Alumni donations to colleges and universities exceed $10 billion a year. Every college has at least one person, if not an entire staff, devoted to knowing how to get alumni to donate and writing alumni donation request letters. The art of alumni giving can be a subtle one, and there are many tricks to the development office trade. We’re here to guide you through the fundamentals.
Much more than other college fundraising avenues, crowdfunding makes it easy for your school’s alumni to share your campaign and become part of your fundraising story. Take advantage of this unique strength as you plan your alumni fundraiser.
Recent alumni are familiar with crowdfunding
In How to Pay for College, we show students how to use crowdfunding to pay for school expenses. With so many students crowdfunding for college in recent years, younger alums are likely to be intimately familiar with crowdfunding—and receptive to crowdfunding campaigns from their alma mater. Keep this in mind when you think about which alumni you’re targeting with your campaign.
Host an alumni fundraising event
Beyond immediate donations, the goal of fundraising events is to remind alumni of their connection to the university and the community—and to give them something that compels them to give back. Don’t pressure yourself to ask every single person for a donation at the event. You can always follow up by email or phone immediately afterward.
1. One perfect time to ask alums to donate: immediately after your school wins a sports title, tournament, or game. Everyone’s feeling good and full of endorphins (and sometimes a drink or two). If you’re new to asking for donations, review the basics in our post, How to Ask for Donations.
2. If your team’s on a losing streak—or even if you’re winning—reach beyond the sports booster set and consider other athletic, academic, and extracurricular events. If you’ve never hosted a fundraising event, look to our post Seven Simple Tips for Hosting a Successful Fundraising Event for guidance.
Are speakers, musicians, or other performers visiting your college soon? Look at the calendar for concerts, lectures, or any other premiere events. Attend with your alumni group, followed by a shared cocktail hour. It’s easy to organize and a great setting to ask for donations to your cause.
If you’re raising money for a specific department, host events connected to its focus. For example, a film program might host a screening of a new or classic film, followed by a social gathering.
Foster a genuine connection to your cause
While many alumni are compelled to donate to the university in general, some donors are more motivated to donate—or to make larger donations—when they can see exactly where their money is going.
Introduce alumni who donate to scholarships or specific programs to the students their money supports. Ask students to write “thank-you” letters to donors who made things possible for them through scholarships and more.
Find a way to show alumni the clear difference their donations can make. To deepen alums’ connection to your cause, share photos and videos from your fundraiser. Speak and write about your personal connection to the cause—how a new facility, program, or scholarship will change things for you or students like you.
Spotlight shared experiences
Create the opportunity for mini-reunions. Approach alums who attended school together (in one year, or a short span of years) and host events that allow them to relive shared experiences.
Is there an anniversary of an important moment in the university’s history? Do members of a certain class share a specific bond? These can be great things to build events around. The experience you create for participating alumni is itself a shared experience—one that can strengthen alums’ bonds with each other and commitment to the school.
Appeal to their interests
As with any organized fundraiser, you’ll want to segment your audience so you can make specific pitches to different alumni groups. You could segment by age, graduation year, major, extracurricular interests, cultural and religious identification, sports played in school, fan status, season ticket holder status, past history of donating, and more.
Before writing your alumni donation request letter, review the tips in, Ten Donation Request Tips for Beginner Fundraisers. Whenever possible, personalize your communications.
Re-engage with alumni on social media
Your college has a presence on social media—leverage it to get the most out of your campaign. Work with the person or team who manages those accounts to create posts promoting your campaign. Target social media followers who like and follow the alumni group. Pay to promote your key posts, so they can be seen and shared by more people. Make effective use of tags. You can even create your own hashtag. The YouCaring platform is well-integrated with major social media platforms, making sharing and mobile giving a snap.
Make giving easy
Crowdfunding not only makes giving simple and fast, but it involves alumni in sharing your campaign. Find alums who are active on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, and ask them to share your posts. Our data shows that every time someone shares a campaign, it nets an average of $37 for a cause. Sharing allows alumni to give back in more ways than one.
Cultivate long-term relationships
Think about alumni giving as part of a larger ongoing relationship. University fundraising staff know that certain alumni give large amounts of money to the school many times over the span of their lives. These VIPs are given special treatment, not just before or after being asked for money, but continuously.
Even with smaller donors, take the long view. Remember that the relationship alumni have with the school, whether they’re VIPs or not, is lifelong.
Review the fundraising fundamentals
If you’re new to fundraising, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of our free resources about crowdfunding fundamentals, with a focus on how they might apply to your alumni fundraising campaign.
Types of donors
Generally speaking, there are five types of donors—learn about them in How to Secure the Five Types of Donors for Online Fundraising. Use your experience to further segment these types within your alumni group.
Mobile fundraising is an essential piece of the fundraising puzzle. Learn How Mobile Giving Makes Fundraising Easier Than Ever. To find out more about the latest trends in fundraising, see Take Advantage of 2018’s Top Online Fundraising Trends.
Fundraising mistakes to avoid
Nobody likes getting tripped up by pitfalls that could have been avoided. Learn how Successful Fundraisers Avoid These Common Mistakes.
Overcoming fundraising challenges
Even if your campaign starts with great momentum, you might hit a stall midway through. Learn how to deal with this and other challenges in Six Online Fundraising Challenges and How to Overcome Them.
Crowdfunding is key to collecting alumni donations
Crowdfunding gives colleges and universities a new and powerful tool. It allows alumni to both donate and share a campaign. And it can easily dovetail with your other efforts, including fundraising events. Don’t become a sad alumni donation statistic—get your share of that $10 billion alumni donation pie. If you haven’t set up your YouCaring crowdfunding campaign yet, get it rolling today.