Enrollment Marketing and Campaign Marketing: Compare and Contrast

When most schools talk about brand, they refer to it in relation to enrollment. But a great brand can have a significant, positive impact on donor relations and fundraising as well.

While both enrollment marketing and campaign marketing have a great deal in common, they also have some clear differences.  I’m going to point out both here. When I ran this post past two trusted colleagues, each of them said, “So what? What should a school do with this information?”

I thought about that and realized that there isn’t so much here that’s actionable —just a few observations that I wanted to share. Maybe these observations will heighten a school’s campaign marketing strategic thinking.

Here we go:

Shared basis for calls to action

For both campaign and enrollment marketing, calls to action are based on emotions, immediate and long-term finances, group commitment, and trust/confidence in the school.
Campaigns don’t compete with another school

Your school is not competing directly with peer institutions for the same target market. Yes, your school is competing in indirect ways for the same donor dollars (“Will I give to my college, or to my secondary school?”), but it’s not likely that your campaign marketing will be pitted against that of other schools in the same way that prospective families’ coffee table is stacked high with viewbooks. This is freeing when it comes to marketing the campaign.


Enrollment marketing is focused on parents of school-aged children (and often the children themselves). A campaign targets donors from recent grads to the eldest alumnae/i as well as friends of the school.

Campaigns have a beginning and an end

While enrollment repeats itself each year forever, campaigns start once (hopefully) and have a stop point when the money or a white flag is raised. That said, both marketing efforts are in it for the long haul, require stamina, and adjustments to strategy based on challenges and successes.

Campaigns target a few at the outset

The best targets are the individuals with the greatest donor potential, so, at least in the silent phase, campaigns target a select few.  The adage “You raise 80% of the money from 20% of the donors” holds true much of the time.  Admissions spreads a wide net in hopes of yielding a few. (This is the point I received the most push back from. I may not be explaining it well…or, hey, I could be wrong.)

Campaigns may come in stages

The enrollment cycle never ends and there are no breathers. Some campaigns are launched in phases with a different objective, which allows “time off” to make adjustments in marketing strategies, approaches and target audiences.

Campaigns rely on volunteers to reach goals

While you might have a team of alumnae/i interviewers who help with admissions, the lion’s share of work to enroll students is carried out by paid professionals—your admissions team. Campaigns must have the expertise of paid professionals in the development office, but also lean on board members, parent volunteers, alums and other unpaid volunteers who are not likely to have fundraising experience. Solicitation training and campaign marketing techniques that help to open doors are critical to their success.

Campaign marketing is less reliant on the website

Just behind word-of-mouth, the most important marketing tool for admissions is the website. With campaigns, however, marketing success is reached through face-to-face friend-raising and fundraising—either one-on-one, in small groups, to a gathered audience, or a combination of all three. Campaign web pages are important, but are not the key tool that works the magic.

Campaign marketing budgets are more fluid

Admissions has a fixed marketing budget each year. Spending for campaign marketing is based on a calculated “return on investment.”

Does this information have any value to you as a school marketer? Should I have hit delete on this post?