SOC8: I'd Buy That For a Dollar: What Robocop Can Teach us about Alumni Engagement

Jeff Stevens 
Web Content Optimizer, Universityof Florida Academic Health Center

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at

Speaker 1:  This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb conference in Austin 2011.

Jeff Stevens:  A little bit about myself.  My name is Jeff Stevens.  She said I’m from the University of Florida.  I have worked in higher education for 11 years now.  I started there as the webmaster for financial affairs where I help students find the money to continue to go to college.  After that I worked as the webmaster for Liberal Arts and Sciences which was pretty much a one-man army job and I’m sure a lot of you have had experience with that.  It often felt a lot like this.  And following that I finally moved out of that position earlier this year to the Academic Health Center where I worked as a web content optimizer which is basically hifalutin term for just doing the back end work with analytics and SEO and usability and accessibility.

But I really do like the name ‘cause it makes me feel like this guy and that feels pretty good.  So today I wanted to talk a little bit about engaging alumni and the way that we do it now and a way that we might be able to do it in the future.  And this started after I came back from the conference last year.  I was at a meeting with our UF Alumni Association where the vice president of marketing for UF started talking about our alumni association.  How to bring more people into it.  We have one of the largest alumni associations in the country.  But there are over 300,000 alumni from UF were not part of that.  And he was talking about trying to find a way to reach them.  And his argument was that if we could get them to join and to give $100 a year then we could reach $30 million endowment in a few years.


And that sounded good on the face of it.  But as I listened to it in the audience as a UF alumni, I realized, I don’t have $100 to give.  It doesn’t sound like a lot of money.  But when you’re working with a budget, when you have kids, and you’re in your mid-30’s and you’re in a mid-career and you’re a webmaster at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences which I was at the time, that really isn’t within your budget.  And when I talked to all my other friends who are also UF alumni who also worked at the university, they said the same thing.  But as I thought about that I said, “But if they asked me for $5, I would give $5.”  And all my friends said the same thing.  So that really started making me think about microdonations and what that might do.  And at that moment, Robocop entered the picture.

Now last spring, Mayor David Bing of Detroit started a crowd-sourced campaign on Twitter to ask people who lived in Detroit how can we improve the infrastructure of our city and how can we bring back economic development.  And among all the great answers that he got from people during that, he received this tweet.  Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky and Robocop would kick Rocky’s butt.  He is a great ambassador for Detroit.  Well he predictably responded, “I have no plans to erect a statue of the Robocop, but thank you for the suggestion.”  But it was too late, by the time he had sent that, that original tweet had hit ‘read it’.  And within a few days, it have gone completely viral.


A few days later a group of artists who lived in Detroit created a kickstarter campaign to try and raise money to build that statue for Robocop.  They wanted to raise $50,000 in 45 days.  In three days they raised $17,000.  By the end of that 45 days, they raised $67,000 to build that statue of the Robocop.  And that statue is currently being built.  There’s a place called Imagination Station in Detroit that's volunteered to be the place to erect the statue once it’s done.  And they continued to get donations after they closed out.  What they did was they rolled this over to an actual charity foundation to give money to a local Detroit charity that fed the homeless.  They built a Facebook page that was built off of that.  And Funny or Die got involved.  They had Peter Weller come in and film PSA announcements.

Peter Weller is the actor who played Robocop in the 1980’s film.  He came in, he became a full part of it.  Here’s an idea that started out as a fun idea.  It started out as a little bit of goofy idea.  But then it turned into something that did some social good as well.  Thinking about that, the take away that I had from seeing that was that a group that is passionate can grow anything into a movement if you get them involved.  Microdonations have a lot of power and I had a great experience with that last year as Robin started to mention at the beginning when she introduced me.  Last year, I was able to win a ticket to come here using a viral video.  But my unit still didn’t have the funds to bring me to it.  Georgy Cohen had suggested to me that I set up a chip in.


