Citadel goes high tech with fundraising campaign
For years, The Citadel Brigadier Foundation's annual membership drive consisted of mailing out brochures and making phone calls.
A lot of phone calls.
But this year, the Brigadier Foundation is going high tech. Along with its usual Trident phone campaign, The Citadel's athletic scholarship fundraising arm is making more use of the Internet, social media and data analytics to target and attract new members.
"You have to think a little more outside the box, especially with times as tough as they are," said Jerry Baker, the executive director of the Brigadier Foundation. "You have to be a little more assertive. People want to give and to support, but sometimes it takes a little extra to reach them."
The Brigadier Foundation includes almost 1,600 members and gives about $1.3 million to The Citadel annually for athletic scholarships. During the first quarter of each year, it holds its Trident phone drive, with current members working the phones to call alumni and invite them to join.
This year, with the help of former Citadel football player Al Kennickell and his marketing company, The Kennickell Group, the military school is adding direct mail, e-mail blasts and personal Web sites to its arsenal.
One eye-catching inducement for new members -- a framed aerial photo of Johnson Hagood Stadium, with the member's name spelled out on the field by cadets.
"The material Al has given us to work with is very unique," Baker said. "No one else in the country is doing it. But it won't be very long
before people everywhere are doing the same thing."
This year's campaign, with a goal of increasing membership by at least 10 percent, got underway Jan. 19 with an e-mail blast to more than 15,000 alumni. As of Sunday, Baker said the campaign already has resulted in about 90 members signing up, including 46 brand new members.
"That's a very good sign, considering that it's been just a little more than a week," he said.
The e-mail sent to alumni includes a link that takes each alum to a personal Web site, which explains membership offers.
Those offers, at various levels, can include a framed, personalized print of either the stadium or parade ground with the member's name spelled out by cadets, and free tickets to football, basketball and baseball games.
The Kennickel Group also put together data to help the Brigadier Foundation target new members. For example, it found that alumni living within 25 miles of campus are 10 times more likely to join -- but that there are 2,000 alumni within that radius who are not members of the Brigadier Foundation.
Likewise, former Citadel athletes are three to four times more likely to join than the average alum, but there are 500 such ex-athletes living within 25 miles who are not members.
Signing up half of those local alumni (1,000) would represent a 63 percent increase in membership.
"Instead of a shotgun approach, we are able to spend more time going after the people you are going to get the best results with," Baker said. "Citadel alumni are supportive no matter where they live. But obviously, from Charlotte in, they can take better advantage of their proximity. So we wanted to shape some deals that would make it appealing to those people."
The Brigadier Foundation is reaching out to alums among former female athletes, and just recently signed up its first such member. Baker also stressed that the Foundation is not restricted to alums.
The cost of athletic scholarships rises annually, along with the cost of tuition. Right now, the Brigadier Foundation's contribution covers about $1.3 million of The Citadel's annual $3 million in athletic scholarships.
"While we are doing well and better than we have, our goals keep getting higher," Baker said. "We were thousands of dollars better in December than we were a year ago, but we have to be. We can never get to our goal completely, because the goal keeps increasing."