In this blog series, we're focusing on how Higher Educational Institutions use technology to communicate with and engage their students and alumni. Don't miss the first installment, covering how Student Activities offices are using digital tactics to increase engagement on campus!
Alumni giving is an important part of a university’s financial program, but it requires a significant amount of time and effort to cultivate alumni into lifelong supporters of their alma mater. In order to be loyal donors, alumni must feel that they are part of a thriving college community. With so many other influences vying for their time, attention, and financial support, it can be difficult for Alumni Engagement offices to ensure that alumni are retaining a sense of connection to the university. Luckily, technology can make this process easier, enabling universities to communicate with alumni effectively and cultivate deep relationships over time.
1. Digital communication that stands out
Email programs are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to reach alumni, but increasingly overflowing inboxes can mean that many emails go unread, or skimmed and deleted. To make sure that your digital correspondence stands out from the rest, make it as personalized as possible, so that your alumni don’t feel like they are only getting impersonal mass communication. Use a targeted email program to segment your list based on various characteristics, and create custom email series to show alumni that you are invested in them as individuals. Personalized content could include different email series for alumni based on how recently they graduated, what they majored in, the field that they currently work in, and more. Personalized content shows alumni that they are valued as part of the college community, and will increase their sense of connection.
If your digital program is still struggling to boost engagement, ask alumni what they want to hear about from you! Using surveys to ask for input shows alumni that their thoughts are valued. Surveys are also a useful tool for keeping up-to-date demographic information about location, professional field, and more.
2. Effective management of major gifts relationships
Maintaining relationships with alumni who are considered major donors is a process that requires flexibility, detail, and the ability to capture personal details about individual relationships in an accessible way. A database built for managing major gifts can streamline and organize this process, allowing alumni fundraisers to save time and effectively target and maximize the asks made of alumni. Using a donor management database feature such as EveryAction’s Moves Management Action Plans allows fundraisers to easily view an alum’s entire relationship history, as well as a quick snapshot of their current and overall status.
Additionally, major gifts software allows fundraisers to monitor summary data on the total number of prospects in the pipeline, view total ask amounts, projected amounts and committed amounts, and visualize pipeline data broken down by solicitor, allowing you to compare fundraisers' or gift officers' progress to goals.
3. Clear and simple online donation forms
It’s no secret that more and more people, especially more recent younger alumni, prefer online communication, so it is crucial that alumni are easily able to interact with their alma mater through the internet, including for fundraising purposes. Simple, clear, fast, and easy-to-use online donation forms can greatly increase the amount that you are able to raise. It’s also extremely important that online donation forms are optimized for mobile viewing as well, so that whether your alumni are accessing it from their desktop computers or mobile phones, the forms are persuasive and easy to use. Other online features that make it easier for alumni to stay connected include self-service portals where they can update changes in their contact information and peer-to-peer fundraising capability which allows your most engaged alumni to act as ambassadors to their peers.
4. Data-driven direct marketing campaigns
While the internet is an incredibly popular way of communicating with alumni, classic direct marketing techniques such as Direct Mail and telemarketing continue to form the backbone of many fundraising programs. Maximizing the effectiveness of offline marketing programs in the digital age requires meticulous collection and attention to the data from both programs, to ensure that they complement and enhance each other. First and foremost, using the same database to run both online and offline programs ensures that fundraisers are able to segment lists effectively, based on a comprehensive picture of alumni involvement. Whether you are sending a mailing or running a call center, tracking all of the information in one place will allow more informed programs and easy calculation of ROI.
The key to running a cost-effective direct mail program is effective testing. Unlike email programs, which allow users to run multivariate testing with almost instance results, direct mail tests are much slower and more expensive. However, tools like EveryAction's Direct Response Plans enable effective use of data for segmentation and customized ask strings, and make the process of testing your mail pieces as simple as possible. The same hold true for telemarketing, phone tools such as a predictive dialer maximize the amount of phone calls that a call center can make, while centralizing all of the data collected by callers.
5. Social media integrations and monitoring
More than 80% of the US populationhas at least one social media profile, making it one of the best ways to connect with alumni, even reaching those who may not have current email addresses or phone numbers on file. With the ability to run a digital ad program directly through your database, you’ll be able to reach your alumni where they are. Advanced social media matching features also allow you to easily see what social networks your alumni are using, to find out the best places and subjects to engage them on. As alumni continually turn to social networks to stay in touch with their peers after graduation, alumni engagement personnel should also view social media as a way for former students to continue developing a connection to their university.
Keeping alumni connected to their campus identity and community is crucial to successful fundraising. In a fast-paced, multi-channel world, universities need up-to-date technology and strategy in order to effectively reach and retain alumni donors. Click below to learn more about the digital tools you need to maximize the effects of your alumni engagement program!