Come See Us at NCEA 2011 on Thursday

April 26th, 2011 by admin

If you are at NCEA 2011 and you’ll be there on Thursday morning, come see up give our talk on this Thursday morning at 9am in room 230.

Yours truly and CSWD co-author Lance Johnson will be talking about how you can create an effective online web presence. You don’t need to be technically minded at all to get things out of our session. In fact, we aren’t talking about technical things at all – we are talking about the problems, goals, situations, and solutions that you deal with when creating a website for a Catholic school no matter what your role in the process is.

We’ve structured the presentation into a top 10 most important things that Catholic schools should know about building a website.

We hope to see you there!

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An Interview with finalsite’s Rob DiMartino

April 4th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

If you are going it alone in your website development for your school, one thing to seriously consider is using the services of a company that provides web solutions specifically for schools, like finalsite. Finalsite has been working with independent schools on their web presence and strategy for 12 years, and counts many Catholic schools are clients.

I got a chance to speak with Rob DiMartino, a director at finalsite, about finalsite, working with Catholic schools, and the challenges and technological opportunities facing schools today. Rob is also speaking at NCEA later this month in New Orleans. Check out the interview below, and also make sure to follow Rob on Twitter at @robdimartino.

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Stories Matter

March 29th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

As a person who went to Catholic schools at almost all levels of my education, I get a lot of fundraising material in the mail, and it is always interesting to read through and evaluate.

I went to college at the University of Notre Dame, and as you might expect, they are at the top of the pile when it comes to their fundraising efforts. They raise an unbelievable amount of money (their latest capital campaign raised well over $1 billion), so they must be doing something right!

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Connecting with Alumni Through Sports

March 17th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

Catholic high schools are in a constant state of trying to get more contact with their alumni, and for good reason. Making alumni feel connected with the institution that played a large role in their formative years means they are more likely to share some of their success with their high school alma mater later in life. But the big question is how do schools make and keep a connection?

To me, one of the most obvious answers is through sports. Catholic education has a long, storied history with sports. From the CHSAA, to Rudy, there has definitely always been something special about Catholic sports. Basketball and football are the big ones, but soccer, swimming, and even smaller sports like fencing all have great histories when it comes to Catholic education.

So it really amazes me when even Catholic schools that have great sports programs keep them within the walls of the school and instead insist on updating their alumni with SAT scores. For the right audience, providing a feed of information about the comings and goings of a school’s sports program can get people really involved.

Will you have legions of alumni following your programs every move? Well, probably not. However, in the last 3 or so years with the spreading of smart phones, many people (young and old), keep tabs on a dizzying number and variety of sports. They are seeing tons of institutions flow through their sports update stream, so why not your school? And how? Here are some tips to get started:

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A Venn Diagram

February 14th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

Like many nerds on the internet (like me), I’m a fan of XKCD, a popular web comic. I recently came across a certain XKCD comic that seemed pretty appropriate for Catholic Schools:

Source: XKCD.

Obviously this should be taken with a grain of salt (we still need to communicate to people to “sell” the idea of the school to them), but it makes a very important point: keep your basic information accessible to those who are looking for it.

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An Interview with Notre Dame’s Chas Grundy

January 19th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

We use Notre Dame’s website as a model a lot on this website and with talking with schools directly. Since their 2007 redesign, Notre Dame has been a model for Catholic schools by creating an online Catholic identity that is smart, modern, and effective.

We got the chance to talk to Chas Grundy, the person leading and setting the strategy for the team that manages and develops Notre Dame’s web presence. As the Director of Interactive Marketing, Chas leads the web team at AgencyND, Notre Dame’s in-house design and media agency.

Chas offered some great insights into what makes ND’s home page work (storytelling), how Notre Dame handles all their web needs through an in-house agency, how marketing for a Catholic school differs from marketing for a secular non-profit, and more. Check out the interview below!

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Email Etiquette for Catholic Schools

January 6th, 2011 by Adam Fairholm

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2011! We took a little bit of a hiatus in December, but we’re back now.

This post isn’t about basic email etiquette (like not hitting reply all to a message to 200 people) – it’s about the need for Catholic schools to more professionally manage their email marketing using the proper (and legal) techniques that are in standard usage in the rest of the industry. Many schools are doing this already, but a surprisingly large portion are doing it in a way that violates laws and annoys subscribers.

A Tale of Email List Woe

A few months ago I had a conversation with a development member of a Catholic school, and then several weeks later I realized something: I was on her development email list. This was actually fine, but I was getting emails on a regular basis about development projects that in no way remotely applied to me, and there was no way to unsubscribe. These emails were coming directly from this development officer and BCCed to this list. Short of being rude and emailing them directly, I was stuck.

Obviously this isn’t the end of the world. We all get forwards and things from friends and relatives that are mildly annoying, but we put up with them. The problem here is that this is indicative of a larger problem in some Catholic schools: a lack of knowledge of modern email standards. Not only are these standards just good practice and professional, many of them are mandated by the US government’s CAN-SPAM act, which specifics rules for email marketing.

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Personal Stories Over Kids with Test Tubes

November 30th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

The title of this post is a little odd, but I’ll explain below.

One thing you notice when looking at a lot of Catholic school websites is the fact that they are all very different, but they all have very distinctive repeating patterns.

For instance, one of my favorite patterns to spot is the types of images used to show students. There are a lot of students playing music, a lot of them just smiling at the camera, but there is a bizarrely high number of images of students with test tubes in the school’s science lab.

A lot of them.

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Resisting the Urge to Build Custom

October 19th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

People in the web design and development world go through some defined stages, like teenagers. Only there is (slightly) less drama and more, well, web development.

The most important stage, to me, is the stage where you build everything custom. From the ground up. I was and still am a huge fan of CodeIgniter as a basic code framework, but I still liked building the things that managed the sites I built.

One of the reasons for this is it is part of the learning process of coding. Coding a blog sounds fun, so why use someone else’s blog they coded and integrate it? That’s where you learn how things fit together and how great code is born. If you never try your hat at building something like your own content management system, you can miss out on some great learning experiences as a developer. You learn to appreciate how great systems are put together.

That’s really where my coding education took place, and after some time I learned to appreciate the benefits of using other code and other solutions to build something.

Why am I mentioning this? Because very often, the idea will be floated within a Catholic school that a portal or CMS should be built from the ground up to suit their needs. We’re not saying that this is an idea floated by novice developers or web pros, but I’d like to argue that this is the wrong way to go, for several reasons.

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Social Media Strategy: Allow for Control

September 28th, 2010 by Adam Fairholm

Do you ever stop to think about just why people are so angry at telemarketers? I’ve seen people be worked up into a rage over them. And when they call on their cell phone and not just the land line, the gloves are off at this point.

I think a big part of it has to do with a loss of control of what information reaches them and when. You expect people you know and are expecting calls from to be calling you, but a call from a telemarketer is an unwanted interruption in a medium where you want to control how you interact with it.

So when you are thinking about your social media outreach, take a moment to consider the need for the people you are reaching to control the message. People love control, so why not give it to them? Let’s look at a few examples.

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