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All Articles > Fundraising Ideas > How to engage your alumni for giving: The round up

How to engage your alumni for giving: The round up

Tips on developing an alumni giving strategy from advancement specialist Alastair Lee

Alumni can play a key role in assisting their schools, colleges, and universities to achieve important strategic goals and growth targets. Yet knowing why, how, and when to engage alumni in the giving process remains one of the greatest challenges that faces advancement practitioners in the education sector today.

Alastair Lee, founder of AlumGrow Consultancy with over twenty years of award-winning experience in education advancement, shared some unique insights in the webinar ‘How to engage your alumni for giving (or not!), where he discussed the vital frameworks, tools, and strategies required to achieve sustainable long-term success with alumni giving programs. Read the highlights below.

Where should you start with alumni giving?

Starting to fundraise from alumni comes with two vital decisions: you must collectively decide that you want to engage alumni for giving, and then you must decide why you want to fundraise from alumni, so that you can share a genuine need with prospects that will encourage them to give. This process will involve gaining buy-in from key internal stakeholders including your Headteacher, governors, and other staff that may speak to alumni at events on the advancement team’s behalf. 

What is your alumni giving programme ‘why’?

Whether you’re fundraising for a bursary programme, capital campaign, or any other type of development activity, focusing on your ‘why’ is key to getting buy-in from your alumni. Here are 8 benefits that can be gleaned from different fundraising projects that advancement teams may undertake:

  • Benefit 1: Volunteering - defrays costs, provides expertise and fills skill gaps = budget savings
  • Benefit 2: Bursaries - Provides education opportunities to those less fortunate = value proposition
  • Benefit 3: Scholarships - Attracts/retains top students = enrolment growth & prestige
  • Benefit 4: Campus environment – Facilities and equipment development = student experience & marketing
  • Benefit 5: Research – Supports vital research = Community benefit, staff recruitment, campus development
  • Benefit 6: Unique programmes – Supports special course development = Student experience & marketing
  • Benefit 7: Endowed Chairs – Attract brightest and best academic staff = branding & research outcomes
  • Benefit 8: Future proofing - Insulates institutions against future economic pressures = Protection & Prosperity

The secret recipe to help you know how & when to engage alumni for giving

While each organisation is unique and will have a different culture of philanthropy and existing relationship with alumni, you can use these tips to indicate levels of engagement that could lead to donations. 

Equipment & tools

What do you need in order to ask alumni for donations? A compelling reason to give has to underpin your entire programme, and this should be supported by a strong strategic plan. This plan should involve not only the process of asking alumni to donate, but also the prospect research and stewardship activities that will help to evolve your alumni giving strategy over time. A powerful CRM is also a must to keep track of all activity, engagement, donations and contact information in one place, so that at a glance you can track progress both towards a fundraising goal or with an individual contact. 

Preparation

Review and consolidate all the data in your alumni CRM and database; being able to segment and research alumni in this way is key to finding potential donors based on engagement, interest and access. You can build dynamic groups to find those who are consistently engaging, for example, opening more than 50% of emails, attending events, downloading your case for support on your alumni website. 

Method

Focus on gradual growth by researching and segmenting alumni, and then customising your engagement approach. Encourage recurring and ‘play it forward’ or planned gifts e.g. bequests to build a culture of giving with your alumni. Keep your engagement approach fresh by using a variety of channels, e.g. direct mail to avoid the digital switch off, social media to share updates with younger generations, and focus on demonstrative storytelling to share your impact in an engaging and positive way. 

Key takeaways

  1. Alumni giving is based on a lot of factors, but at the core is your alumni donor data and ability to build meaningful, transparent, two-way relationships 
  2. Agree on your strategic whys/hows from the top down at the start of your programme with your key stakeholders
  3. Your CRM system is the true rock star of your program: use these insights to drive your programme and help you pinpoint the right time to make an ask
  4. Above all have fun and stay authentic!

To find out more about receiving professional fundraising advice tailored to your organisation and how to set up your own alumni giving strategy, visit the AlumGrow Consultancy website

To build a strong strategy requires a powerful, connected CRM and community platform to help you connect with alumni. ToucanTech provides an all-in-one system to support fundraising and engage alumni; to find out more, speak to a member of the ToucanTech team today.

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