FEATURE : Mighty Microsite

A conversation with Bill Cole
GCF recently completed a microsite for the University of Baltimore’s capital campaign. We spoke with Bill Cole, Associate Vice President, Institutional Advancement, to see how the site is working for the campaign.

Please give us an overview of the campaign.

The University of Baltimore, which is part of the University of Maryland System, is charged with raising $40 million of the System-wide goal of $1.7 billion. Our campaign ends in 2011. We needed a website to coincide with our public launch so our alumni could stay informed on the progress and goals of the campaign while also receiving information about the changes at UB over the years.

What role does the website play in the campaign?

It’s critical. We see it as a landing spot. The goal of the microsite is to create—and maintain—interest in the capital campaign. The world has changed. People look at a website first. They do research online and make decisions based on their research.

One of the goals of the website was to limit the number of print materials; is that working?

It’s still too early to tell, but we have adapted the majority of print materials so they are available as pdfs that users can download from the site. We are doing our best to be environmentally friendly by reducing the number of brochures alumni receive and, ultimately, discard. Major gift officers can now go online and print only the information they need. There’s no question that it saves on printing costs.

Do you keep stats on site visits?

We have the ability to track visits but we haven’t yet printed the site’s URL in many of our publications. That will change when our magazine delivers in October—that’s when we anticipate a big increase in site visits. It’s important for us to know where our visitors are going and which areas of the site they visit most frequently. That information will help us to focus our efforts more strategically.

Are departments successfully using the content management system?

The CMS has been working well. There’s no excuse for stale content with the CMS. Our staff is quick to revise and update information, and we appreciate being able to manage updates in-house rather than depending on an outside source.

What feedback have you gotten on the site?

The initial response has been amazing. We’ve seen and heard many positive comments. It integrates seamlessly with UB’s institutional site. It’s clear, clean, easy to navigate, and visitors can easily find what they need. Copy is short and to the point. In my opinion, a page is too long if you have to use the scroll bar. I want a paragraph or two at a time—tops. I want to click on links rather than scroll.

Are people using the website to make donations?

We get some online donations but you’re not going to get a major gift online. A website is better for annual fund gifts. Many people have stopped using checkbooks altogether so they are very comfortable giving online.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I enjoyed working with GCF. I’ve worked with many website firms and they often show you what they think you need and then try to sell it to you. I enjoyed that GCF built the site we needed and wanted instead of building a site that you wanted us to like.