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3 Ways to Get Alumni to Give (Without Asking)

It’s the holiday season and giving is on everyone’s mind. However, that hasn’t been the case all year. Dating back to 2016, higher ed alumni giving dropped by over 8.5%. A slow economy and high student debt are partly to blame for a lag in alumni engagement. Another big reason? Overzealous solicitation by colleges and universities. But how can your institution capitalize on the giving season without actually asking people to give?

Studies show that a majority of alumni believe any communication their school sends them—from letters to emails—is an ask for donations before they even open it. This isn’t the way to build a positive, prolonged, and engaging relationship.

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s so important to make your alumni and students want to give. So how can you do that without asking?

Invite Them Back to Campus

While alumni may look back proudly on a lesson they learned or a project they did well on, chances are that their fondest memories are of the friends they made, the relationships they built—the community they were in.

Give them a chance to rebuild or even revisit that community. Notre Dame, for example, places emphasis on the “6 C’s:” camaraderie, communications, community service, continuing education, current students, and Christian spirituality. Focus on one or more of these C’s. Hold alumni mixers and dinners. Hold a community service event for alumni volunteers. Host conventions and conferences that get alumni back on campus and back into the role of student.

Most importantly, get them involved with current students. Host alumni panels and networking events. Some alumni may not have money to give right now, but they have a wealth of knowledge to share. Valuing their time as much as their money will go a long way. In fact, over 80% of alumni who volunteer on campus have either donated or plan to donate to their institution.

Tailor Your Messaging

When it comes to making your alumni want to give, tailoring your message is key. The same motivators you may use for baby-boomer alumni will definitely not work when it comes to young alumni. With different interests and different backgrounds, it makes sense that they’ll be motivated to give to different causes and concerns.

It’s important to have a frequent stream of content that gets them engaged and tells them about the campus issues and events they care about. Send out frequent blogs posts and emails, not to ask alumni for money, but to simply share some news with them. Is there a new building on campus? A new faculty member? Has the school been recognized with an award? You can also give them advice and build a stronger relationship with them. If you need help finding out more about their interests, higher ed inbound marketing tools like ReachBright can help track their online activity so you can see what aspects of your campus have attracted their attention most.

If you’re sending emails about the football program to former football players, or updates on the library’s collection to a former English major, those individuals may be more inclined to donate to the institution because they’ll see how their money is impacting what they care most about.

Tell Them A Story & Give Them a Say

Millennial alumni are the group of donors many colleges are looking to target; however, Millennials give differently than other generations. While an older generation may donate to a group or organization, Millennials are far more likely to donate to an individual cause. They may not be inclined to donate to the school as a whole, but if you have a scholarship student or a faculty member doing amazing, world-changing research, they are more likely to give to this individual, their fund, or their department.

Every university has an abundance of stories—of international students inventing the next big thing in healthcare, art students overcoming adversity, athletes beating the odds. Share these stories with alumni. Alumni want to give to experiences, not endowments. Show them the experiences they can help support.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to give them a say. If they decide to donate, let them choose where they would like their money to go.

Alumni engagement is changing. The methods that worked twenty years ago won’t work now. However, the motivation behind donating—building communities, reliving memories, and creating experiences—will always remain the same. If you get alumni back on campus, continue forming the communities they so fondly remember, and show them the impact your school is making in the lives of current students, they’ll be more likely to donate to keep it all alive. You won’t even have to ask.

Filed Under: Alumni Development

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