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Development campaigns

While some institutions ask for money over and over, the smartest schools manage a strategy that informs — and thanks — as often as it asks. Iowa State University Foundation partnered with Zehno to find the right balance with a foundation-wide master communications plan and magazine redesign. Zehno mapped out a plan that targeted messages to each audience segment and transformed the magazine into the strategic centerpiece of all development communications.

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  • Analyze audience segments by giving potential. Document the foundation’s entire range of communications.
  • Test the validity of this complaint: “You only contact me when you want money.” Prove the impact of fundraising.
  • Use the magazine to frame big-picture issues that set the stage for fundraising.
  • Assess communications structure to optimize work environment, unify communications function and break down silos.


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Identified how to target the 90% of households in the donor database that represented lapsed donors or prospects who had never given.

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CONTENT Strategy

The communications plan recalibrated the foundation’s content strategy so that hundreds of separate communications synch with the magazine’s strategic content.

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The magazine captured top awards from CASE, UCDA and the Educational Advertising Awards.

What Zehno did

  • Marketing communications planning: Audience segment analysis, discovery of new fundraising opportunities, foundation-wide communications flow, post-campaign messaging platform, new integrated communications structure and communications coaching for in-house team.
  • Position paper: Audit and strategic recommendations.
  • Prototyping and template preparation: Print magazine redesign and content strategy.
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Tips for your team

  1. Analyze audience segments by giving potential. Balance the types of messages so that you’re not always asking for money.
  2. Write every bit of content to highlight the impact of development, not the mechanics of raising money or the donors themselves.
  3. Centralize communications so that your brand message delivery is consistent every time.

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