Learn how Kelsh Wilson developed a comprehensive, message-driven campaign branding and communications program that helped Rutgers University 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
A Case Study in Campaign Communications
A Milestone Campaign
For any institution, a billion dollar campaign marks a historic milestone. For Rutgers, though, the stakes were even higher than the dollar goal might suggest. Our Rutgers, Our Future was a chance to put the university squarely on the map as a philanthropic priority and educate tens of thousands of potential donors on the power of private investment in sustaining a great public university. So in 2015 when the campaign surpassed its $1 billion goal and set a new record for participation, Rutgers had multiple reasons to celebrate.
- message research and testing
- campaign naming and logo
- “pride” book and case statement
- unit case statements for individual schools
- web and supporting print pieces developed in-house following Kelsh Wilson’s lead
Pride and Ownership
Good campaign communications present a compelling plan for progress. First though, they do something even more fundamental: remind people why an institution is worthy of investment. At Rutgers, the evidence was abundant. The challenge was to bring it carefully into focus. Kelsh Wilson’s message research and testing helped guide the effort, identifying factors behind donors’ feelings of loyalty and pride. Leading the list were the university’s real-world impact and the grit, energy, and diversity of the Rutgers community. The campaign materials stressed these themes, while the campaign name Our Rutgers, Our Future underscored a sense of ownership—reminding alumni and friends that the destiny of the university was in their hands.
A Great Story through a New Lens
With three campuses, 56,000 students, and 31 schools and colleges, Rutgers has a lot to talk about—and a robust communications program dedicated to doing so. Shaping an effective campaign communications program presented a different task: to distill and simplify the story, making it accessible, and aligning all the good news in support of the case for investment.
The Pride Book, a glossy 32-page companion to the case statement, did just that, presenting a series of eclectic, impressive, and brief glimpses of the university in action—from operating the world’s largest DNA repository to generating $3.8 billion in annual economic activity.
Most important, these were all stories with a point. Each included an entry stating the impact of the program featured—from students served to therapeutic approaches pioneered. Each also announced an “opportunity”—what more could be accomplished with donor support.
For large, multifaceted organizations, mini-case statements focusing individual units or priorities can be as important a tool as the main campaign case. At Rutgers, this was certainly true. Through a series of school and campus-specific publications, Kelsh Wilson helped Rutgers articulate visions and plans appropriate to various sub-audiences yet in synch with the campaign as a whole. KWD developed a design approach for these mini-cases and content for a dozen of them. The communications team at Rutgers completed the package, following the clearly established pattern.
A Tale with a Happy Ending
Our Rutgers, Our Future successfully concluded in 2015, raising $1.037 billion, including $310 million in new endowment. The largest individual gift to the campaign was a $40 million commitment from an anonymous donor. Equally impressive, however, was the fact that more than half of the 130,000 gifts came from first-time donors, a clear sign of a growing culture of philanthropy.
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.