This year, Villanova University won the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. While we’re not certain the on-court success is directly tied to their Final Four app, we can’t exactly disprove it either. The app was intended to engage alumni, fans, students and parents throughout March Madness, and give the staff the tools to coordinate events in and around each tournament site on short notice.
One of the goals of Villanova’s app, beyond serving as a communication platform and hub for real time information on the events surrounding the tournament, was to promote giving opportunities. The ability to drive more opportunities to generate revenue from the app was a requirement.
Prior to 2016, Villanova had made it to one Final Four in the last 30 years. Their events and development team did not have the technology to support such a large-scale initiative. Their run to the Championship in 2016 gave them the chance to test their capabilities and learn what worked and what didn’t. But the system in place was not supporting the goals, and a change had to be made.
Promoting Giving Opportunities
As a main goal of the new system, the technology had to promote giving opportunities, so it was developed to do so in three ways:
- By enabling the fundraising staff with real time information. RSVP reports delivered through the app allowed the fundraising staff to prospect more effectively. Sandy Upton, Assistant Director of Development Operations, explains:
“We created staff only modules in the app that included links to those RSVP reports. Not only are real time reports a huge step forward, having those reports available to our front- line fundraisers on the road is another massive step in the right direction. They were able to pull up an RSVP report for any of the events that we were having in any of these cities and see which of their prospects had registered for that event. It is just a huge deal for us to have that kind of access to information at their fingertips.“
- By creating a portal for credit card purchases in the app. This allowed the University to find a fun and engaging way to gather donations from users.
“We created a Stickers App, where you could receive these great Villanova stickers via text message, for example "Make a $5 donation and you get the Stickers app for free." Then we had the Villanova Pop Socket promotion where you could buy a Pop Socket with the Villanova V on the back. This gave us a great place to advertise those things that are directly relevant to the mobile user.”
- By leveraging badge scanning to cut down on lines and get more attendees into events more quickly.
“About a week and a half before the Final Four Tournament, we decided to use the check in module and use badge scanning as part of our events in San Antonio. We had never done this before so it was first time out of the gate with badge scanning whatsoever, let alone with 3,000+ attendees at events. So, one of the incredibly helpful aspects of that was we could make the check in modules visible to any staff member with the app on their device, and they could jump in at any given event and scan badges, so that we would prevent an intense bottleneck at the door of events.”
How to Optimize Events to Generate the Most Opportunities
Any organization, whether it’s a university or a corporation, should leverage events and event technology to generate more opportunity. Unlocking this opportunity requires a change in strategy, a change in tools and a change in behavior. Change is hard, but if done right, you can reduce the pain and see a quick return. When making the switch, keep these tactics in mind.
- Establish the goals: Goals for events should be aligned to the organization’s strategy. Tools create pain when it’s not easy to tie their results to organizational goals. Ensuring your team knows that they are being held responsible for those outcomes will make it more likely that you will see the expected return.
- Build the process: Technology without process is chaos. Most failures of technology implementation come from poor processes. Ensure that processes for gathering information, analyzing information, sharing information and making changes based on the information are defined in advance.
- Gather feedback: The best way to work through change is just to go for it. Fail fast, get back up and capture the learnings. Gathering feedback from internal and external stakeholders and iterating based on that feedback will reduce the time it takes to see the value take root.