I felt really uncomfortable about that at first. I only knew people here from Twitter and I felt very uncomfortable asking people for funds to send me a plane ticket so I could come to a conference.  But beside that, I set it up and lo and behold in two days, they raised the money to get me here.  This was the group of people that helped to do it, on top of that, once I got here, I saw that same group of people help another person go to another conference.  Help another person who is here who had medical issues with her child that needed some support.  They raised money and funds for them while they were here at the conference.  That was a really transformative experience for me.  Later I saw that same group people, if you were there last night, you heard Todd Sanders talk about the MB tweet race that they did.

The same of group of higher education professionals who propelled them to win.  I don’t think you can see it down here at the bottom, but at the end they had well over twice as many points as the next team that was playing that.  And that was solely done through Twitter.  And that raised $50,000 for St. Jude’s.  Last night when they had won, Seth and Todd were talking about that.  Todd said it was because of the cause and Seth said it was because of the community, but it’s the two of them together that really drove that and put that together.  At the same time that I was doing that last year, I also participated in a charity at UF for the Shands pediatric oncology unit where you shave your head bald for cancer.  I only set that up about a week before I came to that conference last year.


But within that group, I was able to raise about $1,800 within about two weeks for that.  And then I shared some pictures with people afterwards.  My little mini me and then my little Fester photo.  I gave them a little bit of a gift at the end of that.  Thirdly, the last thing that really tied this together for me is on Kiva, my wife and I on our business donated a little bit of our money into Kiva for every project that we get.  And we donate it into the Unitarian Universalist fund.  This is a group of white-minded individuals who are all unitarian universalist are donating money.  There’s only 580 of them, but within the last three years, they’ve raised over about $350,000.  There’s only five religious groups that are head of us including the church of the flying spaghetti monster.

All of these things put together made me start thinking about, “What if instead of using the original model that the alumni foundation had to raise money in an incremental level from a potential alumni, what if we allow the alumni to build from their social networks to generate the money that we would want them to donate.”  And it would grow more like this instead of the other model.  Can that system work?  Well, in his blog ‘The Far Edge of Promise’, J. McNeal talks about that and he says that he doesn’t think that this will work and I want to talk about that for a minute.  The reasons that he says that this model won’t work is because repeat giving decreases online.  After the first time that you give, their subsequent donations after that are less and less.


In his research in microdonations, they’re impersonal and they lack connectivity.  You do the one ask then it’s done and you move on.  And that’s primarily because of the way that microdonations are done now.  They’re normally done at large events.  You do them at football games, you do them at events where you have a huge group of people that you can send one message to at one time to get them to come and donate.  So he feels that that only appeals to mass audiences.  I think that he’s right in all three things that he said, but I think that he’s right for all the wrong reasons.  And that’s because of the way that we currently handle microdonations.  We ask for them at the big events instead of building a dedicated web presence that was built around the idea of microdonations.

A big-event microdonation doesn’t encourage repeat giving, but in a model where we use a website to generate microdonations, you could encourage repetition through building a community within that organization.  Big-event microdonations are impersonal.  You don’t interact with the person next to you when the giver's asked, you pick up your mobile phone, you make the donation and then you’re done.  But in a microdonation site model, you’d bring the donors and those in need together and donors would interact with other donors, which helps develop a larger sphere of giving.  Big-event microdonations are shallow.  It is that one-time asked and as he said before no connection.  But a microdonation website would be deep and involving and it would encourage people to go further in what they’re doing.


Let’s take a moment to look at some online giving statistics for online donors.  Forty percent of donors go online before making a decision to donate.  This gives us a great opportunity if we have a site that we can pull them into that to help influence those decisions.  Online donors are generous despite the fact that the amount of giving overtime decreases, some studies have shown that median level of lifetime giving is much greater for online givers than they are for regular givers.  Peter Wiley did a study in 2004 that found that the median giving level is 50% higher to more than double overtime for an online donor than it is for an offline donor.  Online donors often have little or no prior giving history to the organization to which they donate to.

Blackbud, in a study in 2005 looked at this and said that it might be easier to acquire an online donor than it is to do with an offline donor.  And if you think about your current associations and think about the time that they take to go out and cultivate a donor, you can see how this model might save a lot of time and effort.  I also wanted to talk a moment about the valley of donors.  In a study that was done in 2008 called ‘The Nation of Givers’.  This was a study that looked at income levels that were involved in donations.  And the study found that the lower income households donate more generously than any other income level in the country.  They donate at 4.5% of their income level.  Now generally, that’s done through religious organizations.

