Carleton College, a highly ranked college that attracts an exceptional and diverse student body, does not rest on its laurels. That is certainly true in communications where we teamed with the college on refining their key messages to the distinct needs and interests of alumni going back to 1939’s graduating class up through current students.
Carleton’s Becky Zrimsek, assistant vice president for external relations, commissioned the work to empower her team and expansive volunteer network. She says, “We consistently reference the targeted language the Neuger team developed for each of our donor segments. There’s no question that it’s helping us achieve our fundraising goals.”
More recently, our Fieldstone Research team partnered with Carleton’s College Communications team to conduct one-on-one interviews, focus groups and randomized surveys as part of a regular review of its award-winning Voice magazine for alumni. We also assessed Inside Carleton, a print newsletter to engage donors.
The extensive research project included mail and email surveys, telephone interviews and a series of one-on-one focus groups with an audience of both alumni and parents of current students. By design, the target audience for the research was a randomized list that included individuals from a broad range of the graduating classes. Our oldest participant came from the class of 1939; our youngest was in the first year following graduation.
What did we learn?
Highlights showed that all ages of alumni enjoy the print magazine with the majority reading the magazine all the way through. Many noted the strong and engaging photography and most enjoyed news from their own departments.
Alumni and parents (a key group) expressed that they also want more information on current events, what’s happening on campus, and where the college might stand on controversial issues. The president’s letters are not overlooked with this audience – they are beloved pieces of the magazine that should be kept.
Voice remains the primary source of information for alumni, donors and parents and readership exceeds 70 percent.
For the newsletter on donor communications, parents emerged as an interested and motivated audience, regardless of whether they personally attended Carleton. Large building projects often get feature coverage because they’re the output of generous donations. However, both alumni and parents would love to see more about students, who they are – their hopes and dreams. In short, they want to see and hear more about campus life inside the buildings. Research findings are now being considered for future editions of Inside Carleton.