The Open University

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Growing alumni engagement

The Open University wanted to do something special for their former students as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

They challenged us to come up with a new approach that would engage more alumni than ever before.

Introducing the Tree of Learning

Our idea was designed to revive alumni’s strong personal connection with the OU by giving them an opportunity to become a physical part of the institution - in the form of a beautiful installation.

In recognition of donations to the University’s 50th Anniversary Scholarship Fund, we gave former students the chance to have their name engraved onto a bespoke OU shield. We also invited them to share their stories about the impact their OU studies have had on their lives.

Each shield will be permanently displayed on the Tree of Learning, a newly commissioned full-size tree sculpture which will be housed in the OU’s on-campus library.

“Working with Signal has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to share some incredible projects and inspiring fundraising packs with our alumni. We have found the whole experience of working with Signal incredibly positive and they have played a key role in supporting our work over the last year.”

Mark Parsons

Head of Alumni Fundraising, The Open University

7xthe anticipated response

A tree-mendous response

The response has already far surpassed the OU’s fundraising targets. 7,200 shields have been claimed so far by the University’s generous alumni - more than 7x the anticipated response. In fact, there has been such an overwhelming response that we needed to create a bigger tree!

Through their generous gift, each donor is supporting the next generation of students and will be a part of the OU’s lasting legacy in higher education.

And we’ve seen a significant increase in response rates to our other alumni campaigns for the University.

Behind the scenes:

Best in class

The Open University is an award-winning pioneer of distance-learning. Since it was established by Royal Charter 50 years ago, the University has helped over 2 million people from 157 countries gain higher education who may not otherwise have had access to it.

Sculpted for success

We’re delighted to have been able to support the OU in every aspect of the Tree of Learning initiative, from the initial concept and creative development, through to print production and back-end response fulfilment.

Opening minds to change lives

We used the OU’s annual alumni magazine ‘Open Minds’ to launch the initiative. It opens with a letter from the Chancellor, introducing the Tree. We also included a colourful printed pack to grab readers’ attention. To encourage donations and re-engage alumni, we crafted our message using behavioural economics insights.

Innovative print production and postal savings

We have introduced new and improved print production techniques for several of the OU’s other alumni campaigns, including those aimed at making higher education more accessible for disabled veterans. These have resulted in a dramatic increase in response rates, as well as allowing the University to take advantage of Royal Mail discounts that reward Direct Mail innovation.

Funding field researchers

Our 2018 Blue Planet campaign pack has been extremely successful, enabling the OU to fund vital research into our oceans and 50 more places at residential field schools, supporting students to develop the practical field skills they need to become our future Earth and Environmental scientists.