FEATURE : GW Law School microsite

Successfully promoting an alumni weekend As planning began for alumni weekend 2008, the George Washington University Law School development office noticed that one particular class—the class of 1973—was making a lot of money for the Annual Fund. To recognize the class’s accomplishments and reward its members, the Law School tasked GCF with creating a microsite that would promote alumni weekend, allow attendees to register online, and thank the class of 1973.

GCF interviewed several members of the class to gather the anecdotes that shaped the creative development and architecture of the site. No new photos of donors were taken. Instead, vintage photos of student protests, funky hair, DC busses, crammed classrooms, and the old gym provided both a rich history and humorous tone for the site. A 1973 favorites songlist (that you can listen to online) and a quiz helped connect visitors to their memories of faculty, class pranks, and favorite things to do from that era.

Postcard announcements of the event with the microsite URL were mailed to class members, and within a few weeks visitors were hitting the site.

Lessons learned According to Rich Collins, Executive Director of Advancement, having an alumni weekend in September “is deadly.” Summer is not a good time to work with volunteers, and he said that spring probably would have been better timing. Registration did not go as smoothly as planned. Registrants had to print a form, fill it out, mail it to alumni relations, and then the alumni office sent registrations on to development. Rich says he would have coordinated registration through development and made it a simpler process. He recommends to other institutions considering the microsite approach that they start planning and registration a year in advance of the reunion date. Keep the site navigation very simple, and don’t feel the need to stick with the University’s color palette—the school colors can overpower design if the palette is too limited.

Results In spite of these few challenges, the Law School alumni weekend attendance doubled from last year. Planning committee members thought the site was great, and the songlist was a big hit. Rich Collins says he would create a microsite again and hopes its presence helped build the online alumni community. At the very least, the microsite gave development a wonderful way to connect with and thank high profile alumni and their classmates.