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The “Unconference”

The Unconference September 24-25

SUNYCUAD’s Fall Virtual Event

Join us for two days of learning, networking and connecting this fall — for free — as we gather online to hear experts within and outside of SUNY in a variety of advancement disciplines, celebrate our 2020 Awards for Excellence winners, and network with colleagues from across the system. Mark your calendar for Sept. 24-25 to discover new best practices, hear recent success stories, and view award-winning work. Choose from more than a dozen presentation options, including breakout session topics for every advancement discipline, all at no cost to you or your college!

If you missed the Unconference, or were unable to join all of the sessions you had hoped to attend, we have recordings and slides available for all of the sessions.

Schedule At A Glance

Full Program

Thursday, September 24

12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Kickoff: Welcome, Presidential Address, Business Meeting and Board Introductions

1:00 – 2:00 p.m.: Keynote Session

Big Bets for the Future
Rodney Grabowski, Vice President for University Advancement
University at Buffalo

Utilizing studies, reports, data, articles and conversations from sources such as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Education Advisory Board, Ruffalo Noel Levitz, Artificial Intelligence Advancement Advisory Council and the like, we will embark on a journey that outlines historical, current and future trends in philanthropy. Are you ready for the future? Is our profession ready for the ethical dilemmas we will face? Engage in the conversation that will help set the stage for your future outlook on our industry.

2:00 – 2:10 p.m.: Break

2:10 – 3:00 p.m.: Concurrent Session 1

Track: Alumni Engagement & Events

The Virtual Alumni House Has Room for Everyone and Delivers Record Engagement Metrics
Dawn Rigney, Chief Advancement Officer, and
Jennifer Kelly Campbell, Associate Vice President of Alumni and Government Relations
SUNY College of Optometry

SUNY Optometry’s alumni community has a perfect foundation for exceptional alumni participation. The college is highly selective, retention is high, classmates forge strong connections while on campus, and students usually have multiple job offers upon graduation. However, the alumni experience did not deliver a space and place for these connections to grow or to celebrate the many successes achieved by graduates. They did receive static communication and asks for money… which turned people off.

The SUNY Eye Network was built to achieve several outcomes in addition to sustainability:
• Showcase alumni accomplishments;
• Connect alumni to each other, students, faculty, staff and the college;
• Encourage interactive communication within the community through regular messages that did not include asks for money;
• Facilitate volunteer opportunities like mentoring & other professional development activities;
• Improve data collection; and
• Capture engagement metrics

Tracks: Marketing Communications & Graphic Design / Social & Digital Media

Animated GIFs in Email & Web: Execution, Optimization, Obstacles & Solutions
Emanuel Saladino, Senior Web & Graphic Designer
Stony Brook University

Animated GIFS are a valuable communications tool, but are under-utilized. They are eye-catching, unique and really draw the viewer’s focus to the areas you want. They can be as simple as a flashing button or as complex as an animated cartoon that tells a story. In email, they can be used as a tool to illustrate complex concepts to avoid using lengthy blocks of text. They can be used similarly on a landing page to circumvent relying on a web developer. We use animated GIFs at Stony Brook University and they have proven to achieve very positive results!

Track: Advancement Services

The Evolution of Advancement Services: Developing a Vision for Collaborative Success with a Team of Disparate Professionals
Lisa English, Associate Vice President for Advancement Services
Rutgers University

Advancement Services is defined many different ways depending upon institutional size, scope and strategic focus. In this session, we will discuss how a small shop within a larger institution is using a disparate group of subject-matter experts to support its front-line fundraisers. Although this example is specific to a set of academic health schools and units, it is applicable to any discipline or collection of schools. The session will provide a road map for developing a unified vision and efficient solutions from a group of key operational staff in the areas of alumni engagement, annual giving, communications, grateful patient development, campaign operations and board management. Takeaways will be scalable and relevant to best practices in the individual professions.

Track: Development & Fundraising

Fundraising Opportunities in Unexpected Places: Leveraging Career Services for Development Results
Michael Pietkiewicz, Executive Director, ECC Foundation

The speaker will discuss how SUNY Erie CC is leveraging Career Services relationships to meet employer needs, place students in quality jobs and grow development results. The presentation will start by walking through the arrival of a new president — with fundraising expertise and high expectations — and how through the pursuit of a large naming gift for a new academic building, we were able to leverage the donor’s interests in hiring our students via career services, which ultimately resulted in a $200K naming right and a new sponsorship program for career services.

Track: Public Relations & Government Relations

SUNY Technology Transfer and New Ventures Development and Fundraising Opportunities
Nicholas Querques, Director of New Ventures, and
Matthew Mroz, Director of Enterprise Technology Transfer
SUNY Research Foundation

The Research Foundation for SUNY Central Office staff will provide an overview of alumni development and fundraising opportunities around SUNY’s expanding portfolio of Technology Transfer and New Ventures initiatives. The session will walk attendees through how SUNY commercializes technology and supports faculty, students and staff that start companies to get their technology to market. This will help SUNYCUAD professionals understand how to better promote these offerings to alumni and institutional stakeholders who have an affinity for entrepreneurship, commercialization and technology-based economic development.