The higher income is at this side and it’s a 3% and the middle classes around 2.5% in the middle.  I think that this is something to consider and we’ll come back to it and how can we attract possibly some lower income families and income households into donating into our model.  And then finally I want to talk a little bit about the newest generations.  When we look at current alumni association models, at least at the University of Florida, we normally aim for donors who are over 50 for our donations.  And we’re missing a large segment of our population by not looking at people who’ve graduated within the last 10 or 15 years.


In his book ‘One Church, Four Generations‘, Gary McIntosh looked at the divisions of age within religious organizations and how you could address those to make a more all-inclusive church.  And I think some of the things that they talked about in that can be pulled from that model that could be used for how to build this kind of community.  He identifies four generations in his book that are currently involved in the American society.  Those are builders, boomers, busters, and bridgers.  We’re going to concentrate mainly on the busters and bridgers today which roughly correlate to generation X, generation Y, and millennials.  The way that they look at the world is fundamentally different than the way we did as the Scrabble game shows here.

We need to find a way to create a model for them that makes sense in their world view into donating into our system.  If we look back at the movie Robocop.  Robocop had three prime directives that influenced everything that he did.  They’re essentially as a mob’s rules of robotics except much more violent.  They were:  Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law.  The model we’re talking about today would have a similar group of prime directives, but our prime directives are:  Make it compelling, make it immediate, make it simple, make it transparent, make it collaborative, and make it competitive.  First, let’s talk about making it compelling.  When we look at how men and women give, it’s fundamentally different.


There was a study that was done in 1982 that is the primary basis for a lot of studies today on how the division between the sexes and giving.  This was done by Keating, Pittson, et al. In their study, they found that men tended to donate to their alma maters when they had money so when they had money, they put it to their higher education institutions for self-esteem reasons and also for recognition, which is why most of our campuses have buildings named after men today.  Women, on the other hand, tended not to donate to their higher education institutions, but rather to civic organizations and local charities that they see a direct impact in what their money was doing.

Looking at this model, there’s two fundamentally different ways that people look to do this and for the men, I’ll come back to that, I think gamification is a way that we could appeal towards that male model and I’ll come back to that when we’re talking about making it competitive.  But when talking about reaching towards the female donor in this model, I want to talk a little bit about narratives, framing, and doing story telling.  If we use compelling narratives in our asks in this kind of donation model system, we will have a greater return on the amount of money that comes in.  We need to build a system that connects directly with the recipients and makes them feel like they’re immediately involved to those people’s lives.


Kiva is a great example of how to do this.  Kiva is a microdonation site that helps you donate into small businesses around the world.  And if we look at each individual model of how they do it, they give us a photo of the people who are involved.  They give us a background story of who they are and what they do and what they’re planning to do with the money.  For each person, you get a snap shot into their life and know something about them.  DonorsChoose is another website that does a very similar system.  DonorsChoose allows secondary school teachers to connect with people, to donate school supplies and other items for their classes.  Teachers come in and talk about their class and show what their plans are.  And that gives you that kind of connection to them.

Donors want to directly see the benefits of their actions and what occurs with the money that you put into the system.  Charity: Water does this.  They have a section at their website that’s simply labeled stories that on here they have a dedicated video team that goes around and videotapes the cities that they’re going to build wells in.  They show what life is like in that village beforehand, what it was like building the well, and then the outcomes afterwards and how people’s lives have changed.  Clever Copy also is something that makes it compelling and gets people to stick in it.  If we switch from looking at microdonation sites and looking to a crowd-source coupon sites like Living Social and Groupon, they use copy within the page to keep you involve to read through it.

[16:31] does much the same thing with their online sale system.  In her TED talk in 2010, Jessica Jackley who is the co-founder of Kiva said that retelling the story of the poor and giving ourselves an opportunity to engage in a cooperative partnership is what drives Kiva and that’s what makes people build into that system.  Another thing that we have to think of in that model is framing stories that meet conservative needs.  In 2009, the University of Florida vice president and the marketing was giving speech to the Advertising Federation of America and he talked about how in most of our marketing, we tend to lean liberal.  It's just a fact of what we do, but when we look at the United States, we’re pretty much still evenly divided 50-50.

