Kelsh Wilson was honored to play a role in helping OSU generate excitement about the institution and its potential — potential it has far surpassed, thanks to the momentum of the campaign. The name and brand are still in place, and OSU is now using the tagline “This Historic Decade” as it closes the campaign and celebrates its success.
A STRONG COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM IS A CRITICAL FIRST STEP TOWARD ENGAGING DONORS AND INSPIRING THEM TO MAKE YOUR ORGANIZATION A PRIORITY FOR GIVING.
To learn how Kelsh Wilson Design can help you achieve your fundraising goals, contact Fred Wilson at 267.765.0700 x701.