Why Higher Education Institutions Need to Leverage Data and Analytics

May 17, 2019 Tim Hill

Using analytical, data-driven insights enables you to reinvent the way your institution operates. Most academic institutions understand how enormous this opportunity is. The challenge is in implementing this transformation across every department on campus. Data analytics and business intelligence tools are no longer nice to have, they’re a prerequisite for success.

Data Analytics is Important for Admissions

As the admissions process becomes more digital, it makes sense that data analytics would play an increasing role in the admissions office to determine the depth of a student’s interest and then keep them engaged throughout the student lifecycle.

Data analytics help attract, enroll, and matriculate students through the system. Admissions needs rich, predictive analytics on students to bring them in. Once they’re enrolled, digital tools and automated workflow to help with the engagement needed to keep them enrolled. Without digital tools to help you scale the experience students expect, you risk losing them. Every drop out or transfer is a missed opportunity that impacts your income stream.

Analytics Drives Athletics Fundraising

We know the importance of athletics to most schools, not only to attract students and talent to the institution, but also the actual income stream from the operations of athletics. It helps to have that rich data on constituents — season ticket holders, alumni, people in the vicinity of your campus who like to attend sporting events, as well as corporations and vendor partners who support the institution.

Data insights can help you more successfully reach constituents with personalized, content-rich messaging in email, pop-up events, social media, and events on campus.

Finding New Major Gifts Prospects Using Analytics

Our data indicates that on average 66% of your institution’s best major gift prospects are either unknown or unassigned. Historically, advancement offices have relied on wealth screens and personal relationships to help find the best donor prospects. Some prospects have always slipped through the cracks. Advancement offices that use data and analytics tools are able to leverage their existing data to find the donors they’ve been missing.

Higher education professionals must tap data and analytics to know their constituents and better predict their capability and mindset to give. And then deliver the messaging and content to the right channel to reach them on a more personal level.  Using the right tools can mean the difference between hitting lofty donor and dollar goals or scrambling to catch up.

Driving Value by Investing in Data and Analytics

One of the biggest challenges that institutions face is recognizing the value that comes from leveraging the data and being willing to invest in it. It takes budget and resources to collect it, to analyze it, and to use it. But it starts by understanding the value of researching prospects to raise money, sell students on coming to your institution, hire employees, or even sell tickets in stadiums. Data helps build affinity with alumni and local communities which is crucial to your mission. Therefore, you must be willing to extend the budget in order to capitalize on the benefits.

Realizing Data’s Full Potential

Institutions need to break down the barriers and the silos between campus departments with some having access to rich data and others being left out. Sometimes teams can be reluctant to share that data, but that’s an outdated notion. Teams should be sharing data so that everyone can further the institution’s mission and reach all your goals.

When you put guard rails around how that data can be used, it encourages sharing. You see people communicating better across the campus and contributing to each other’s success.

Best Practices Leveraging Data and Analytics

  1. Often the data analytics program sits in the CIO’s office, but it could sit with the chief marketing officer or even the university president’s office to reflect its broad strategic value. Whoever owns the program must build a framework for managing the data and guidelines for sharing it so that everyone can benefit.
  2. It’s important for the university president to care deeply about business intelligence. That helps bring broad-based strategy to things like choosing the best vendors, third-party data and software . You can also examine the best practice of peers in higher education, which are often shared through industry cohorts.
  3. It may sound simple, but adoption is actually a best practice. So many times, whether it’s in higher education or any industry for that matter, people neglect this step. Somebody gets excited, it might be the university president or CIO, about how they can leverage data. So, they pay for third-party data, analytics software, even third-party consultants to come in and help. But they never get the adoption and the daily usage, because they face resistance from inside the institution. A best solution is strong support from the university president and other top officers. You’ll see more success sooner if most teams buy in to implementing and then begin using the new technology.
  4. Don’t forget that while you can have all the data analytics and performance management tools in the world, you also need to the right people in place to operate the system.

Data and analytics should be woven into your mission and vision, so that it becomes part of the fabric of how the institution operates. And this applies to every department across campus. Whether you’re selling sports tickets in the local community or reaching out to alumni, data helps you deliver a smarter message and gives you have a much better chance of breaking through.

For more resources to help your institution, visit www.blackbaud.com/highered.

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