3:00 – 3:10 p.m.: Break

3:10 – 4:00 p.m.: Concurrent Session 2

Track: Alumni Engagement & Events

Building a Bridge: Your Student Leader to Young Alumni Life Cycle
Matthew Burns, Associate Director of Alumni Relations
Fordham University

Young alumni can be the most loyal and engaged graduates of your institution – if you invest in them while they are students. Learn how Fordham University turns involved student leaders into engaged alumni by focusing on the student to young alumni life cycle. This session will help you reach key student group stakeholders, create your student to young alumni journey map, and develop an energetic base of recent graduates.

Track: Marketing Communications & Graphic Design

Swipe Up for Generation Z: How Post Millennials Are Driving Change
Doug Gruse, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
The Sage Colleges

Generation Z, people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, makes up 28 percent of the U.S. population – a larger cohort than both Baby Boomers and Millennials. A group committed to social justice and digital technology, Gen Zers are forcing businesses and institutions to adapt or die. ‘Swipe Up for Generation Z’ takes a look at the demographics, psychographics and habits of more than 86 million Americans and what advertisers are doing to adjust their marketing strategies.

Swipe Up for Generation Z” looks at the diverse demographics of America’s youth and examines the cultural shifts that will shape higher education in the next decade. The first generation of “Digital Natives,” Gen Z does not respond to a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing – and institutions that don’t adapt will be in crisis. In addition to looking at the most successful media channels to reach this audience (and the ones to avoid), the presentation offers examples of marketers who are meeting the challenge of connecting with today’s youth with creativity and success.

Track: Development & Fundraising

Celebrating Milestones for UAlbany’s Most Loyal Donors
Kimberly Verhoff, Senior Associate Director of Donor Relations
Melissa Fry, Senior Associate Director of Development Communications
University at Albany

UAlbany’s Loyalty Society recognizes donors who faithfully contribute every year. Learn how UAlbany’s Donor Relations team celebrates milestones for our most loyal donors from 3 to 25+ consecutive years of giving. We’ll share how this recognition program has grown from one welcome postcard to a series of touchpoints throughout the donor’s lifetime. No matter how large or small your team is, you’ll take away new ideas on how to acknowledge consecutive donors at your institution year after year.

Track: Social & Digital Media

Social Media in Crisis Communications: Let’s talk comments, posts, notes & more.
Taras Kufel, Manager of Digital Engagement, SUNY System Administration
Karyn Wendrow, Digital & Social Media Manager, SUNY Delhi

Karyn and Taras will host a roundtable for professionals in communications, or who manage campus social media accounts, regarding the role of social media during a crisis. It is clear that use of social media has been especially important in our campuses’ recent responses to the COVID-19 crisis, social injustice conversations and more. Let’s discuss what worked and what didn’t across our campuses. Procedures can vary based on campus culture and audience preferences, but let’s share ideas to help each other with best practices on using social in the most productive way possible in crisis response.

4:00 – 4:10 p.m.: Break

4:10 – 5:00 p.m.: Awards for Excellence

  • 70+ honorees representing 29 SUNY campuses
  • Come see samples of this award-winning work produced by your colleagues across the state

5:00 – 6:00 p.m.: Happy Hour

  • Visit various networking Zoom Rooms, based on your discipline.
  • Each room moderated by a SUNYCUAD board member and limited to 25 participants
  • Also – part of SUNY’s mission is to encourage and support local businesses and economies.
  • So let’s help them out! Bring a locally produced beverage (or food) from your community and share its story with your colleagues.

Friday, September 25

8:30 – 10:30 a.m.: Discipline Forum Discussions

Join your colleagues in a series of open forum discussions to share challenges, best practices, and ways you have adapted to make the best of our “new normal.” Attend any of the following sessions in these major disciplines – and feel free to jump in to any of them in mid-stream:

8:30 to 9:20 a.m.

  • Marketing & Communications
  • Donor Relations
  • Annual Giving
  • Advancement Services

9:20 to 9:30 a.m.: Break

9:30 to 10:20 a.m.

  • Alumni Engagement
  • University Events
  • Blended Giving

10:20 – 10:40 a.m.: Break

10:40 – 11:30 a.m.: Concurrent Session 3

Track: Alumni Engagement & Events

Come Back, Give Back: Combining Engagement and Fundraising to Optimize the Alumni Experience
Natasha McFadden, Associate Director of The Cortland Fund
Taylor Lynch, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement, SUNY Cortland

Find out how SUNY Cortland’s alumni engagement and annual giving teams combined their existing programs to grow the Reunion giving appeal and created a unified message for alumni – without duplicating efforts! Reunion is an exciting time for alumni, especially those celebrating milestones. It’s when they feel most nostalgic about their alma mater and the most enthusiastic for its future. That makes Reunion the perfect opportunity for alumni to strengthen their connection by impacting the next generation of students. Learn about the model that has brought success since its inception and how it can be applied to other initiatives as well.

