PMA Consulting, LLC

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Fundraising from Unengaged Alumni is Fruitless, Part 2

Alumni relations professionals must create strategic programming if they hope to have a successful fundraising future. Engagement is the critical and necessary first step to building your foundation. Unengaged alumni will not give, and if they do give they are unlikely to become regular donors. In this post, we will give you an oversight into best practices for developing a successful alumni program.

graduatesBuilding a successful alumni program is critical for all schools, no matter their size, age or composition. In today’s world, alumni are often pulled in many philanthropic directions and are forced to make choices around which organizations they want to support. According to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, overall charitable giving to educational institutions in the United States increased nearly 2 percent from 2011 to 2012. An advancement professional’s job is to be on the forefront of alumni giving, encouraging them to become emotionally excited about giving to their alma mater.

In part-two of a post we began at the beginning of the week, PMA presents the remaining two programmatic steps to creating a successful alumni program.

  • Create an events calendar that is reflective of your school and its alumni: Independent schools pride themselves in nurturing the aspirations and interests of students. Recognizing all alumni are not exactly alike, organize events that will entice diverse cross-sections of them. To make events even more appealing, recruit a host committee composed of alumni and current/former faculty. Everyone likes to (see) a familiar face.
    • Networking events: Connector events are extremely useful in our current economy. Alumni want and need to connect with their peers. Think outside the box and host a networking event with rival school’s. Diversity is not a bad thing when it comes to networking.
    • Reunion weekend: While time consuming to plan, these large events serve individual classes, allowing classmates to reconnect with each other and the school. A weekend on campus will end with happy alumni.
    • Alumni athletic events: Alumni are loyal to their teams. Hosting alumni games is inexpensive and will rekindle their competitive bond. Loyal alumni are donors.
    • College and young alumni: Do not forget about the most recent graduates. While they may not have a large financial impact, they are the future of any fundraising program. Visit college students. Bring yearbooks and organize a reunion dinner. What college kid will turn down a free meal from his alma mater?
    • Regional events: Keep out of town alumni in the loop by going to them. Identify a regional chair to help plan and orchestrate events. Locals have a better finger on the pulse of what events will work logistically.
  • Work closely with the Development professional in your office: Alumni relations and fundraising professionals are known to be protective of their constituents. Recognize teamwork and constant communication are critical. Relationship building is hard work, so do not hinder future donor potential by stepping on toes or appearing unprepared.
    • Make online giving easy: Create a simple form, allowing alumni to give effortlessly. According to Blackbaud’s Online Charitable Giving Report, education organizations grew their online fundraising the most in 2012 with an increase of 17.9%.
    • Avoid over solicitation: Create a fundraising calendar to ensure touches throughout the years are well timed and not overwhelming.
    • Thank donors: Prompt letters, calls, emails and videos are essential; alumni want to feel appreciated and to know where their money is being used. According to the 2013 Burke Donor Survey, almost one in three donors said they are less likely to give again to organizations that are late in acknowledging gifts.
    • Publicize donors: Donor recognition events are easy to organize. An article in the alumni magazine or newsletter can be used to recognize donors. And lastly, annual reports should be digital.

Five steps will not result in an all-encompassing alumni program, but PMA believes that by following these steps, alumni relations professionals will create a solid foundation, resulting in increased giving over time.