There were two key assumptions underpinning my research.

  1. That best practice was strong in the US and Canadian higher education sectors, and that it could be codified into a simple set of recommendations for the UK.
  2. That I could adequately interview and survey institutions to get to the root of what was driving that best practice.

The second of these turned out to be true – I got a vastly varied set of results from my research and the underpinning causes were clear and common.

The first however – as I learned both through desk research and the first few interviews – was far from the case.

There are unquestionably institutions that are doing well, and those that are doing not so well, at embracing digital in their alumni relations and fundraising strategies.

However, there is little or no common, underpinning theory, modelling or goal setting being used. No single institution could explain their methodology, or tell me where they learned it, or who else also used it. Everything was piecemeal, experimental, and fragmented. This is not to say that it was not sometimes wildly successful – indeed, it is precisely in such an “early adopter” environment where we often see huge strides forwards in terms of innovation.

As a result, at the heart of my recommendations is that institutions focus is on the structural elements that will facilitate innovation, change and programme development in a sustainable and resilient manner for the long term. There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, and change is the only constant.

Read on for Current Practice.