Using AI to Drive Alumni Engagement

March 6, 2023
Michael Horn

Alumni giving accounts for approximately 23% of fundraising for universities in the United States. People want to give to their alma mater if they are able, but what compels people to give is connection and a sense of goodwill. This connection can come from not only the university and the experiences of the alumni, but also with the current students who need advice for the future.

How can universities make giving and connecting alumni and students easier and more appealing, and how does this benefit everyone?

On today’s episode of The Future of Education, host Michael Horn talks with Max Leisten, the Founder and CEO of Protopia, about connecting students, alumni, and donors with AI technology.

Leisten stated that while it may be viewed as selfish, doing good feels good to people, and is still positively influential to a community. Protopia uses artificial intelligence (AI) to connect students with alumni, and future alumni donors to their institutions. The process includes finding common interests but does not incorporate tactics that may cause guilt or stress. People must want to help other people, and Protopia is designed to encourage and connect people without it being a sign-up for another app. Simple and easy is the goal.

“I told my wife, I don’t know if I’m going to make money with this, but I feel like a million dollars,” Leisten said. “I feel like I’ve made a difference in [students’] lives and in the lives of people that help others. Because behavior signs show that helping someone actually feels better than getting help. It validates who you are.”

Leisten and Horn also discuss…

● Leisten’s personal journey creating Protopia and his history with helping people

● Building a donor base for the next generation of alumni and students in educational institutions

● The differences between social platforms or apps and AI-powered programs where sign- ups are not required

“Sometimes I talk about this in Venn diagrams. You’ve got the alum that is looking for impact. The student that’s looking for you to deliver on that promise of life-long community. You’ve got that front line fundraiser that says I need more and better conversations with the right donors. And that sweet spot, that’s where we operate,” Leisten said.

Leisten is the Founder and CEO of Protopia, an AI-powered program designed to build connections. He attended UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, and previously worked at Netsertive as a Head of Product.

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