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Articles > Building Your Community > An insight into...pivoting through the pandemic

An insight into...pivoting through the pandemic

Find out how Princethorpe College adapted their communications and strategy during 2020 to deal with the challenges of the pandemic, furlough and digital adoption.

Pivoting through the pandemic

Chris Lee recently hosted a webinar to discuss his team’s approach to 2020 at Princethorpe College, and to tell their development story in 3 parts. His insightful presentation showed how his background in politics had led to a different outlook on the year, with a realistic view of how the situation was likely to continue to change for development offices and how they could adapt to make the most of it. 

Pre-lockdown: the launch of of the Science+ campaign

Launching a new £8 million capital campaign in December 2019, the development project was named the Science + campaign, and was planned to improve 7 different subject areas across the school. The development office planned to fundraise this year for the campaign, and had already launched a social media campaign, new branding and promotion, and appeared at several events to promote the new project. Using ToucanTech, they had launched a direct mail campaign, with 17 different versions of their brochure for different segments of their community to give a tailored message to each group. The campaign started extremely successfully, and the development office was on track for its best year of fundraising, but unfortunately the capital campaign was paused once the national lockdown began in March. 

Introspection through furlough

With 20% of all development staff in the UK furloughed, Chris had a similar experience to many who had been placed on furlough. Princethorpe College made a swift decision to furlough their development team as the capital campaign could not continue, which he believes was the right decision for the time. Despite this, furlough was still a difficult time for many, with feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty, and Chris’ team combatted this with a weekly team call to check in and see how everyone was coping. Following furlough, the team adapted to working from home until their return to the school over summer. 

Unexpected diversification - how to handle it

Keeping in touch over lockdown and furlough made the team realise how important it was to carry on having conversations with their supporters, particularly those who may be vulnerable or lonely at this time, so they began a new outreach project. They rang around to their alumni just to check in for a chat and see if there was any way the development team could assist them, and it lifted the spirits of many elderly and vulnerable alumni who had been shielding indoors for months. Seeing how well the outreach project had gone, and with many of their special alumni from St Mary’s Priory saying that they would miss the annual reunion, they decided to go ahead with a Zoom reunion. 14 former pupils joined from around the world for an afternoon of reminiscing, a virtual school tour, a quiz, and even an online mass! As a result of the success of this virtual reunion, Princethorpe College will host a hybrid biennial reunion, to allow alumni living around the world to reconnect and enjoy the event.

The Very Special Old Princethorpians on Zoom for their virtual reunion

In addition to their outreach project, they also continued their alumni postal survey, which had begun just before lockdown and involved sending out letters to 8000 alumni across the world using the engagement filters and mail merge in ToucanTech. They received 1500 letters back from alumni to update their details, and triggered a huge spike of sign ups to their community site! 

Part two of their alumni survey was to contact alumni that had been engaging with their online community, found through the ToucanTech engagement filters, to find out their thoughts, feelings and experiences through an email survey. They received over 500 responses, and will use this new information to drive forward their development strategy and provide value to their community in the best way possible.

Moving forward and managing the long-term effects

“We are living in a time where resilience is key, and we need to be able to bounce back...the future is a fresh reality, and the world has changed.”

As Chris mentioned in his presentation, it is important now to work to strategically handle the long-term effects of COVID, and the changes that will come with this. Fundraising in the near future will be a problem, so it is important to make sure that development offices are speaking to as many donors as possible while ensuring sensitivity in their communications. For Chris’ team, they are pivoting towards bursaries and legacies, with their first legacy programme planned for later this year to drive funds where the school needs it the most. In time, they will restart their capital campaign, but with a fresh view on expectations and strategy to make the most of the opportunities that 2020 has provided.

Our customers are creating stronger community connections and smarter fundraising campaigns all over the world. Discuss ways to make your community more engaged with an experienced ToucanTech engagement evangelist; organise a time to talk to the team here.

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