Alumni Fundraising Strategy for your Day of Giving: 3 Tech-Fueled Tips for Success

Alumni Fundraising Strategy for your Day of Giving: 3 Tech-Fueled Tips for Success




October 12, 2020

Last modified: 

January 19, 2022

Colleges and universities are in a hard situation for the 2020/2021 academic year. The constant modulation between virtual classes and hybrid models, the assistance needed for the recent graduates in 2020, and of course, the risks to staff and student safety caused by COVID-19 have challenged academic professionals.

The last thing that these institutions need in 2020 is a lack of funding— and, with much of regular programming halted or drastically reduced, that’s a genuine concern. As an alumni association professional, one of your most crucial tasks is to secure fundraising revenue for your university. So, part of the funding challenge has likely fallen on your shoulders.

Unfortunately, the social distancing challenges your university is facing don’t exist in a vacuum but rather reach all corners of society. Whether ticketed alumni events hosted in cities across the country or large alumni tailgating events on your campus, the popular fundraising efforts you’ve hosted in years past are simply unattainable at your Day of Giving or #GivingTuesday this year.

How can you pivot your alumni fundraising strategy for success through digital means alone in 2020? Here are some effective ways to effectively create a nonprofit digital fundraising strategy that can bring you success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on years of experience working with advancement professionals at educational institutions across the globe,we’re sharing three key tips that your alumni association can use at this Day of Giving to successfully fundraise digitally:

1. Use data to optimize your outreach

2. Provide creative outlets for alumni to give back

3. Focus on offering value through content

Let’s get started.

Optimize with data

1. Use data to optimize your outreach

According to this DonorSearch guide to alumni giving, one way to give your team the best chance of success with alumni fundraising at your Day of Giving is to conduct prospect research beforehand.

You may already be familiar with the concept of prospect research, but if not, here’s a definition:

Prospect research is the practice of evaluating your organization’s prospective donors against factors that indicate their capacity and affinity to give.

Essentially, prospect research allows your organization to identify those alumni who are in the best financial position to donate, and that have the most affinity (think “warmth”) toward your organization. Ask yourself the following when evaluating prospects:

a) Does this alumnus participate in alumni association activities, such as events and mentorship programs?

b) Has this alumnus given to our university in the past?

c) Is this alumnus employed, and do they have secure financial footing?

These are just a few questions that you can use to identify strong alumni donor prospects at your Day of Giving 2020.

That said, use this information to focus your fundraising efforts— but don’t use it to eliminate prospects from your list. Lower-earning recent graduates and alumni that have had low engagement before can be great to contact now to begin building relationships for future engagements. In fact, one of the emerging trends in alumni relations in 2020 is increased engagement from those that have never participated previously!

How Piedmont College set an Alumni donor participation record amidst COVID-19

Provide Creative Outlets

2. Provide creative outlets for alumni to give back

Let’s be honest: If you’ve graduated from a college or university, there’s a decent chance you’ve received a phone call from a coffee-riddled student staffer asking if you’d like to donate toward the next generation. Cold-called donation solicitations are all-too-familiar for alumni association professionals. But, what if we said that there are better, more creative ways to engage your alumni and raise even more in 2020?

Virtual peer-to-peer fundraising is an emerging trend in the nonprofit sector, and we think these events could benefit alumni associations as well. Essentially, these fundraisers draw on the power of social proof to raise funds from your alumni and those that support the graduates (friends, family members, colleagues) all through a fun, engaging, and accessible event.

Let’s look at a popular example: the walk-a-thon. To make this peer-to-peer event virtual, you would:

a) Create the event in your virtual fundraising software

b) Equip alumni participants with peer-to-peer fundraising pages.

c) Encourage participants to share the page with their support system, asking them to donate or pledge in support of their participation in the event

d) Designate a day and time for participants to complete the walking challenge

How the college of Idaho is driving Alumni Engagement amidst COVID-19

During the event, participants simply walk as far as they’re able and log their steps. They can log their steps using fitness tracking software, such as the FitBit or Garmin watches, and report it manually to your team. Or even better, they can use a fundraising app already equipped with a distance tracker, such as MobileAction!. Then, donations corresponding to the distance walked are made to your organization. 

While walk-a-thons are the most popular example, check out this guide that notes that 5k races, trivia nights, and virtual read-a-thons are other great examples. There are many possibilities for this event! 

Offer Valuable Content

3. Focus on offering value through strong content

While this article is about fundraising, it’s important that you’re not only soliciting donations from your alumni. While that is a considerable function of alumni associations, you should also be sure to provide value to alumni in return.

We recommend providing valuable professional development experiences to your alumni when soliciting donations. For example, you could provide webinars or panels on current challenges your alumni might be facing in the workplace— such as adjusting to working from home— or even virtual happy hours where alumni can connect. You could even draw on the subject matter experts in your faculty to facilitate these events and share their expertise!

Base your content on what’s relevant to your alumni right now, whether general current events or topics related to specific professions. This is one area where effective data management is key, as you can then look back in your database and find survey answers, demographic information, and more to base your valuable content on. As an alumni association professional, you’re experiencing a greater need for fundraising and a more challenging fundraising atmosphere. With these tips, you’ll have a better chance of successfully pivoting fundraising to the digital sphere.

About the author:

Carl Diesing

Carl Diesing, Managing Director, DNL OmniMedia
Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

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