3 Ways to Maximize Alumni Support for Your School Fundraiser
As trends in the economy, philanthropic efforts, and donor behavior continue to change, it’s critically important that schools steward alumni donors and recognize the essential role they play in fundraising campaigns.
Finding what messages your alumni connect to allows you to tailor your campaigns and strategies to their interests and preferences. In this guide, we’ll expand on the following ways that your school can use what you know about its alumni to motivate and maximize their support:
- Personalize outreach.
- Spread awareness of matching gift programs.
- Actively engage alumni.
Just as you should choose fundraising ideas that align with donors’ giving motivations and behaviors, you should do the same with your alumni communications. Let’s get started!
1. Personalize outreach.
Communicating with alumni is the only way your school can make an impact on them and inspire long-term support. To avoid having your communications fall by the wayside, it’s key to make them feel genuine and personal. Make your communications feel warm and engaging with quick fixes such as greeting alumni by name at the beginning of every communication.
Next, explore your alumni database and experiment with strategies like:
- Segmenting by shared characteristics. Divide alumni by characteristics such as their average gift size, the frequency of their donations, graduating class, or other factors. Then, create and send communications that align with the corresponding alumni segment. You might create a segment based on graduating class to invite recent graduates to a young alumni networking event.
- Reaching out via their preferred communication platforms. Show that you notice and value the ways that alumni connect with your school by sending communications through the platforms they routinely use. For example, those who engaged with text and email campaigns in the past are more likely to respond on digital platforms than direct mail.
- Mentioning past support or their time as students. In your communications, reference the donor’s major or any career highlights you’re aware of to demonstrate that you know about them and their accomplishments. Additionally, acknowledge and thank them for past donations they gave to your school (e.g., “Thank you for sponsoring a student taking part in our read-a-thon last year!”).
Additionally, make sure your website is updated, easy to navigate, and has content designed to resonate with your alumni. For example, you might feature testimonials from donors about why they chose to donate to their alma mater, a page that breaks down how alumni giving has impacted your school, and a list of ways they can support your institution.
2. Spread awareness of matching gift programs.
Many corporations offer matching gift programs to their employees as a part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. In these programs, companies match the donations their employees make to eligible organizations, usually including nonprofits, schools and universities, and other charitable organizations.
When promoting matching gifts to alumni, keep these things in mind:
- Educate them first. Matching gifts might be new to many alumni, so make sure to explain what they are before covering how alumni can leverage them to make a bigger impact. Build social proof by including matching gift statistics and real-world examples of matching gift programs from well-known companies.
- Provide detailed instructions. The matching gift process can vary from company to company depending on what CSR software they use, the internal approval process, and other factors. However, you can outline the typical cadence for donors to give them direction when submitting their matching gift requests.
- Be aware of potential deadlines. Some companies have limitations on how long after a donation they will match the gift. Additionally, donors may lose some momentum and let the opportunity to submit a match request pass them by. Send a message reminding them to submit a match request from their employer within 24 hours of their donation for the best chance of receiving a match.
You can also use your alumni database to improve matching gift program participation rates. If you know where alumni work, you can learn whether or not their employers have matching gift programs. Then, send targeted messages and reminders to those donors.
3. Actively engage alumni.
To get alumni involved in your fundraising efforts, you’ll need to cultivate a vested interest in your school’s success. Building a community of dedicated alumni and showing them the impact fundraising has on your operations will help them understand the importance their support holds.
Consider engaging your alumni with events, activities, and initiatives such as:
- Creating a mentorship program. Give alumni the chance to mentor current students who hope to have a career in their field one day. The students can ask alumni questions, get advice about how to prepare for interviews, and start building their professional networks early in their careers. Your alumni, on the other hand, will gain the enriching experience of helping a newcomer break into their field.
- Offering them committee or leadership roles. If your school has an alumni council or association, spread awareness of these organizations to alumni. Encourage them to join as members and take on leadership positions. For K-12 schools, this may look like encouraging parent alumni to join your PTA. Both options give alumni another way to get involved with your school and, ideally, motivate them to donate in the future.
- Holding exclusive events. Put together events like class reunions or networking opportunities to bring alumni together. Make sure to promote the benefits of attending (e.g., making new connections with fellow professionals) to attract more potential donors. If possible, invite influential members of your local community or a school leader to speak at the event, and include refreshments and entertainment.
These strategies go beyond a simple email or letter, encouraging alumni to take an active role in your school’s success. Take note of the alumni who participate in these activities—they are likely to be your most dedicated, loyal supporters.
As your school would with any other donor, you should strive to provide a positive giving experience to alumni in order to motivate them to give again in the future. Make sure to accept a wide variety of payment options to make giving convenient. Always acknowledge and thank donors’ generosity through genuine thank-you messages to steward alumni who are driven to support their alma mater.
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