Atlanta University Center Consortium

During much of 2020, MSK has been involved with The Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC). Located in the heart of metropolitan Atlanta, AUCC is the world’s oldest and largest association of historically black, private institutions of higher education. Originally formed in 1929, the Consortium is a nonprofit organization that operates on behalf of its member institutions: Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College.

Our work has focused on a Data Science Initiative (DSI) launched in 2019 with initial seed funding from UnitedHealth Group. AUCC DSI is working to increase the number of highly skilled underrepresented minorities in data science and to advance data science research, especially as it impacts minority communities.

The DSI has a broad range of audiences from high school students and guidance counselors to government and prospective corporate partners. MSK developed institutional branding, content and digital communication for AUCC and the DSI. The initiative continues to have success in all spheres with plans for increased print and digital marketing in 2021.  

Purpose-driven Donors

Our long-time client, the University of Pennsylvania, is entering the final year of “The Power of Penn: Advancing Knowledge for Good,” a $4.1 billion fundraising campaign. This time period brings a wealth of new print and digital initiatives for the University and for individual schools including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. MSK is launching the next phase of a communications campaign built around the theme Inventing the Future. Print, email and web components have been created to inspire donors around the globe to partner with Penn to help accomplish the personal, philanthropic objectives each donor has for the coming year. This approach seeks to lift the sights of loyal donors, promote acquisition of other purpose-driven donors and, with ongoing stewardship, lead to higher retention rates within both categories.

Philanthropic Climate Survey

The folks at CCS Fundraising have published the results of a survey of nonprofit organizations to measure the immediate philanthropic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, conducted between April 20 and May 1, covers the behaviors, progress and challenges of 1,183 individuals representing nonprofit organizations across all major philanthropic sectors.

It’s an interesting report that provides good insight and perspective to integrate into short- and long-term fundraising plans. It’s available for download here.

Giving More

A new, survey by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) examines voluntary donations to U.S. colleges and universities. The survey covered the fiscal year from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. As expected, Johns Hopkins University blew all other Maryland institutions — and most institutions in the nation — out of the water with an impressive intake of $2.7 billion.

More than half of Hopkins’ voluntary funding came from one alumnus donor: Michael Bloomberg. “The donation is four times the amount of the next largest foundation grant reported on the survey,” the report notes. “Without it…giving would have barely kept pace with inflation.”

The CASE survey reported other notable findings involving Maryland institutions. For example, the United States Naval Academy raised more than any other public baccalaureate institution in 2019.

Nationwide, donation funding totaled $49.6 billion, a 6.1% increase from the previous fiscal year. It was the highest funding level ever reported by CASE’s annual survey, which has been conducted since 1957. The largest proportion of contributions came from foundations, representing about 34.3% of the 2019 donations total. Alumni support came in second, comprising 22.6% of total contributions. The following charts link to the full survey:


As part of our ongoing work for the University of Pennsylvania, we’ve developed the next in a series of email newsletters – this time a weekly, automated email promoting on-campus events to those within the institution. Our process included project planning with University communications and technology staff, graphic design for the template, setting-up a development environment for testing, integrating the events RSS/JSON feed with the newsletter template and listserv distribution; configurations and testing, and final roll-out with University staff. Having already developed a weekly email for campus news, individual e-newsletters for each school, and custom invitations for events, this project utilized additional skills within our range of communications technologies.

New Initiative for Hopkins

On October 28, the dedication of the Johns Hopkins Proton Center took place at Sibley Memorial Hospital and commemorated the opening of state-of-the-art facility and honored the collaboration between Johns Hopkins, Children’s National, and Hitachi. MSK launched a special edition of Promise & Progress magazine featuring new photography and a series of custom illustrations explaining the technology in a “How it Works” approach. This was used at the event and coordinated with a new website and videos – the latter filmed in Baltimore and Sibley.

Hope. Heal. Grow.

We were delighted to work with our colleagues at CCS Fundraising and senior leadership at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital on the successful launch of their new comprehensive campaign. MSK created the campaign theme and logo; wrote and designed the case for support and companion story book; and developed a variety of print and digital support materials including stationery, volunteer guide, digital templates, and PowerPoint.


How Paper is Making a Comeback

The world’s trading routes have been crafted over centuries and yet remain in a constant state of flux. The Made on Earth series, produced by the BBC, looks at eight everyday products – from bicycles to whisky, spices to semiconductors – and explores the people, countries and intricate global networks that go into making and bringing these goods to market. Given our ongoing and frequent use of paper, the edition focused on the paper industry is especially informative. Albeit, not quite as stimulating as the one on whisky.

Navigating Enrollment Challenges

Nathan Grawe’s book Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education is an excellent read for administrators and trustees who are responsible for recruitment, admissions, student support, tenure practices, facilities construction, and strategic planning. He details his view of a looming demographic storm – in 2026, when the front edge of a birth dearth reaches college campuses, the number of college-aged students will drop almost 15 percent in just 5 years. Analyzing demand forecasts by institution type and rank while disaggregating by demographic groups, Grawe provides separate forecasts for two-year colleges, elite institutions, and everything in between. The future demand for college attendance, he argues, depends critically on institution type. While many schools face painful contractions, for example, demand for elite schools is expected to grow by more than 15 percent in future years.

A Digital Year

2018 was a banner year for email newsletters that we’ve developed and mailed for various clients including the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins Medicine. In each case, these have been highly targeted (both audience and content) and therefore are producing strong results. Whether directed at donors, patients, staff, or parents, these have grown to become a vital part of the media mix for clients looking to engage an audience on a more regular basis – particularly where video can add an new element to supplement our print magazines that continue to reach the same audience. Let us know if we can help enhance your digital reach or recommend new ways to create a print and digital balance.