1 800 598 4050 [email protected] | | | |

Don’t be a victim to fundraising trends

You know the expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same?” Well it’s a great way to think about alumni fundraising. As new trends emerge, so do new pitfalls. It’s easy to make the same old mistakes, even as fundraising evolves (especially where technology is concerned).

If the fundraising responsibilities of your alumni association or house corporation are an ongoing source of frustration for you and other volunteers, you may be falling victim to one of these issues.

1. Crowdfunding your capital campaign

You’re familiar with crowdfunding and how successful it can be for emergency relief, special projects, and even launching new products. So when your property needs a new roof (or windows or furnace or floors), raising the funds should be as simple as creating a special page where donors can give. Right?

For affinity groups like fraternity alumni organizations, the donor lifecycle begins before your capital campaign starts—as in YEARS before. Groups who complete successful campaigns (or mini-campaigns to fund specific projects) have developed donor relationships through consistent, frequent cultivation. They treat every donor like they have the potential to make major gift, so when the time comes, donors are willing to make meaningful donations at all levels of the campaign pyramid.

Bottom line: Don’t assume you’ll be able to fund those big ticket items tomorrow unless you have a plan to cultivate your donors today.

2. Relying on email (because it’s free!)

Like all humans with smartphones permanently attached to their appendages, alumni have become more selective about emails they receive. The 2017 VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study found that 245 institutions of higher learning reported an alumni opt-out rate of 20% or more. While email might be “free,” remember another old saying: you get what you pay for. Blackbaud’s 2016 Charitable Giving Report indicates that only 4% of giving to higher education institutions are made online.

Email has its place in direct response fundraising, but use it wisely: readers demand compelling subject lines and relevant, meaningful content; make sure you can deliver.

Bottom line: Direct mail is still the workhorse of annual giving; it may cost more, but yields a significantly higher ROI in the short-term and long term (see point 1 above).

3. Skimping on benefits

Alumni associations exist for the benefit their members. Say it with us: alumni associations exist for the benefit of their members. Yet fewer alumni organizations report offering any benefits at all, possibly believing that social media is taking their place in keeping alumni connected and planning alumni events like reunions and annual get-togethers. Volunteering for an alumni group can be overwhelming, especially for a fraternity, but don’t abdicate your role to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Focus on the personal value of the alumni experience. In other words, what do your alumni want? What’s in it for them?

The 2017 VAESE study officially reports that the most successful alumni groups offer the following benefits:

•    Content-driven benefits, like targeted, engaging communications both digital and print;
•    Career-focused benefits like networking, virtual and real-life; and
•    Events, like reunions, chapter events and special recognitions.

The VAESE study shows that 98% of the top earners among alumni groups will use at least one of these highly-rated alumni benefits to improve donor engagement, even as more alumni organizations phase out benefits.

Bottom line: Social media won’t fill the gap for true alumni benefits. Offering your alumni the benefits they want will pay off in donors and dollars.