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Articles > Fundraising Ideas > Reach for the stars: How famous faces can boost your fundraising

Reach for the stars: How famous faces can boost your fundraising

How to build relationships with notable alumni from your school, college or university

Many of the big names of our time look back fondly on their time in education as the first time they began to explore their passions and talents that led them to the success they have achieved today. From creatives, to leading researchers and innovative thinkers, do you know who your notable alumni are - and how you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with them? 

There are lots of benefits to building a great relationship with your notable alumni. Often, they have a large and trusted platform that they could use to speak positively about your institution, either in the press or via social media, or on your own platform. They could share their wisdom and inspire the next generation, either by speaking to younger alumni who are just starting on their journey or students still at your school. They could attract new people to your school and alumni network and may even make donations to your cause - so there are many reasons to keep them on side!

However, it can be a tricky topic to navigate - often, successful alumni will have many demands on their time and might be taken aback by an out-of-the-blue request from their alma mater. That’s why consistent engagement from when an alum leaves school is the best way to maintain a close relationship and build affinity throughout their lifetime. 

Finding and keeping in touch with notable alumni

One of the first steps you can take is to identify who your notable or rising star alumni are. One of the ways that many ToucanTech customers find out about the achievements of their alumni is by asking their network for stories of what alumni have been up to since leaving their school or college and creating an ‘Alumni spotlight’ series. In doing this, you can ask further questions about how their education has set them up for success, and find alumni with great stories to share. 

Another key step is ensuring that you keep your alumni contact details up-to-date, particularly email address and phone number. This enables your alumni to receive communications from you about upcoming events, school news and particular causes they might wish to support. By segmenting your network and tailoring the content to different audiences, you’ll avoid overwhelming busy alumni and tapping into what they really want to know, so they keep coming back for more!

What to ask for and when

Knowing the tight time schedule that your successful alumni most likely adhere to, it’s important to keep your requests focused and light on input from their end. For example, inviting a notable alum to give an inspiring talk to younger alumni and students about their journey since leaving school, and some of their favourite memories from school. You could assist them by offering help in advance with any slides they might like to use, promoting the event and setting a date around their schedule. Try to think about how you can offer something back to them - many would be thrilled to take a tour of their old school and meet some former teachers! 

Another idea could be to ask your notable alum to host a charity event - some schools found that during lockdown their alumni had more free time and were keen to give back to their community, and so were happy to host quizzes, auctions or skills workshops. As lockdown eases, consider how you can plan events that your notable alumni can be a part of, even if it’s just sending a quick video of support!

Making the case for support with notable alumni

Notable alumni, just like all other donors, will have their own philanthropic interests and motivations, so aligning your cause to their goals is a good way to boost support. This could be as simple as sharing bursary appeals with alumni who received financial support during their education, or aligning with their career paths, e.g. sharing a capital campaign for a new sports centre with athletes. You can signpost this by appealing to them personally with a major giving ask, or by sending fundraising communications that are tailored towards causes.

Keeping track of these conversations is important; especially when alumni are busy, it might take longer to move through the stages of becoming a donor, or they might have specific preferences e.g. naming rights to a building. Using a CRM that includes a donor pipeline and tracks all fundraising, online and offline, is a great way to ensure that you can steward important alumni (along with the rest of your network!) and make the right asks at the right time. 

Building relationships not only with your notable alumni, but with your entire alumni network, will lead to an engaged community that gives back to one another and to your institution. To find out how ToucanTech gives you the tools to build lifelong relationships, speak to a member of the team

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