We are a purple nation and so he talked about the importance of framing some of our stories from a conservative bent that gives them something to tie into. How could that work in our kind of model?  I want to talk a little bit about UF geography.  I wanted to apply this model to them in a funding need that they had last year.  They needed new software for their computer labs, the mapping software that we had was coming out of date and needed to be replaced.  But they currently didn’t have any funding in their general model for this.  They were waiting for a grant to come in to do this, but it looked like that was going to be probably a year and a half out.  It wasn’t a huge amount of money, it was about $5,000 that they would need to do the whole computer lab.


In this kind of model, we could frame a story that would help generate the money to do that ‘cause honestly, who is going to donate $5,000 to put new computer software in a computer lab.  That’s not an appealing or an attractive thing that people would want to donate into.  But if we concentrate it instead on the end results of what that donation would do, that’s the thing that would make people interested and take notice.  I selected three different basic case studies of things that had happened in geography the last year and how you might be able to put that into the model.  When we looked back at boomers, research shows that they want to see that the money that they donate into a charity or to an organization is making a global difference.

Two UF students who had just gone to do a studies of water tables in Africa and to see how global warming was changing those.  And they came back with a wealth of video from that experience; it was very similar to what you would have seen on Charity: Water.  You could repurpose that and put that together and that could be one of your asks.  So you put that video on the site to help bring people into it.  Busters, on the other hand, don’t want to put their money towards a global initiative.  Research shows that they do still want to give to charities, but they want to see a local difference in their local community.  For them, we would frame the story differently.

This still wasn’t local to Gainesville, it was to Georgia, but we have a geographer that worked there that went around to rural schools in Appalachia and took students to pick bugs out in the mountains and taught them biology and botany and basic geography.  But that’s a way to frame that story for a local audience to help bring in those kind of funds.  For the conservatives, we had a geographer named Pamela Nagler who just won a presidential science award last year for her work looking at invasive plants, primarily the salt cedar in Southwest United States and she found that most of the research that have been done about salt cedar and the amount of water that it consumes from the local ecosystem was wrong but it actually was not as bad as people had once feared.


Their states have been spending tens of millions of dollars to eradicate that over the last decade and by her research, she might be able to show that that doesn’t need to be spent anymore so that’s a way to frame it conservatively to show here’s some physical constraint that their states can make based off of the research that’s been done here.  So three different narratives that we could use.  You put it together in a video or series of videos on a site for people to choose from one or the other.  Making it immediate.  For both web audiences and for busters and brigders in particular, instant gratification versus long-term achievement is very important on a website.  They want to be able to do thing quickly, to do them and then to move on.

To create that kind of feeling that they need to be involved with a site and continue to do that, I want to talk a little bit about the bystander effect and this gets a little grim for a minute.  But in 1962, Kitty Genovese in New York City was assaulted and killed at night in an area that was very public and there were over 38 people who afterwards were said to have known that it was happening because the attack happened for about over an hour.  And nobody came to her rescue and nobody came to her aid.  And when interviewed about this afterwards, a lot of the people said, “Well, it was in a public place.  I knew someone else would come and help her.”  And invariably all 38 people basically said something around the same line and psychologists have come to call this the bystander effect.


If there’s a large group of people in an area and they see someone in need, they tend not to move forward to help.  Contrast that with if there was a one person drowning and you’re one person there and there’s no one else around you, you’re more likely to go and help them because of that one-on-one immediacy.  You know that you’re the only person that can act.  And sites that compel people to donate into a donation model, do that by focusing on a person or group and making emotional compelling narratives that get you involved with that person.  And then setting a timely need.  They set a set goal and a set deadline and they push you towards that.  Making it simple.  The website would have to have clears calls to actions and clear paths to donations.

And then once you’ve made that donation, it should be built in a way that it encourages people to continue to donate afterwards through repeat giving.  If we look at my school’s online giving page, it is not clear and intuitive in any way shape or form.  We have two main funds that people can donate into and then you can donate into each individual school, but it’s just one large mess of links that nobody ever clicks through.  And once you get to the donation page is a simple blank form page that has no real compelling bit to it.  This would be the way not to do it and please don’t share this back with my school ‘cause I’d like to have a job when I get back.  Busters and bridgers find info immediately on a site and they like to complete tasks quickly.

