By: Sally Lutz
One of the biggest struggles that universities face when it comes to alumni is finding convincing ways to encourage them to give back to their alma mater once they have left. Since donation requests usually begin as soon as students graduate, young alumni can feel especially opposed to immediately donating to their university.
In fact, according to a recent survey of alumni from the nation’s top 100 universities created by Engaging Strategies Group, 8 out of 10 young alumni believe that they have already given enough of their money to their university and don’t necessarily plan on donating in the future.
Understandably, brand new graduates can feel overwhelmed with looming student loan balances, managing their personal expenses as young professionals and breaking out into the “real world” away from college, which may leave them feeling unable to donate initially. While this demographic of young alumni may not be as privy to initially opening their checkbooks, it is important to be persistent.
So what are the best ways we can encourage young alumni from feeling like this in the first place?
- Establish a connection with your alumni before they leave. Many times, alumni can feel like just another number instead of an individual. Whether you are a small, private school or a large public university, building connections is key. Reach out to your alumni and build a relationship, and start before they graduate. Begin communications with them about the importance of alumni support while they are still there so they can see the difference it makes for them and start to understand the impact they can make in the future, both on incoming students and how they can maintain an important connection with the university throughout their lives. If they see how appreciative the school is of alumni while still in school, they will know that their future contributions will be appreciated too.
- Personalize the ask. Personalization is essential when asking for a financial contribution. Alumni don’t want to just be asked for money, they want to know you’re appreciative of their individual support as well. Utilize technology to specifically target the audience you are approaching and customize surveys, mailers and emails to your fullest extent, including programs and activities they were involved in to build that personal connection.
- Get young alumni involved in the bigger picture. Many times when asked to donate money to their university, alumni don’t necessarily know exactly what the money is going towards, providing a higher risk of losing the opportunity to capture donations. When requesting donations, include a current compelling project that the university is working on, and how it may have tied into the young alum’s time at the school. Let them know where the school is going in terms of growth and how much each contribution means, no matter how big or small. This will not only encourage alumni to provide the finances you seek, but will let them feel like there is something in it for them as well, helping the school make forward progress, even if the donations start small.
Focus on personal connections to encourage young alumni to give back to their alma mater, which will help your alumni program and your young alumni involvement grow.
Sally Lutz is an Account Manager at BlueSky Creative. Before joining the team at BlueSky, Sally studied Early Education and Advertising at Xavier University and taught in Cincinnati Public Schools.