When people think of college fundraising, most of us immediately associate the process with unsolicited awkward phone calls where overly-enthusiastic students recite talking points about their alma mater to alumni. And most of the time, these conversations end up with uncomfortable and wildly optimistic requests for donations.
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Cold calling alumni isn’t the only fundraising technique colleges use, but it certainly is the most ubiquitous one. The problem is that many alumni want to support their alma mater but are frequently put off by fundraising techniques that are outdated.
The good news here is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There are numerous ways to bring college fundraising into the 21st century, improve overall giving, and build strong relationships with alumni. Here are three helpful tips to help you with college fundraising by engaging and leveraging your alumni network more effectively.
Stop relying on awkward fundraising cold calls and generic emails. Instead, start using a wide variety of communication techniques in your fundraising efforts to identify the ones that get the best response. Alumni don’t like it when their former colleges’ get in touch with them only when they require donations.
To avoid this, consider using a powerful alumni management tool to assist you in building and cultivating your alumni network before asking for anything in return. This way, you’ll keep in touch with all former students, follow their professional development, encourage networking and collaboration, and finally, have all of your college’s former students at one place to ask for donations and fundraising when needed.
Afterward, you can ask them to opt-in to your SMS broadcasts or email service. When they do, ask them what their preferred mode of communication with the college is. Again, you’re likely to get multiple preferences, so it’s essential to have a multi-channel outreach plan in place and not only cold calling.
According to the book “First, break all the rules,” the highest expectation customers have from businesses is advice. Consequently, people feel a close bond for companies that helped them learn, which, fortunately, is why colleges exist. The other three things that customers want to get from companies are availability, partnership, and accuracy.
Like any type of business, these four values should forever be embedded in your alumni relations department. Because when all four are met, you develop a healthy environment where alumni are likely to become repetitive donors and advocates for their former college.
When you create content for your alumni, make sure to target these four values. Are you creating enough valuable information and resources that your alumni need and want? Do your former students think of their alma mater as a trustworthy source for sound advice and reliable information?
Nevertheless, the prospect of creating and updating content regularly might feel daunting. On the other hand, you have hundreds of people on your campus who are experts in all sorts of things, from macroeconomics to literature and criminal law. Don’t hesitate to call upon students, professors, and even alumni to help you develop relevant, engaging, and valuable information for your alumni.
Offering incentives to donors on specific campaigns can drive better response and conversion rates for that particular campaign. However, submitting incentives for one particular campaign doesn’t guarantee alumni commitment for other campaigns. To address this and leverage incentives for repeated contributions to alumni donors and fundraisers, consider implementing the following techniques:
- Send out donation appeals to prospects, offering them different options and incentivizing each with proportionate gifts, like donating $50 to get a Facebook shoutout, donating $500 to get exclusive autographed college merchandise, etc.
- Segment small and medium donors for a more significant donation appeal the next time. Mention the name or number of alumni who upgraded the amount to leverage communitarianism.
- Establish special clubs dedicated to small donors, medium donors, significant donors, regular significant donors, and more, giving the alumni free access to college amenities, annual free goodies, etc.
- Undertake actual measures to retain all first-time donors. As in business, it’s more expensive to acquire new donors than to maintain your existing ones, even if they contribute small amounts.
All in all, college alumni fundraising can be quite a daunting task for each school. For that reason, when it comes to garnering support, you must not let your alumni fall through the cracks. Rather than that, make sure to enable multiple giving opportunities and incentives to motivate your former students and establish a strong line of communication and donations. Alumni support is essential to your college’s success, so start incorporating these three helpful tips and boost your fundraising efforts today.