Smith College has a long history of generous philanthropy, beginning with the bequest from Sophia Smith that founded the college in 1871. That gift didn’t just make higher education for women attainable; it transformed the liberal arts education landscape. In 2012, the school launched a bold campaign—with a total goal of $450 million—as part of that long-standing tradition.
Ologie was engaged to create a compelling platform for the campaign, helping this prestigious women’s college determine what to say and how to articulate it. We crafted a beautiful, motivating, take-action-now story about why donors should give, and why they should give big.
Given Smith’s broad alumnae base, narrowing our target for the campaign’s audience was crucial. Even when we zeroed in on alumnae from the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, we realized that these women had a vast range of Smith College experiences — especially considering how co-education radically changed the college landscape of the ‘70s.
Ologie needed to find a way to reach a group of women who, in some respects, had the perception that they attended very different colleges. Bridging that gap was a big task, one that required examining the roots and values of what the college stands for.
To effectively reach donors, we explored their mindsets, motivations, and misgivings. The strategic findings helped guide the communications as they took shape.
Drawing on a collection of powerful statistics on women in leadership, we defined the issues worldwide that Smith and its alumnae are uniquely equipped to tackle. We made clear that any campaign donation wasn’t just an investment in Smith College, but an investment in women’s leadership and the future of our world.
The message was compelling: the women of the world deserve an education that matches their ambition. This idea directly informed the campaign’s goals, which were stated simply.
The campaign will allow Smith to be:
More accessible to the brightest and most talented young women in the world.
Truly global in scope and ambition.
Connected to the world in all its possibilities and challenges.
A leader in teaching and scholarship.
Known as the preeminent source of women leaders for the world
The strategy was clear, but we needed to translate it into something more tangible. We crafted three campaign options with very different positionings, visual elements, voice styles, and content. Despite vast differences among the concepts, they all felt, looked, and sounded like Smith. More importantly, they all communicated the full impact of the campaign. Smith’s campaign team reviewed the options to select the one they felt was the best fit. (It was a tough decision. Just ask them.)
Ultimately they chose the concept that featured Smithies — students, alumnae, faculty — through a stark, dramatic black and white lens. The portrait style worked hard to unify a diverse range of alumnae and students around the key issues that challenge women’s leadership.
The first piece to showcase the concept was a striking 40-page prospectus conveyed both the positioning and specific campaign objectives. It told the story of what unites all Smithies — a mindset, a collection of traits, and a passion for moving the world forward. The piece then laid out the case for the campaign on a statistical level, and clearly outlined how it would enable Smith to fill that need.
A powerful campaign video mimicked the black and white portrait style and drew attention to those key leadership issues, told through the eyes of current Smith students. Throughout the research phase of our work, we heard campaign staff say that once alumnae made connections with current students, they were hooked. This video takes those individual stories out to the entire body of alumnae, and it does so in an incredibly moving way.
After five years of hard work, the campaign surpassed its goal and raised a record-breaking $486 million — the largest amount ever raised by a women’s college. Among the many esteemed donors, more than 80 women donated $1 million or more. And the work didn’t end there. Knowing that the campaign thank you is just as critical as the earlier work, Ologie worked with Smith to create the ultimate thank-you note: stories of student leadership and accomplishment in action.