Alumni Fundraising For Giving Days: 4 Technology-Driven Tips

Alumni Fundraising For Giving Days: 4 Technology-Driven Tips




October 12, 2020

Last modified: 

August 28, 2023

As an alumni association professional, one of your most crucial responsibilities is to secure fundraising revenue. Giving days, such as GivingTuesday, are a prime opportunity to raise a large amount of funds quickly.

While giving days last just 24 hours, you should begin preparing for GivingTuesday far in advance. For universities today, attracting attention on GivingTuesday requires a strong online presence and digital fundraising strategy. Using popular hashtags like #GivingTuesday is a step in the right direction. However, attracting alumni who will continue to give long-term requires developing engaging content, presenting it strategically, and maintaining communication to build a long-term relationship. 

Maximizing Impact with Minimal Resources

Based on years of experience assisting nonprofits and educational institutions in developing their GivingTuesday fundraising strategies, here are four key best practices alumni associations can use next GivingTuesday.

1. Use data to optimize your outreach.

Set your alumni fundraiser up for success by conducting prospect research beforehand.‍ Prospect research is the practice of evaluating your organization’s prospective donors by their capacity and affinity to give.‍

Essentially, prospect research allows your organization to identify alumni who are in the best financial position to donate, and that have the strongest affinity toward your organization. Ask yourself the following when evaluating prospects:

  • Does this alumnus participate in alumni association activities, such as events and mentorship programs?
  • Has this alumnus given to our university in the past?
  • Is this alumnus employed, and do they have secure financial footing?

Use this information to focus your fundraising efforts. However, keep in mind that it can still be worthwhile to contact lower-earning recent graduates and alumni to begin building relationships for future engagements. 

2. Select your marketing channels based on alumni data. 

The more potential supporters you can get in touch with, the more your giving day fundraiser will raise. To reach more alumni, your university should take a multi-channel approach by marketing the campaign on a variety of platforms. 

NXUnite’s guide to starting a fundraiser suggests several different outreach channels to market on:

  • Email is the most direct way to reach alumni online. Create segmented email lists based on each alumni’s past interactions with your university and the prospect research you conducted in the previous step. Track your email appeals by monitoring open and clickthrough rates, which can provide information about the effectiveness of your subject lines and the body content of your messages, respectively. 
  • Your website should host essential information about your giving day fundraiser, such as your fundraising goal, what the donations will help your university accomplish, and if there are any matching gift opportunities. Monitor your overall traffic, as well as bounce rate and time-on-page to determine if your website is attracting alumni and interesting them enough to engage them. 
  • Peer-to-peer outreach can be useful for attracting supporters outside of your university’s core community. Recruit students and alumni to become peer-to-peer fundraisers and direct them to request donations from their friends and family on your university’s behalf. Encourage each of your fundraising volunteers to set a goal for themselves, whether it’s the total raised or the number of potential donors they reached out to. These goals will help motivate your volunteers and allow your organization to monitor their progress. 
  • Your blog helps you keep your most dedicated supporters engaged. Create posts promoting your upcoming giving day fundraisers and follow-up articles reporting on its success afterward. Ensure you also have a variety of other engaging content to keep alumni interested in participating in your organization long-term. 
  • Social media is one of the core marketing tools for GivingTuesday campaigns. Research which sites your alumni use and those platforms’ conversion rates. For example, reports show Facebook has a 9% conversion rate, Instagram 18%, and TikTok 2.3%. However, if the majority of your alumni primarily use Facebook that platform may be the most useful for your fundraising efforts even if it has a lower average conversion rate than Instagram. 

Managing multiple communication channels can be a strain on your resources, and not all platforms will produce the same return on investment. When selecting your outreach channels, consider your data from past marketing campaigns to determine which platforms yielded the highest engagement rates.

3. Provide creative outlets for alumni to give back.

Straightforward outreach through phone calls, direct mail, and email are all core parts of fundraising. However, you can leverage your technology to further engage your alumni and provide them with creative, memorable ways to give. 

For example, many giving day campaigns include an event. Hosting an event provides a tangible reason why alumni should give on that specific day while also inviting them to participate in fun activities and engage with your university. 

To make these events accessible to your entire alumni community, consider how you can take your giving day event online. Let’s walk through an example of a popular but often complex fundraiser, the silent auction. To encourage more bidding on your giving day, use gamification strategies like:

  • Leaderboards. Invoke friendly competition by using your auction site to display which guests have bid the most, are currently the top bidder for big-ticket prizes, or have given the most in donations overall. Ensure your leaderboard is updated in real-time so participants who want to climb it can see their name rise with each bid. 
  • Push notifications. For silent and online auctions, it’s easy for participants to walk away from an item and subsequently forget to keep bidding on it. Use auction software that sends guests automatic alerts when they’re outbid or when your auction is about to close. You can gamify these notifications by adding sound effects and creating a special negative display screen for when they’re outbid and a uniquely positive one for when they are winning again. 
  • Strategic bidding features. Allow participants to craft a bidding strategy with auction features like the ability to automatically outbid up to a certain amount or offering a “buy it now” option for a few prizes. This encourages participants to think more critically about which items they want and how they’ll respond to potential bidding wars, increasing their engagement. 

If you have never hosted an event like an auction virtually before, consider meeting with a technology consultant who can help you set up your event platform and step in quickly to resolve any technical issues that may occur during the event. 

4. Focus on offering value through strong content.

Recently alumni donations have been decreasing. This is for a variety of factors, including economic instability, new legislation, and the fact that 93% of alumni organizations provide no benefits or only content that alumni do not find worthwhile. 

Avoid this for your association by offering valuable content in exchange for alumni gifts. While alumni may no longer attend classes at your university, you can still demonstrate your value in their lives by publishing informative content, hosting networking events, and sharing stories about current students. 

Effective data management can help you identify pertinent topics. Look into your database and find survey answers, demographic information, and more to base your content on. Then, host events and create content on subjects that are relevant to your alumni, such as current events or topics related to specific professions. 

In your donation appeals, consider what content you can offer your alumni. For example, you could provide webinars or panels on current challenges your alumni might face in the workplace—such as how to succeed in a hybrid workplace—or virtual happy hours where they can connect with one another. Consider getting faculty involved to provide their subject matter expertise and give former students the chance to talk with their former professors. 

Advancement Playbook

Giving days are an opportunity to rally your university’s community together and raise funds to continue providing current and former students with the resources they need to succeed professionally. Focus your approach and engage alumni by using your data to guide outreach and event hosting.

About the author:

Carl Diesing

Carl Diesing, Managing Director – Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with ongoing 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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