The site would have to built very much around that model.  Making it transparent.  It’s critical that you remain honest and ethical in this system and I’m going to go back to Kiva for a minute because Kiva got in some controversy last year about the way that their model works.  You don’t actually donate directly to a family or a group on Kiva.  The way that Kiva works is there’s a lending agency that’s already given that money to the people requesting the loan.  When you go to their system, you’re actually donating to the lending agency to pay back the loan that they’ve already dispersed.  But when you look immediately at the side of Kiva, Kiva makes it look like you’re donating directly to that person.


You’re funding them right now and if you don’t do it, then it’s not going to happen.  It’s important for us to find the middle in that system.  When interviews were done with people afterwards about how Kiva was set up.  The argument was made that donors want to have that connection and they’ll deal with a little bit of creativity on the side of the donation agency to put the money towards it.  That’s the way that people's minds think and if you are more upfront and said, “We’re donating into this model to do this.’  Then they’re not going to do that.  So you have to find that model in between where you give them enough information so they don’t feel mislead, but enough that they’re still feeling that emotional connection.

Explain how you’re doing it, be accountable, be transparent, and upfront if there’s administrative costs that are involved in what you’re doing.  If there’s any kind of back end that causes a process to happen before the funds are donated.  Let people know about it.  Donors aren’t stupid.  Another study that was done by the Illinois Center on Philanthropy.  Their study found that increases in giving and education go hand in hand.  If the donor has more access to information about what they’re doing then they’re more likely to donate into your system.  Give alumni clear and real information about their gifts and where are they going.  Have a way that they can follow up and see the progress of what’ve they donated into and how it’s currently being dispersed into the system.


Make it collaborative.  A system that allows you to invite friends that allows donors to include their social circles is a much more powerful system than just the ask from the alumni system to the person at that one level.  So if we look at a site like LivingSocial.  LivingSocial gives us many different ways for you to share your information, send us a gift, and share on your social networks.  They give some sort of incentive for you to get additional people to be involved in the coupon that you’re buying into.  GroupOn does much the same thing, just in different locations on their page.  Farmville is a great example of how to do this, as a gaming system, it’s built around collaborative gaming.  You invite friends to come in and to help you complete tasks on the system.  You get more points as a result of doing that.

It encourages you to find a group of people and build them together.  You create cooperative groups in this kind of model and think about your organizations and what kind of creative groups you could create in a giving model like this.  you could have alumni who are grouped by what their interests were, why they were in school, by the organizations that they were in, by the year that they graduated, the possibilities are really endless.  UF just launched a campaign right before I left and right before I left, they sent me and email and said, “Oh! I’m so glad you’re going to give this talk.  It’s exactly what we’re going to do.”  And then I looked at what they’re doing and thought, “No.  This is exactly not what I came here to talk about.”

It looks beautiful and it’s got a great system of how to donate to and I think they concentrated on the fact that they were asking much smaller gifts down here at the bottom.  But if we went down to the bottom of the page, they making a collaborative section is just not really there.  This is way down at the bottom of the page, I don’t really see a way to share these aren’t actually clickable buttons that go anywhere.  This is so small at the bottom, I would never see that.  I know that were concentrating on this and that donation, but this section doesn’t quite do what we’re wanting to do in this model.


Making it competitive.  And now we’re going to come back to talking a little bit about gamification and how to reach that group, the men.  And a great way to do that at the beginning is a leaderboard which is an internal game recognition plan.  Leaderboards really create that kind of sense of competition.  Maverick would tell us a lot about that.  That kind of system requires people to engage more, to be involved so they can race up on the system.  Foursquare used to do this in their gamification system with badges.  They’re changing their model now because badges started to peter out.  But finding a way to do an internal recognition system like that is important.  KickStarter, I would argue that the way that they do their pledge system at the side is almost an internal reward system.

