Universities are crucial and transformative environments where young adults learn, grow, and begin taking the first steps toward their careers and adult lives. Alumni giving is the fuel that keeps the engine of higher education going. That’s why every higher education institution not only needs an alumni giving program, but needs a highly-functioning one that’s powered by the latest tools and best practices. This guide will cover all of the essentials your institution needs to level up your alumni giving program:
- What Is Alumni Giving?: FAQ
- Essential Elements of Successful Alumni Giving Program
- DonorSearch and Intelligent Alumni Fundraising
Whether you’re a small, local college or a sprawling four-year state university, alumni giving is crucial for helping your institution provide for its students and reach its expansion goals. Start engaging your alumni and increasing your fundraising totals with the best alumni giving tools and tips. Let’s get started!
What is Alumni Giving?: FAQ
Why Is Alumni Giving Important?
From providing community spaces and events to excellent education opportunities, housing, dining, and unique activities for students to find their interests, funding for universities is important for the development of the next generation of adults. All of this becomes possible because of the generosity of alumni, and other donors, who understand how impactful universities can be.
University fundraising, especially from alumni, helps universities realize all of these programs, resources, and activities for their students.
How Is Alumni Giving Revenue Used?
Because universities provide so much for students, especially four-year institutions where students live on campus, there are a wide variety of uses for alumni giving funds. Some of these include:
- The operating budget. A lot of alumni giving revenue goes to the general operating budget, which works to ensure that the college can afford its costs and stays running.
- Scholarships to current students. Often, alumni gifts are used specifically to help current students. These alumni-funded scholarships help more students get access to a high-quality education.
- Unique and meaningful programs. Alumni often recall student programs that had a major impact on their college career. From study abroad opportunities to connecting students with real-life professionals, these programs genuinely elevate the entire university experience.
- Campus renovations. With alumni gifts, universities can provide libraries and learning centers full of educational resources as well as other campus facilities to optimize the learning experience.
Depending on the unique needs of your university, you may solicit donations for a specific renovation or program or just accept general alumni donations year-round that can be primarily used for your operational budget.
What Is a Good Alumni Giving Rate?
Alumni participation rate is one of the best indicators of how your alumni giving efforts are performing. The higher your alumni participation rate is, the more effective your engagement efforts are, and the more you’re likely fundraising!
To calculate your alumni participation rate, first determine your total alumni donor count. Then, divide that number by the number of overall alumni on record. For instance, if you have 100,000 overall alumni and 10,000 are donors, you have an alumni participation rate of 10%.
While there is no one definitive number that is “good,” you should be aware of your alumni participation rate and should always be working to improve it.
Essential Elements of Successful Alumni Giving
Each of these sections will give a brief introduction to why these are important for alumni giving and how they can be done/used to improve alumni giving.
While general appeals can sometimes work to garner donations, using a more informed approach to alumni donation solicitation will give you better results for less effort. This is where prospect research comes into the picture.
Prospect research uses a combination of philanthropic and wealth indicators to identify the affinity and capacity to give of different individuals. This information helps you to send appropriate and targeted solicitations that will increase the chance of securing major gifts from your alumni.
While prospect research can be done manually, it’s not only cumbersome but time-consuming. To effectively begin identifying your top prospects, your fundraising team will be better off investing in high-quality software that can improve and automate the prospect research process for you.
A Communication Strategy
Even when you know which alumni to ask for larger donations, you still need a broader communication strategy. This can help you engage first-time donors, increase affinity to give among more hesitant prospects, and educate alumni about involvement opportunities they may not have known about before. A few simple ways to improve your communication strategy include:
- Engage in multi-channel marketing. Marketing to your alumni on different channels will enable you to engage more potential donors from different age groups. Not all of your alumni are on social media!
- Communicate frequently. Experts estimate that it takes between seven and 12 touchpoints to effectively engage a donor. Keep in touch with your alumni regularly so that you’re always top of mind.
- Leverage your annual report. Your annual report showcases all your accomplishments over the past twelve months. Create a version that will engage your alumni and drive them to donate!
- Always express appreciation. Whether they attended an event, made a small donation, or a large one, don’t pass up an opportunity to thank your alumni for their engagement with your university.
An effective communication strategy not only makes sure that your existing donors don’t forget about you but also helps you engage more potential donors who may not have interacted with you before.
Matching Gift Marketing
As alumni of an esteemed institution, it’s a safe assumption that most of your alumni who have the capacity to give are currently employed, potentially by large companies with corporate giving programs.
This is excellent news for your alumni giving program because it increases the likelihood that your alumni can get their donations matched. Not only does this instantly double their impact, but one in three donors also indicate they’d give a larger gift if a match is applied to their donation.
For both of those reasons, marketing matching gifts to your alumni and donors is crucial for increasing your fundraising totals. Many alumni may not even know that their employer offers matching gifts or how they work. Sharing this information with donors can greatly increase the chance that they donate and get their donations matched. Consider marketing matching gifts on your social media or in your next email newsletter!
DonorSearch and Intelligent Alumni Fundraising
When it comes to managing alumni giving from identifying top prospects to creating robust profiles and securing donor data, there is no better partner than DonorSearch. DonorSearch has the next generation of fundraising tools that utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to help you fundraise more successfully than ever before.
DonorSearch’s advanced AI and machine learning technology has incredibly accurate prospect prediction capabilities that can make a huge difference in your alumni stewardship. Some of the predictions include:
- Who’s going to donate in the next 30 days
- Non-donors most likely to make their first gift
- Donors who are most likely to donate again
- Donors who are most likely to give over $250
- Donors who are most likely to respond (engagement score)
- The best way to reach out to a donor
Not only will you have superior prospect prediction, but the longer you use DonorSearch, the better the algorithm will become at making predictions due to DonorSearch’s machine learning capabilities.
AI and machine learning are the future. DonorSearch can allow your higher education institution to take the next step forward for automated and accurate donor prospecting.