MSK Partners


Design, communication and what's on our mind

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.

Filed under: Communication, Higher Education

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:

Filed under: Higher Education


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.

Filed under: Higher Education, Technology

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.

Filed under: Higher Education

The Power of Penn

Our long-time client, the University of Pennsylvania, recently announced “The Power of Penn: Advancing Knowledge for Good,” a $4.1 billion fundraising and engagement campaign. Broad campaign initiatives include expanded student opportunities, pioneering work in healthcare, driving energy solutions, incubating innovation and entrepreneurship, and enhancing research across disciplines.

Filed under: Higher Education

Following the Founder

For over eight years, we’ve served the University of Pennsylvania developing key print and digital communications programs for fundraising, admissions and alumni relations. Our recent work for Penn Engineering’s annual giving fund shows how the School has taken founder Benjamin Franklin’s words to heart by continuing to change, adapt and innovate. The campaign features large images and brief text describing recent advances including adding 165,000 square feet of engineering space, increasing tenure track faculty size by 30 percent, and significantly increasing course offerings to connect resources with talent. Results? Fundraising and application numbers are both record-breaking.

Filed under: Design, Higher Education

Moving the Needle

Independent and private schools face unique challenges – and also unique opportunities – when it comes alumni cultivation and stewardship. CCS Fundraising has published an interesting white paper called “Moving the Needle from Alumni Engagement to Alumni Giving,” Co-authored by Detroit Country Day School (DCDS), you can download the report and discover how DCDS developed stronger bonds with their alumni and dramatically boosted their giving.


Filed under: Communication, Higher Education

Nano Scaling-up

As part of our ongoing work with the University of Pennsylvania, MSK Partners recently rebranded the Singh Center for Nanotechnology – located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Philadelphia, the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology is a multi-user facility where the research and educational programs at the University, partner institutions and industry come together to form a regional hub for nanotechnology. The firm developed a new logo, messaging strategies and a series of direct mail and collateral materials.


Filed under: Design, Higher Education

Facilities & Fundraising

According to University Business magazine, nearly two-thirds of higher ed readers surveyed expected a major renovation project to be launched or completed in 2016. Here’s a closer look at what facilities department leaders are talking about and expecting in 2016.


Filed under: Higher Education

On the Campaign Trail

Nationwide, the start of capital and comprehensive fundraising campaigns has risen dramatically over the past six months according to various indicators. Institutions and other non-profits have more confidence in their ability to raise significant funds than they did just one year ago. From the conversations we’ve had, many would have liked to begin a campaign last year but felt market conditions would not sustain such an initiative. We’ve certainly seen an upswing in clients seeking campaign communications – covering planning and identity to case statements and online/tablet components. We’re currently managing communications programs for campaigns with goals ranging from $10 million to $500 million for clients including Drexel University, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the University of Pennsylvania. Please contact us if you would like a confidential discussion regarding your campaign.

Filed under: Communication, Higher Education