An Expert’s Quick Guide to Fostering Campus-Wide Buy-In

Let’s take a minute to talk about the idea of campus buy-in. 

I’m sure some of you reading have a terrified reaction like this: 

gif of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone - with his hands around his mouth, screaming

“Buy-in” can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. While partnerships with campus partners and stakeholders are a great idea, execution can be rather difficult. 

But it doesn’t always need to be! It’s all in the approach. Here a few tips that I’ve tested and found to be helpful and successful.

1. Understand who is in the room 

Yes, it’s important to know the names of everyone in the room. But here, I’m talking more about knowing who the changemakers are. 

There are four kinds of people who you will interact with on any campus:

  • Those who resist all change
  • Those who are skeptical of change but can be convinced
  • Those who are skeptical of change but will try to make it work
  • Those who embrace change

You’ll want to focus most on convincing the latter types of people. Those who resist all change will not help your cause. 

It can also be helpful to consider who, among all the people you are connecting with, can influence the opinions of others.  

For example, at one of my former institutions, Colleague A was always cautious of new ideas. They frequently consulted Colleague B, as they greatly valued their opinion. So in this case, in order for me to get buy-in from Colleague A, I really needed buy-in from Colleague B.

2. Present your ideas as win-wins

You never want to rush into a conversation starting with “I’ve found the solution!” In my experience,  folx tend to be turned off by this method and shut down immediately.

gif of Hugh Laurie from House saying 'what's the opposite of thank you'?

Instead, take some time to first understand the issue from the other person’s perspective and demonstrate empathy for the challenges they’re facing. Once you’ve built up trust and understanding, present an option for how you can assist. 

Keep in mind, you may not be able to directly solve their issue in the way they’re imagining. But you can hopefully help to resolve their issue in some way; It just might take a little extra convincing. 

Demonstrate how your solution is a win-win by being transparent about how it will benefit you. Doing so will show that you have a genuine investment in helping out the campus.

3. Be persistent… when appropriate 

Sure, you may have the ideal solution that will work for every person and office involved. However, you may find that some campus partners are still concerned about making any changes to their current processes. 

That is okay! Don’t keep pushing the point all out; you may scare them away, and then you’ve lost the connection. Instead, simply respond with an emphatic statement like, “Of course! I completely understand; no worries.” 

But plan to follow up with them at a later date to see if anything has changed and if you could be of help to them then.

gif of a man saying 'hey how's it going' to the camera and giving a friendly wave

4. Prove yourself

An easy way of creating that buy-in is to show that things are working well. 

It’s similar to reading a review before buying a new item from Amazon because you saw it on a Buzzfeed article. 

If you are a brand-new professional trying to change the entire campus, it may be difficult. But don’t let your newness stop you. Instead, pose the idea and then work to show how your idea, process, and system works… or how you think it will. 

Having even just a few victories under your belt can help to make your pitch more fruitful. If someone is still skeptical, take the time to build out a form/process for someone else. If they see it working well in actuality, then it will be much harder to say no.

5. Smile and don’t take anyone (including yourself) too seriously

Your conversations with campus partners should be fun. While, yes, it can have a huge impact on your campus and student populations, the process of making positive changes should be enjoyable for everyone. 

If you are entering into the conversation with a smile and ready to have fun, your campus partners are more likely to enjoy the conversation as well. Folx who experience a positive interaction will be more inclined to want to connect with you again down the road and want to work with you now. 

Hopefully, these tips will make you feel as overjoyed as this:

gif of a woman jumping up and down and smiling with joy

Now you may be wondering, do these tips really work?! I can tell you from my own personal experience, yes! From utilizing the tips above, many of my campus partners have started utilizing Presence, including Dining Services, room setup, and our campus communications office.

I think one of my favorite examples to share was from our AV office. After I submitted a request, an AV professional responded, “Shouldn’t this be coming through Presence?”

Creating buy-in can be complicated, but when it works, it’s so rewarding and worthwhile!

How have you fostered buy-in from colleagues across campus? We’d love to learn your stories. Tweet us @themoderncampus.


Alex Barkley

About the author: Alex Barkley (he/him) is the Director of Student Engagement & Involvement at Sacred Heart University. He can often be found perfecting a dipping sauce recipe, being sassed by his dog, dancing like no one is watching or catching rare Pokemon. Learn how we can help get your students involved.