Stanford Historical Society

Spring-Summer 2015
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


The Stanford Historical Society (SHS) was formed in 1976 to collect and preserve the history of Stanford University and to encourage the knowledge and understanding of both the history of Stanford University and the ideals of its founders. SHS employs 1.5 full time employees, but their work is supplemented by eighteen board members and 200 volunteers. The Historical Society’s current major project is to collect and maintain an oral history – interviews with those who have figured prominently in Stanford’s history. SHS publishes a thrice-annual journal, conducts an annual tour of historical Stanford houses, and offers public programs throughout the year. Currently the organization has about 900 dues-paying members.


SHS was concerned that the Stanford community has only limited awareness of or interest in the Historical Society’s activities. The organization’s memberships are flat and opportunities to gain more visibility seem to be limited. SHS wanted to engage a younger, more diverse audience while enhancing their role as the go-to place for Stanford history and community. The Historical Society had begun to collaborate with other on-campus partners and believes that there are additional opportunities for leveraging its competencies by partnering with other Stanford entities. 

Project Objectives

SHS asked for an ACT team’s help in developing a strategic marketing program to increase its impact on Stanford alumni, faculty, and students. SHS wanted to focus on increasing the visibility of the organization’s work and deepening public knowledge and understanding of Stanford history. SHS also wanted to develop a marketing strategy that could encompass effective on- and off-campus communications, collaboration with other Stanford entities, and sponsorship of high-visibility events. SHS hoped that these activities will in turn encourage new memberships and create Stanford history enthusiasts.

Project Overview

The project focused on the Society’s messaging and ways to increase awareness. It was done in two stages. The first was a survey of members, to understand how well SHS was meeting the needs of existing members, and whether there were issues that needed to be addressed. The survey indicated that SHS was providing an outstanding service (as seen by members), and no problems were uncovered. The second was to review messaging vehicles, and ways that the Society could reach more people.

Key Recommendations

The ACT recommendations were designed with a recognition of the limited resources of the Society. Substantial changes were recommended to the Society’s primary messaging vehicles: the brochure and website. Ways to leverage the upcoming 125th anniversary of the university to increase awareness of SHS were also recommended.

Additional recommendations were made that might be implemented in the future, depending on available resources.

Final Report Outline

- Overview of project and key recommendations

- Survey:

  • Discussion and analysis
  • Detailed statistical findings
  • Free-text responses

- Detailed recommendations

- Discussion of recommendations related to the SHS website