Cedarville was the first university of its kind to team up with Wisr when it became one of the five original partners (along with Case Western, Denison, Oberlin, and UChicago). Several factors contributed to Cedarville’s unique set of challenges and opportunities:
- Small student body (less than 4,000 undergrads)
- Extremely widespread alumni base
- Relatively rural campus
- Faith-based community
Attending a small, faith-based school, Cedarville students enjoy a remarkably tight-knit and supportive community during their years on campus. However, given the school’s rural setting, few graduates remain in the immediate area, making it difficult to maintain a close connection to their alma mater.
Even in cases in which an alum actively reached out to offer help to the university, Alumni Relations struggled to capitalize on those good intentions. Often, alumni were more interested in helping current students directly than in donating financially, and few lived close enough to Cedarville to volunteer time in person. The process of manually connecting these alumni with students who needed specialized help was daunting, especially for a five-person team also fully responsible for annual giving.
On the Career Services side, administrators worried that–while graduates were well prepared academically–they lacked the networks that benefitted students at larger urban schools. The personal connections Cedarville students formed on campus didn’t seem to be translating into professional connections post-graduation. On top of that, administrators hoped to provide more guidance for students interested in pursuing non-traditional career paths like founding a company or working for the Christian ministry.
Alumni relations and career services, working with their dedicated Wisr customer success expert, took point on managing Wisr’s implementation at Cedarville. Administrators from both departments noted that the increase in communication necessary for the launch contributed to increased collaboration in other shared projects.
JacketConnect, Cedarville’s custom-branded platform, launched to students less than two months after signing with Wisr. Already, 500 alumni were active in the network thanks to a combination of segmented email campaigns and personal requests through gift officer outreach. Contacting alumni about the new platform also provided a convenient reason to reach out to inactive alumni and helped stimulate both engagement and giving.
JacketConnect has been live for less than a year, but the platform is already showing clear signs of success. By all metrics, the launch has exceeded expectations for both stake-holding administrators and the students and alumni who use the platform.
JacketConnect now contains almost 600 students and over 1,100 advisors, including alumni, parents of students, and supporters of the university. Advertising at career fairs and running survey campaigns were among the most effective methods for gaining student users. A stand at a one career fair yielded 150 new student signups, and a single email containing a priority survey showing how JacketConnect helps students accomplish their goals yielded another 100.
High alumni usage came hand-in-hand with the added benefit of updated contact information and entirely new career outcome information. Alumni relations mined 150 preferred email addresses for alumni who were previously out of contact and up-to-date employment information (like employers and job titles) for the 70% of alumni who signed up for JacketConnect via LinkedIn.
Having selected Wisr’s fully-managed package, the entire Cedarville administration has enjoyed constant support from Wisr’s customer success team. According to Ken Rucker, Associate Director of Career Services,
Stephanie Carroll, Director of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving added,