Increasing Alumni Engagement at Private Schools

Alumni engagement is all about forming powerful connections that encourage former students to give back. Prior to graduation, they were on campus every day, creating memories to last a lifetime. Now, they're scattered across the country, making it difficult to maintain those relationships.

Alumni members make up the heart of your school. Nothing comes close to matching the support and connections they provide. And once that support is gone, it can be next to impossible to get it back.

Preferably, you should seek to engage alumni the moment they graduate. Otherwise, their support may begin to fade, leaving you without the emotional and monetary support your school needs.

However, don't let that discourage you. There are a number of ways to cultivate relationships with alumni that may even earn back the support of those who graduated decades ago. Here are a few effective strategies to help you get started.

Recognize That All Alumni Are Not The Same

7 out of 10 college grads leave with student loan debt. On average, those students owe $33,000. Whether your school is K-12 or a university, your alumni are likely facing debt in their future, or already possess it. Like it or not, these alumni will probably want to pay for their own education before funding someone else's.

On the other hand, there are many successful, older alumni who you should definitely ask for support. The point is that alumni span nearly all stages of life and financial situations. For schools seeking donations from alumni, segmenting is a must. 

Alumni associations have, at the very least, a contact's graduation year. With the rise in student debt over the years, this in itself may indicate a graduate's ability to donate.

Remain True To Your School's Brand

Alumni often look back on their school days with nostalgic memories rooted in its shared history. If your school has a historic building name, student cheering section, a statue on campus, former beloved faculty or fun athletic ritual, don't hesitate to play those heartstrings!

Stay Relevant

Staying trendy and tuned in with what is going on in the world should be top of mind when planning to engage your alumni. It could be something that is trending on social media, in the news or a popular sporting event. Almost any high-profile event can be turned into a fun way to engage this group.

Invest in a digital fundraising platform for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Schools of every size rely on funding to evolve. Directly involving alumni by encouraging them to raise funds themselves is a proven retention strategy. When they take their involvement to the next level, they feel much more involved in the success of your school. A digital fundraising platform allows your school to develop these relationships with much less effort. Here are some great ideas that the right fundraising program could bring to fruition:

Use automation to keep alumni engaged

To re-engage alumni, you need to constantly remind them of their roots. However, depending on the size of your school, this is probably impossible to do on a one-on-one level. That's where automation can help.

Instead of creating general messages that don't appeal to anyone, automation that adheres to segmentation allows you to create personalized appeals. In other words, automating communications is only half the process. The other half is ensuring that your messages reach receptive audiences.

To take it a step further, make combinations of segments for different appeals. For instance, start by drafting an appeal for a specific program that a list of donors avidly supports. Then, tailor that message based on the communication platform. That way, you're adhering to communication preferences while also engaging them based on common interests.

Once you've harnessed the power of automated marketing, create targeted newsletters and incorporate it into your fundraising campaigns. This way, alumni can stay up-to-date on what's happening at their alma mater while saving your development directors more time.

Organize giving events

Create powerful giving initiatives like a crowdfunding campaign, peer-to-peer fundraising or an annual giving day. 

Gamify fundraising

Nothing motivates alumni, or anyone for that matter, like a good competition. Turning fundraising into a game encourages alumni to compete for the top spot and reach important fundraising milestones for digital rewards.

Empower storytellers

Having a platform that identifies supporters with powerful stories is crucial. These stories allow you to build much more engaging campaigns that encourage other alumni to give. 

From payment processors to matching gift systems, fundraising strategy will absolutely involve several tech solutions. Make sure that your chosen platform interacts with the necessary software for your school, or better yet, find a service that provides everything you need in one package.

Implement P2P Fundraising for Recent Grads

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great fit for recent grads who may not initially want to or be able to donate. Your tech-savvy grads are used to navigating social networks. Giving them the opportunity to fundraise empowers within their own social circles gives them the ability to support their school with the skills and resources they have. Some friends and family may give simply to support the alumnus's goal, but fundraisers may also be able to reach other alumni for whom you don't have up-to-date contact information.

Here are a few tips on how to implement P2P fundraising:

Make it personal

Some alumni appeals can sound very impersonal and vague.
Whenever possible, ask alumni to fundraise for specific projects. Help create a personal connection for alumni by sending them an impact story relating to their department of study.

Give them a concrete goal

This is another way great way to make fundraising for the school a more focused effort. Offer concrete goals such as funding a specific scholarship, or sending a team to a regional playoff. Show your alumni the real-world impact they provide. Like just about any donor, they want to do good and make a difference.

Link it to Social Media

Use alumni groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to promote fundraising. A graduate can then create a page and share it with their friends and followers.

Give Alumni a Designated Place On Your Website


With most school websites focusing on prospects, it can be very easy to lose sight of your alumni. These pages are often tucked away in your site map, two or three clicks away from the homepage.

Two popular ways to engage alumni using your website are alumni Mini Sites and alumni portals.

Alumni Mini Sites can easily segment your alumni web presence. A Mini Site is an altered version of your main website that's specifically catered to a certain visitor. Consider creating an alumni Mini Site, with everything an alum would want to look for placed front and center with the primary focus of this website.

An alumni portal is a password-protected area where alumni have access to the same information listed above but in a private area.

Build a Lifelong Relationship


For alumni who have graduated in the past five years, fundraising should place its focus on building lasting relationships with high lifetime donor values. That eighteen to twenty-something that donates $25 could give more and more as their career progresses. Starting with a reasonable ask now can create a relationship that pays off big later on down the line.

To cultivate these long-term relationships means staying in contact with alumni. If a grad isn't interested in donating or fundraising, ask for up-to-date contact information so you can reach out later on.

Lastly, remember that a healthy relationship needs give and take. Make sure your alumni association is offering networking and reunion events with value to these potential donors. The goal is to be seen as a partner and a valuable resource, not an institution that just calls to ask for cash.

While it makes sense to ask for larger donations from older, more established alumni, make sure your university fundraising strategy provides giving options for your entire community. Like all organizations, your audience is made up of very different people and segmenting will allow you to communicate and fundraise more effectively.
 

See also
Campaign    Donation    Contact    Fund    DAT   
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