So every time that you donate a little higher, you get a little more for what you've donated into the system.  External recognition.  Finding a way to give them recognition for what they’ve donated into the system outside would also be a great way to do it.  At UF, when we built our new Shands Cancer Center, we encouraged employees to donate into the system or something that we called ‘The Power Hour’ where they took one hour of salary every two weeks and they donated it into a first certain set length of time regardless of how much money that they put into the system with power hour and how long that they did it.

When the cancer center was finished being built, they built a table in the lobby that had the names of every employee who donated into the system and the table is marked and lets you know that these are employees who directly contributed into building this hospital.  Tangible prizes.  Things outside of the system that you give them as rewards for building into this system.  So looking at Scvngr, and I wish I had gone to that presentation yesterday.  Last year they did the Beantown Challenge where they were to ask different universities within the Boston area to donate into this system to do this scavenger hunt and they got points as a result.


It’s a competitive thing across each of the schools, but in addition to that, they handed out prizes during the system for various different concerts and different things that were happening in Boston at the time.  How could higher education do that?  We have different things that we give rewards and discounts to.  Athletics, of course, comes directly to mind at the beginning.  Imagine being able to give them some discounts on some of paraphernalia.  Imagine being able to say maybe the top person that’s at the top of this donation system maybe gets a Skybox seat  for your least attended game ‘case that’s probably what you’re athletic association would give you.  But, on top of that, think about other things that people would want to look at other than that.

If you have a thriving fine arts system, then maybe tickets to the theater season or to a dance recital that comes up.  Have maybe a variety of prizes so you can allow the alumni to pick and choose from what you have available.  And then I want to talk a little bit about virtual goods and services.  We’ve come a long way since we bought gems from some strange bearded guy in a cape.  In 2013, let’s estimate that $6 billion will be spent on virtual goods in game systems and that’s a lot of money.  Farmville made $600 million last year just simply by selling things that are built into that game system.  Why did I bring this up with higher education?  A couple of students at the University of Florida that were in our College of Business last year created an app called ‘Raise the Village’.

Raise the Village is pretty much a Farmville clone except here you’re building a village in Africa.  But what they did was they partnered with a charity that every time that you bought a virtual good for the game system, it actually went to purchasing the real life equivalent of it that was donated to a village in Africa.  So if you bought mosquito nets for your village here, mosquito nets were purchased for the village in Africa and then shipped to them.  And anyone who participated in the game who bought the app and put it on their mobile phone, they would receive photos during the year that were from the sponsor village that would show their packages arriving which showed the people that were directly benefiting from them playing the game.


It was a really great synergy between two different things and I think it worked pretty well.  This model might work very well if we think about people who are younger audiences or the lower-income households that we talked about earlier.  They tend to more get their internet through a mobile experience than they are thorough a traditional computer environment.  Imagine if you could build systems where you’re doing this through apps on a mobile phone to bring those people in.  Now I want to talk a very small bit about the hidden prime directive.  You remember the movie Robocop, he had a fourth rule that was hidden until the end of the film.  And the fourth rule was essentially said that he couldn’t break the system.

He couldn’t arrest anyone who had been part of the company that had built him in the movie.  We’re going to go the exact opposite of our hidden prime directive.  I want our hidden prime directive to be breaking the silos that exist on our university.  The funding model that we talked about here has the potential to be much bigger than just our alumni association, what it does.  Think about all the organizations and groups on your campus that try and raise money for various items.  Student organizations that are funding trips to go overseas to do some sort of outreach function.  Faculty initiatives that are happening on your campus.  Organizations that are just local organizations that often partner with you like any charity organization.


Encompassing those groups and bringing them into this would be a great way build out this model.  What are the challenges to overcome in this kind of system?  First, it would have to be internally run.  When I originally thought of this idea, I had all the hopes of being able to come here and actually have a model to show to everyone and say, “Hey!  This is how we did it.”  And I took this to my alumni association and I was stamped down stone cold when I brought it to them because they said, “Well you don’t have the resources to do this.”  I was originally going to try and just set up a kickstarter for that UF geography example that I told you about and say, “OK.  This is the results of what we got from it.”

