Engaging Alumni: 7 Steps to Convert New Graduates into Future Donors
Your students just graduated. What can you do to ensure long-term engagement among this group of graduates? If an alumnus doesn’t donate within 10 years of graduating, there’s a good chance you’ve lost them forever. Even though alumni fundraising is a long game, your advancement team should think about engaging alumni as soon as they graduate. Follow these 7 steps to build an alumni engagement strategy that results in a lifetime of giving.
Step 1: Don’t Lose Touch
When your current student body is graduating, make sure that they stay in touch with your institution. Have them join your Facebook or LinkedIn groups. Prompt them to follow you on Instagram or Snapchat. You may have an overall account for your institution and others for different departments. Encourage them to join both.
It is not enough for these alumni to simply follow you on social networks. You will also need to keep them engaged on these channels. This means you will also need to create engaging content on these channels constantly. Moreover, you will need to stay active on all platforms. For instance, you can post news about the achievements of other alumni and ask them to share what’s going on in their lives.
Similarly, sending an engaging alumni newsletter should be part of your strategy. Your newsletter is another good way to remain in touch. You can use it to highlight institutional achievements, news about your institution, and career opportunities within the network.
Step 2: Connect Alumni to The Next Batch of Students
When it comes to engaging alumni, it’s important to make them feel like they are still part of the community. Most higher education institutions hesitate to connect current students to alumni. This stems from a fear of tapping the alumni network out.
Your alumni engagement strategy should give your alumni control over communication between themselves and current students. Invite them to become mentors. This gives them the power to say yes or no. Further, it allows them to feel connected to your university and feel like they are giving back.
In fact, your current students will have a lot to gain from connecting with relevant alumni. By doing this, you are already grooming current students for long-term engagement with your institution.
Step 3: Connect Alumni to Each Other
You’ve found ways to keep in touch with your alumni base. Now it’s time to create connections among them. For example, you can encourage former students to join alumni network chapters in their cities.
So, how will these steps lead to enhanced fundraising?
The fact is that you have to establish a strong connection with recent graduates. Engaging alumni is the foundation of fundraising. They have to feel a sense of community within your institution. When recent graduates are dealing with student loans and the beginnings of their careers, it can be the wrong time to ask for gifts. At this stage, it’s important to establish a connection more than anything else.
By doing this, you are setting the stage for your long-term alumni engagement strategy.
Step 4: Engage Alumni by Appealing to their Interests
Your alumni engagement strategy has to have a long-term view. The next step is to understand alumni interests. Doing this provides you two benefits:
First, it tells you more about your alumni body in general. Second, it makes alumni engagement more effective. For instance, when you know that a subgroup of alumni is interested in the arts, you can create events that appeal to their interests. When events are catered to alumni interests, they are more likely to attend them and thereby stay connected to your institution.
Moreover, you can strengthen alumni-student relationships by connecting the right people with each other. When these relationships prove effective, it increases your credibility in the long-term.
Step 5: Screen Your Network Regularly
You may already have an understanding of an alumnus’ background and interests from the time of admission to graduation. Wealth screening can enhance your view of them. Screening can help you understand how they live, give, and save.
Alumni status and life stages are constantly changing. As a matter of fact, recent graduates tend to move often until they establish themselves. This move may be geographical or professional.
Northwestern University is a prime example. Their Development Research and Prospect Management team found it challenging to match addresses in their alumni base. Using WE Screen allowed them to match 31,000 alumni with new addresses.
Regular screenings help you ensure that you are always working with updated information. Additionally, screening can add valuable information on alumni wealth, lifestyle, interests, and affinities. Engaging alumni becomes easier when you are working with a fuller picture.
Moreover, if you have API integration enabled, you can automatically receive updated data in your DMS.
Step 6: Personalize your ask
Understanding prospects beyond their wealth is the first step towards personalized alumni engagement. When you understand what makes an alumnus tick, you can speak their language.
You should personalize not only your message but also the medium of communication. For instance, some alumni may be interested in attending a wine-tasting event in their city. Similarly, some may be more likely to respond to an invite sent via direct mail. Others may be more responsive to a phone call. Personalization boosts your alumni engagement strategy by making your message resonate.
When it comes to asking for a donation, personalization plays a major role. Using screening data and insights gives you an idea of a person’s gift capacity, propensity, and intent. You can rank prospects based on propensity and intent. This way you’re only appealing to those alumni who are most likely to donate. Your ask can also be customized to each donor based on their capacity.
Step 7: Show the impact of their donations
Once you have converted prospects into donors, it’s important to keep them engaged. Engaging alumni in the long-term results in recurring donations, a path to major gifts or even planned giving.
The most effective way to keep them engaged is to show them what their dollars have helped you achieve. For instance, you can show a microbiology alumnus that their donation helped you restore a lab. This helps them understand the direct impact of their gift. Further, it resonates with their interest in the subject. They have helped you provide top-notch facilities for future students of microbiology. When they understand how they are helping uplift future contributors to their field, it makes them more interested in giving again.
Transform Alumni Engagement Strategy with WealthEngine 9
These steps should help you have a long-term view on engaging alumni. Learn more about how WealthEngine9 (WE9) is changing the fundraising landscape.