Penn Graduate School of Education Alumni and Donor Relations
User Research & Digital Communication Strategy
User Research
Persona Development
Content Strategy
Information Architecture

The Client

The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education is one of the nation’s premier education schools. The fifth largest school within the University of Pennsylvania, Penn GSE is renowned for its expertise in a number of educational fields, including urban education and policy research. Through its interdisciplinary research, rigorous academic training, and professional mentoring, Penn GSE has a community of more than 16,000 graduates who are regularly recognized as some of the world’s most influential education leaders, including over 45 current college or university presidents. This network of educators, researchers, and leaders is instrumental in shaping education and expanding opportunities for students across the globe.

The Challenge

As Penn GSE prepared to launch its Extraordinary Impact Campaign, a multi-year fundraising initiative representing part of Penn’s University-wide Power of Penn Campaign, the School recognized the need for updated messaging that would compel visitors to give as well as a fresh online look. With a pivotal fundraising initiative underway, the development team at Penn GSE realized the need for in-depth user research conducted by a trusted partner with an intimate knowledge of education fundraising.

“We understood the need for audience research, and conducting it in a statistically significant way. With a multi-year fundraising campaign ahead, we knew this was the time to do the strategic thinking that would allow us to revamp our web presence effectively.” – Juliana Rosati, Associate Director, Development Communications

The Process

At the start of the project, we met with Penn GSE’s dean and other stakeholders to identify strategic business goals for the school and new development web pages. Additionally, these stakeholder interviews, in conjunction with collaborative user working sessions, helped identify the types of audiences we wanted to attract and engage with the website.

We then conducted in-depth user research, beginning with a web survey of Penn GSE website visitors and alumni and supplemented by individual qualitative interviews. These conversations were instrumental in discovering key insights about how different audiences use the GSE website, alumni and donor preferences, and their motivations to support the school.

We also analyzed trends in the current site’s analytics, alumni giving trends, and third-party research to understand exactly what types of content and features would convert Penn GSE website visitors into engaged alumni and inspired donors.

Armed with this information, we crafted targeted messaging points, a tailored digital content strategy, website information architecture, and designs for the Penn GSE development team, who were able to take advantage of their in-house design and web development teams to bring our audience insights and website designs to life.

The Result

Penn GSE has launched its updated alumni and donor relations web presence and communication plan in sync with the University’s campaign launch and alumni weekend. The robust new pages are allowing the development team to communicate campaign goals and priorities, alumni resources and opportunities, and inspiring stories of the work of the School. The messaging platform and user personas developed by eCity will continue to guide the development team’s content strategy across web, email, and social media.

“This process has been incredibly powerful for our team. We have a great product, and that’s because we were able to gather our colleagues at the table and use the recommendations we received from eCity."
Melissa Calvert, Vice Dean for Development and Alumni Relations