Best practices for alumni fundraising (plus strategy tips)

Many universities are facing a tough season due to reduced funding. Universities are also not treated the same as other non-profit organizations by the public and government. These and many other funding challenges have made it difficult for universities to focus on what they do best – research and teaching.

This is why many universities rely on their alumni to be their major source of funding.

This is why many universities rely on their alumni to be their major source of funding.

Source: EverTrue

If this is an issue that hits close to home (or you know someone who can relate) then this article is for you. Sit back, relax, and read on to discover some alumni fundraising strategies to help you drive donations for your university.  

Alumni fundraising – 3 Tips to help you drive more donations

Ready to ramp up your alumni fundraising to ensure that the next generation stands a good chance of getting quality higher education? Here are three fundraising tips you can use to get more donations for your university.

1. Make your marketing campaign about your alumni

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make when running a fundraising campaign is to make it about the university. While the institution is interesting in itself, make the focus of the fundraising campaign about your target audience, the alumni.

How do you shift your marketing message from the institution to its alumni?

Change your language

Shift your language from “the university” to “your university.” Ownership is a powerful motivation for greater responsibility. By using language that makes alumni feel like the patrons of their university, you’ll definitely see an improvement in participation. 

Leverage their experiences

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. Leverage your alumni’s experiences at your university to create stories they can easily relate to. When it comes to alumni fundraising strategies, telling stories, particularly experience’s the alumni were a part of, is a great way to grab attention. Not only that, but it also helps you build strong emotional ties between the university and its alumni. As you well know, when it comes to fundraising, emotions play a big role.

One of the best alumni fundraising strategies you can implement is successfully making the alumni of your university embrace the institution as their own. Run your marketing campaigns in such a way that your alumni will feel compelled to take ownership of the vision. 

2. Use influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has taken the marketing world by storm and has helped marketers increase sales. You can also use it as one of your alumni marketing strategies. Of course, this can only work if you have an influencer with ties to the institutions. Don’t worry though, I’m not talking about the likes of the Kardashians. An influencer is simply someone people look up to and would be proud to be associated with.

When it comes to using influencer marketing as an alumni fundraising strategy, look for an influencer who:

  • Has attended your university

  • Is from the town your university is located

  • Friends or family graduated from your university

One of the biggest reasons to get an influencer who has ties to your institution is that it gives the campaign authenticity. People are clever and know when you’re pulling a publicity stunt to trick them into giving. Authenticity, therefore, allows your alumni to feel connected to a person they can relate their own college experience to.

3. Turn it into a community project

Many non-profits succeed in fundraising because they build a community around a cause. Donors become partners—not just individual proponents of a cause. Building a community of alumni is a great way to ensure that you have a good donor base you can start with when raising funds for your university.

To succeed in building a community of alumni:

  • Run an event: Running an event that is exclusive to your alumni is a great way to bring your alumni together and turn them into the stewards of your university. You can also use this event to cast your vision and give progress reports.

  • Create an email list: Create an email list that you will use to regularly communicate with your alumni. Use your emails to let your audience know that they are part of a bigger cause and that their fellow alumni appreciate their standing with them.

Create an email list that you will use to regularly communicate with your alumni.

Source: Pinterest

There are many other ways to build camaraderie among your alumni but these two should be able to get you started. Now, let’s take a closer look at how you can use email as an effective alumni fundraising strategy.

How to use email as an alumni fundraising strategy

Is email really a good way to raise donations through your alumni? The resounding answer is—absolutely. Email is a powerful marketing strategy that can be used to achieve many goals, whether for profit or simply to get donations.

So how can you make email work for you as an alumni fundraising strategy?

Use segmentation

Remember the email list we just talked about? Well, it’s a very important asset when it comes to fundraising. However, in order to use it effectively, you have to segment it. Segmentation simply means grouping people with the same demographics together. Examples of the criteria you can use to create your segments can include:

  • Graduation year

  • Fraternity

  • Donation history (to the university)

By segmenting your email list, it becomes easier to manage.

Send personalized emails 

When it comes to email marketing, one mistake marketers for non-profit organizations make is sending a blanket donation request email to everyone on their list. Doing this will not move your readers to partner with your fundraising drive. To ensure that people open and interact with your email, it's important to send emails that are tailored to your audience. 

To ensure that people open and interact with your email, you have to send emails that are tailored to your audience

Source: Emma

Remember our email segmentation strategy? 

Well, this is where it comes into play. By segmenting your alumni, you can craft an email that resonates with them and ties your message to those factors that you used to group them together. For example, if you segment them according to a fraternity, you can use a popular fraternity story or even reference a rite of passage and tie it to your cause. 

People’s lives are cluttered, and so are their inboxes. Emails are given a casual look before being deleted. However, if you send personalized emails, not only will you get your readers attention, but more often than not, you will also get their participation.

Keep them engaged

Nothing is as irritating as a friend who only visits when they need something. Yet that’s what many marketers do – they only communicate when looking for a donation. This is a sure way to get your emails ignored.

Instead of sending a couple of emails in a year soliciting for donations, use email to build a relationship with your alumni. To do this, send regular emails updating them on developments at their university. One good way to do this is to create a newsletter that you can send out at predetermined intervals (quarterly perhaps) just to make sure that you build a healthy relationship with your alumni. Don’t take newsletters lightly, they are a great alumni fundraising strategy as they:

  • Keep your alumni connected to the institution

  • Are a great platform to showcase the good being done through the donations

  • Can be used to give a heads up concerning an event

If you’re not using this strategy yet, it’s not too late to get started. Design an informative and interesting newsletter and your readers will definitely help you raise the funds needed to keep your university running well.

Use mobile-responsive templates

Just because your institution is old doesn’t mean your marketing should be old school. Research shows that more emails are being consumed on mobile devices than those being read on desktop devices. In fact, according to research conducted by Adestra, emails that don’t display correctly on mobile devices are likely to be deleted in 3 seconds.

One thing you need to remember is that we are living in a mobile generation. People would rather consume emails on the go, and if you miss this opportunity to get your emails read, you may not get it again.

Wrap up

Fundraising is never without its challenges. However, by employing the right strategies and tactics you can ensure that you garner the support of your alumni to keep your institution running. With this comprehensive list of alumni fundraising strategies, you can get the funding you need. So, go ahead and put them into practice.  

For more tips on email marketing for non-profits check out our Modern Marketer’s Field Guide for Nonprofits. It will give you deeper insight on how to map out an email marketing strategy that will help you increase your donations.

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