Track: Alumni Engagement & Events

Commencement in a time of COVID
Christy Doyle, Chrissie Binney, Peter Evans
University at Albany Office of University Events

Join the UAlbany Events team as we take a deep dive into all things Commencement. In any given year, under normal circumstances, we search for innovative ways to celebrate our grads while upholding academic tradition. Add in a global pandemic, social unrest, fiscal constraints, and passionate families – and our unique jobs as Commencement planners are more challenging than ever.

Applicable to those who have responsibilities for some or all of Commencement planning, this guided roundtable session will focus on the following topics, so be prepared to share:

  • Highlights and/or lessons learned from this past spring
  • Class of 2020 – Who had full virtual ceremonies vs. online celebrations? Are you still considering bringing these grads back to campus? If so, when and how? Do you have other unique ideas for celebrating this class that might not involve a ceremony?
  • Class of 2021 – Where do we begin?
  • Vendor and software options
  • The importance of timely, concise, informative messaging using appropriate channels
  • Budget – or lack thereof!
  • Maintaining our network of academic ceremony planners

Tracks: Graphic Design & Marketing Communications / Development & Fundraising

Design Thinking for Philanthropy
Felicity Meu, Director, Partner Success, GiveCampus, Inc.
Inaugural Director of Next Generation Giving, Stanford University

Is your development office prepared for the next generation of donors? Innovate, prototype, and iterate to get your shop ready to engage these emerging donors. Stanford’s Effective Philanthropic Lab is a hub for innovators at Stanford and beyond. Students, faculty and industry leaders find their way here to work on the world’s messy problems together. Human values are at the heart of design thinking’s collaborative approach. As a former consultant to Stanford’s Effective Philanthropy Lab, which sits at the intersection of design thinking and philanthropy, Felicity will discuss using the human-centered design principles of the school to develop a process for producing creative solutions to even the most complex philanthropic challenges and we will share examples of online and offline engagement from some of today’s most creative shops.

Track: Development & Fundraising

How to run a crowdfunding program… without any rules!
Kevin Morgenstein Fuerst, Executive Director of Annual Giving
University of Vermont

Six years ago UVM had no crowdfunding program, but needed one badly. Kevin created a program that made people feel great, brought in new donors and new dollars, and ran without needless rules and regulations. He leads a small-but-thriving annual giving program with just four staff members — yet runs 15-25 crowdfunding projects a year, which means any school can do it. He’ll demonstrate what drove him to create this flexible and open program, and provide some concrete examples of how to run a program “without rules.” He’ll also share examples of tiny projects that turned into something much bigger and provide practical tips for managing requests, building campaigns efficiently, and pitching this idea to your campus leaders.

Track: Public Relations & Government Relations

The Marketing & Public Relations Guide to the E-Sports Phenomenon at SUNY Canton
Travis Smith, Director of Public Relations, SUNY Canton
Greg Kie, Senior Media Relations Manager, SUNY Canton

In Fall 2017, the SUNY Canton Athletics Department announced it would begin offering varsity esports. In a holistic inter-departmental fashion, almost the entire school became involved. It led to the creation of an entirely new lab space, multiple announcements of new teams, corporate partnerships and new hires. From a public relations standpoint, each development led to brand-new marketing and outreach strategies. In this presentation, Director of Public Relations Travis G. Smith and Senior Media Relations Manager will explore the methods used to manage the college’s explosive growth. Both contributed heavily to the creation of the program. Travis helped design the Esports Arena and Greg volunteered as a ‘League of Legends’ coach and sports information support.

11:30 – 11:40 a.m.: Break

11:40 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Keynote Session & Closing Remarks

New Conversations: Shifting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion from a Grievance Modality to One of Intentionality and Implementation
Dr. Rodmon C. King, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
SUNY Oswego

Equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) are at the forefront of our nation’s social conscience. People across generations, ethnicities and other demographics are working together in unprecedented ways to bring about meaningful change. Dr. Rodmon King is a veteran of ED&I leadership in higher education, having worked at campuses in Kentucky and New York. He is currently SUNY Oswego’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, as well as the Chair of its Campus-City Relations Committee. Dr. King is responsible for implementing the college’s strategic diversity and inclusion goals, while leading the cultivation, enhancement and promotion of an environment of equity and inclusion for all at SUNY Oswego. Dr. King reports directly to President Stanley, is a member of the President’s Council and provides counsel on all matters pertaining to diversity and inclusive excellence on campus. He is also involved in various partnerships across the SUNY System.

Dr. King will address a variety of topics in this important and timely arena, including:

  • Strategies for cultivating a diverse alumni base, including engaging and activating alumni of color and other affinity groups;
  • Understanding the challenges in recruiting and fostering diversified advancement teams;
  • Adding intentionality to your staff and alumni recruiting activities, including professional development methods;
  • The public relations impact of ED&I issues on our campuses, including how to successfully lead and support campus change;
  • How to move people from a grievance modality to one of change and process implementation; and
  • Ways to recruit current students and alumni of all ages to help lead this change.

Dr. King will especially focus on delivering recommendations, action items, and takeaways for attendees, so that you can begin to implement similar initiatives on your campus and within your alumni base and workforce.