4 Event Ideas That Raise Money & Connect With Alumni
Alumni events and reunions are essential for keeping alumni connected to each other and to your school. These events can come in many shapes and forms, and present the perfect opportunity to fundraise while alumni are focused on fond memories of their time at your school. So as you consider event options to bring your alumni together, consider these fundraising-savvy ideas to help secure your current and future students’ success.
1. Auction Extravaganza
Auctions are a tried and true fundraising concept. Their appeal goes beyond charity and the support of alumni's beloved alma mater—they get the chance to engage in some friendly competition with fellow alums to win a variety of items in exchange for their generosity. Your development staff also gets to build relationships with alumni and make connections that go beyond the auction itself.
The type of auction you hold is up to you, based on your school and team’s preferences, the event the auction might accompany, and donated items you’re able to secure. A live auction is typically reserved for bigger ticket items, such as vacations or one-of-a-kind experiences, and held at the end of a gala or charity golf tournament. In general, a silent auction boasts more numerous, but smaller, items that are bid on over the course of the event or before, with the use of a mobile bidding platform. These might include gift baskets from local businesses or branded gear from your school.
First, choose what type of auction you will hold and whether or not it will be held in conjunction with another event. Next, reach out to your networks for auction item donations and sponsorships. Donated items are the key to maximize fundraising, so utilize your connections at area businesses for donated goods and services to include in your auction. Think about items that will make your auction unique, like personalized prizes for certain graduating classes or memorabilia from your school.
You’ll also want to choose an auction management platform to run the auction and make it easy for alumni to place bids on their mobile devices and pay for their winning bids. Be sure to promote the auction in your event outreach, highlighting big ticket or exclusive items that alumni will find attractive. Finally, create baskets and displays for each item that alumni can peruse as they place bids.
2. Sports-Related Events
Nothing rallies alumni quite like sports, so take advantage of their passion by hosting a sport-related alumni event, such as:
- Watch party: Host an event to watch your school or other beloved sports team play in a sporting event. Ask folks to make a donation when they RSVP or have a donation station at the event. This could be held at a sports bar, your school’s gym or arena, or other popular location.
- Tailgate party: Invite alumni to get prepped for a big game by gathering before the event for fun, food, and fellowship. You can charge a flat fee for alumni to attend or find a sponsor to offset costs and make donation asks throughout the party.
- Sports tournament: Tap into your alums’ competitive nature and love for activity with a tournament. For example, a golf tournament fundraiser is a great way to bring alumni together for a fun day on the course to raise money for your school. According to GolfStatus, golf tournaments attract donors and sponsors with a higher net worth and affinity to give. Other ideas might include a pickleball tournament, cornhole tournament, volleyball tournament, or a run-walk.
Gamified events also feature multiple ways to incorporate fun and lucrative revenue-boosting activities, such as hole-in-one contests for a golf tournament.
3. Alumni-led Workshops & Seminars
Your school’s network likely includes a number of alumni that are especially well-known or successful in their given field. Don’t underestimate the value of providing valuable opportunities to network and broaden professional skills. Hold a workshop, networking event, lecture, or seminar led by one or more alums. Your alumni will love to connect with their peers about topics they’re interested in and passionate about and support your school.
These events could be held alongside another fundraising or school event, such as a conference, homecoming weekend, or concert, or as a standalone event. Monetize the event by charging a registration fee and securing sponsors for the event, with all proceeds going to the alumni fund. And thanks to a myriad of webinar and other virtual event platforms, these events can easily be made virtual or hybrid, allowing you to engage a wider audience that might not be able to attend in person.
Who doesn’t love dressing up every once in a while? Consider throwing a black-tie or other themed gala fundraiser for an event with an upscale appeal. You might try to tailor your gala specifically to alumni with higher net worth and giving capacity, but you can also structure it to allow more people to attend. Galas can raise money in a number of ways, including ticket sales, an accompanying silent and/or live auction, table sponsorships, other sponsorships, and opportunities to make donations. You might invite a guest speaker or two or ask notable alumni to share inspiring stories about their time at your school or take the opportunity to present awards to distinguished alumni. Choose an upscale venue, serve a delicious meal, and provide entertainment to make the entire event unforgettable—and make alumni open their wallets.
The type of alumni fundraising event you choose is just one piece of the puzzle. Effective outreach is just as important as planning and executing the event itself. Find ways to optimize your outreach efforts to boost participation and better engage alumni. Try strategies such as segmenting your audience and tailoring messaging to each segment, or hosting social media challenges to spread awareness about the event and use individual alum’s networks to get others excited about it and jump at the chance to participate. In the end, you’ll forge strong connections between your school and its alumni, boost fundraising, and set your school up for success into the future.
Blackbaud, the leading provider of software for powering social impact, and Almabase, the digital-first alumni engagement solution, have announced the expansion of their partnership to the education sectors of Canada and the United Kingdom. The partnership will provide institutions with a modern, digital-first solution to improve constituent data, drive self-serve engagement, and boost event participation.
A Unified Vision
The partnership aligns with Blackbaud’s commitment to customer-centric innovation across digital engagement, Advancement CRM, and financials.
“Partners bring integrated capabilities that extend capabilities and outcomes for Blackbaud customers. We are thrilled that Almabase’s offering, integrated with Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and leveraging Blackbaud’s best-in-class payment solution, Blackbaud Merchant Services™, is now available to even more of our customers around the world.”
- Liz Price, Sr. Director of Global Partners at Blackbaud