Annual Giving Meets #INBOUND15

We met Taylor Stayton last week at INBOUND 2015 – a weeklong inbound marketing conference hosted by our friends at Hubspot. Taylor is the Assistant Director of Young Alumni and Student Philanthropy for University of Miami, and she quickly revealed herself to be a hidden gem in a field where outbound marketing is still the norm. We could not wait to gather her unique perspective on the INBOUND 2015 conference and how she believes inbound marketing could transform higher education.

Taylor jumped right in. “[The conference] reaffirmed my fundraising practices. It was energizing. I knew I wasn’t crazy – We are supposed to be loving our donors.”

And I knew our conversation was meant to be.


On engaging young alumni

One of the first ideas Taylor shared with us is the importance of trust. She contended that you cannot build trust by using outbound methods, and that the only way to do so is to be a real person and communicate like one, too. “Building trust with potential donors takes time,” she said, “but digital engagement is allowing us to build partnerships with our donors instead of one way transactions.”

She shared that an engaged alumni population who trusts their institution gives back. We believe this is paramount to sustainability in the office of Annual Giving. Taylor went on, “The more somebody engages with your organization, the more they are going to learn and understand the problem and why they need to take action.”

And she’s right – we must be real in order to build trust and engage others.

On keeping the donor front and center

Since the dawn of fundraising practices in higher education, the message has been clear: “Give to us because we need your money to make important things happen.” It has been a message of obligation, and a message that revolves around the institution and not the donor.

One of Taylor’s key takeaways from INBOUND was to “keep the donor at the center of everything you do.” “The college cannot be at the center of the message,” she continued, “Making a donation is both a personal and emotional decision. Both factors must be considered.”


On her updated content strategy

Taylor recognizes that her content strategy needs some serious love.

“How do people learn about you? How do they find you?” She has to remind herself that she can’t assume people will open emails, so she will have to find alternative spaces where she can engage potential donors.

A content strategy should not be disruptive. It should be an opportunity for potential donors to learn about your organization on their own time. “If a donor can’t look at and understand your content without you, you won’t get their donation.”

This is the motto of inbound marketing – be where your audience is and engage them there so they can absorb your content on their own time.


On what crowdfunders have to gain from inbound marketing

My favorite insight that I gathered from Taylor came from asking the question, “What do crowdfunders have to gain from inbound marketing?

She shared with me a unique perspective: students are the expert in their field, and they offer donors a robust educational experience when they crowdfund for their cause.

Pump the brakes! Students as experts?

I love it!

Taylor shared, “[Students] will attract donors by making their philanthropy a learning experience. […] Therefore, you aren’t just gaining donors, you are gaining advocates. They can be lifelong connections.”

When you connect students with potential donors, you are creating a powerful bridge between learning and philanthropy.


On the evolution of Annual Giving

“Inbound is a movement. This upcoming generation of digital natives are bringing this into the forefront,” Taylor continued, “You have to find the things that mean something to someone, and the rest will fall into place.”

Taylor didn’t point fingers at Annual Giving, but reflected on the institution as a whole. She believes that in order to evolve with young alumni, it can no longer be about what they can do for the school, but how the school can make the donor the center of everything they do.

I loved chatting with Taylor – a woman on the ground seeking to make meaningful change on her campus. Taylor was especially appreciative that her boss took a chance and sent her to Boston for INBOUND 2015, because it was there that she found so many others who share her passion for connecting with others authentically to build a community of supporters and advocates.

Thank you, Taylor! We can’t wait to see how you flourish as you implement these takeaways from INBOUND!

Interested in learning more? Let's talk