Today’s universities need to design and deliver fundraising campaigns that target, attract and engage young alumni – not only to turn them into today’s financial supporters, but even more importantly, to cultivate them into major donors down the road.
Below, we highlight 10 best practices to boost participation, engagement and revenues from young alumni campaigns:
1. Use Social Channels for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Most universities already grasp the importance of social media for engaging young alumni. However, many are not fully leveraging this platform by encouraging young alumni to ask friends, family and colleagues to donate on their behalf.
Obviously, this can increase revenues as more potential donors are reached in a friendly, informal manner that does not seem or feel like “selling”. But less obviously – and much more valuably – engaging young alumni in this way helps them emotionally connect and identify with their alma mater.
2. Promote Video Creating & Sharing
Create a series of clever, relatively short videos (under two minutes is good, under one minute is even better) that are tied to each campaign, and then encourage young alumni to share it with their professional and personal network. This can significantly boost participation rates, since millennials consume and share videos more than all others combined.
3. Recognize and Honor
Recognize and honor alumni of all ages and groups – including, of course, young alumni who are very influenced by their peers (who they perceive as more credible and trustworthy). Such recognition can be in the form of an award, an article in the alumni magazine, a press release, a photo or video posted to the alumni website and social media platforms, and so on.
4. Establish Gift Value
Ensure that young alumni understand the value of their gift, and how it will be used towards a worthy investment, program or cause. The idea is to help them look beyond the specifics of their donation – which may be (and probably will be) relatively small – and focus instead on the big picture, such as a new science research lab that will focus its research on x, y and z.
5. Leverage Club and Group Connections
When possible, tie donation requests to causes, social clubs or recreation clubs that young alumni were involved in as students. This can dramatically increase response and participation rates.
6. Set a Deadline
Typically, young alumni respond better when they are facing a time crunch. Universities can tap into this by creating a sense of urgency with campaigns, such as those that involve 1 or 2 day competitions.
The idea here is not to pressure or push young alumni into making a donation – after all, the ultimately goal here is to build a relationship. However, what universities wisely want is to avoid their campaign pushed onto the “I’ll think about this later” pile (i.e. the pile that rarely gets thought about again!). Rather, they want young alumni to think about it NOW, and ideally, decide that they are going to donate and be part of the solution.
7. Make it Fast and Easy to Donate
Ensure that the donation transaction process is fast, easy and safe, and can be completed online in 60 seconds or less. To learn more about this, read our previous articles on online payment processing vendors and options.
8. Use Personalized Ask Amounts
Use advanced software tools that identify personalized ask amounts, which are based on what each specific donor has the capacity to donate AND most willing to donate (these are not the same metrics!). With all donor groups – young alumni and others – personalized ask amounts are far more effective than level-based or open-ended ask amounts.
Follow-up with all young alumni donors, and let them know how their contribution has, is or will soon make a difference. If possible, send this follow-up via a hand written note. If this is not possible due to cost or resource constraints, a personal email from a current student, alumni or school faculty member are other great options.
10. Offer Value and Support
Last but not least: not all communication with young alumni should be about fundraising and campaigns! Send out resume tips, career advice, healthy living tips, debt management advice, and so on. This information is appreciated, and helps universities stay on the radar screen – which is valuable when it comes time to ask for donations down the road!