But because of the funding model that all of us in higher education have where the money has to be funded through your association through tax reasons and because of security reasons, they wouldn’t let us do that.  Any process that we build would require home-grown solution which of course is time and resources.  And where does that time and that money and that personnel come from to be able to do it.  You’ll also receive institutional resistance to this model.  An alumni association would look at this and say, "Why is this going to interfere with our current funding models?"  And I would argue that no it wouldn’t because the way to look at this is that if we look at what the alumni association aims for it now.  Let’s look at public transportation in the city.

They aim for the people who are flying in helicopters, who are driving in limos, and sometimes using taxis.  This model is to reach the wider base that they never touch with their model.  This is to reach the people who take the subway, that ride the bus, that sometimes walk, that sometimes bike.  And this is just an additional way to bring people into their current model.  There’s one way that we might be able to jump for it on it.  Ignition deck is a WordPress platform that should be launching within 60 days.  It’s basically built on a kickstarter model as a design.  It gives us a progress meter, a social sharing system.


It has PayPal but we wouldn’t be able to use PayPal, we’d have to do something home-grown, but this will be a great way to start the system because a lot of us are already using WordPress and it’d be something easy to put in.  Their model wasn’t originally designed to act as a kickstarter, but with a multiuser WordPress installed and an authentication system, you could probably set something like that up fairly easily.  There are big challenges but I don’t think that they’re insurmountable and I think that they’re important for us to do in higher education.  Risk is our business and brining people in and getting them involved is very important.  The benefits of putting people into our system and helping us move forward are immense.

I think that higher education is one of the greatest things that our civilization has created.  If you think about it, in 200 years we’ve built up a system where almost anyone can have a quality education that people in the past weren’t available that was normally reserved for the very rich or the elite.  But we’ve built a system now where’s that very egalitarian.  But we have a hard time championing ourselves to audiences outside of our immediate circles.  For various reasons but mainly because of the way the media is currently set up.  All of us have three different basic things that our institutions do.  We have an education mission, we have a research mission, and we have an outreach mission.  Social networks would allow us to get those messages about what we do out much further than we can do individually in our systems.


If we think about our alumni, they have huge spheres of influence that stretch out much further than our initial systems can do.  By focusing on our outcomes and not the sources of our funding, we can create brand ambassadors for our university who’ve never set foot on our campus, who might never even have heard of our university except for the one person who brought them to the donation system and said, “Hey!  I think that this is valuable and I think you should donate into it.”  Imagine building brand ambassadors that way that they’re engaged in the mission of your university without knowing anything about the academic side of it and drawing them in that way.

Asks that are concrete, that are tangible, and social can touch many lives and bring people into the system. It’s basically paying it forward.  A graduate student of geography a few years ago at UF created this with two other graduate students while they were Uganda.  It’s called ‘Books Open the World’.  They were there to do their geography assignment.  But while they were there, they started helping rural communities build libraries.  And once they built those libraries, they came back to the United States and started funding groups to actually collect the books to send to Uganda to put in the libraries that they’ve built.

And they did this for several dozen places.  They helped a couple of schools and it worked really well and they brought in like three or four different universities that were contributing into that system.  Lauren McClusky is a person who lives in Chicago. When she was nine years old, she raised $100 for special Olympics from a lemonade stand.  Last year she ran a series of concerts that she promoted through Facebook in her website.  She raised $100,00 for special Olympics last year.  Here at our conference, the GirlsGoneWild are helping a friend in need by helping raise money for her medical expenses from her family as well.

And finally, my son was very inspired by my going bald for cancer last year, he wanted to do it this year.  Fortunately the Shands is not doing that this year and I told him that and he said he still wanted to do it.  So we set him up a chip in today.  He’s going to shave his head and believe me he loves his hair, he loves being a rocker.  But he’s going to it and I started reaching out to my friends and family to help him do that.  He’s also convinced me to do it too.  So if you want photos of me as Dr. Evil and him as mini me, I’m perfectly willing to do that.


Jeff Stevens:  I’d buy all those things for a dollar.  Those are people getting involved socially from other people and their social circles and coming together to do these things and I think that we as higher education have a great model for doing that.  I’d like to thank these people who donate the photos into the system.  You can find me on Twitter here and if you want to discuss this more, there’s a QR code there and I think it’ll work.  Thank you.