If you work in fundraising, you know that effective communication is all about reaching the right people, with the right message, in the right way. But no two audiences are the same. And your independent school or university’s alumni want to hear a specific message before they give!
Fundraising for education is a lot like traditional nonprofit development in many ways. For example, you’ll need to express gratitude for everything your constituents have helped you achieve. And you’ll need to use multiple channels to share a cohesive message.
But raising money and building an outreach strategy for schools and colleges is a different animal in many ways too! Especially when it comes to alumni outreach.
You’ll want to keep your alumni in the loop about the school’s current news and activities. And they may be more interested in learning what other alumni are accomplishing more than a donor would care about what others who give to a nonprofit are up to.
But this is just the beginning. Let’s dive in and determine what your alumni want to hear before they donate!
1. Expressions of gratitude.
Unlike traditional nonprofits, we’re not just talking about showing how thankful you are for someone’s donation. Of course, it is important to thank alumni who give to your school and let them know the impact of their gift.
So first, thank them for any significant contributions they made to your school as a student way back when. This can include things like thanking an athlete for their role in bringing your school a championship title. Thank former students who were instrumental in growing specific clubs or other extracurricular activities.
And thank them for being living proof that your school is achieving its goals!
Then, you can focus on thanking alumni who have supported your school financially since graduating. Demonstrate the impact of their support and let them know how they are helping current students follow in their successful footsteps.
READ MORE: Can your nonprofit send better thank you’s?
2. What’s new at the school.
There’s probably a lot that someone who graduated 20, 10, or even five years ago wouldn’t know about their school. After all, alumni no longer walk the halls and see what’s going on day-to-day. They don’t have that same inside look anymore. Unless you provide it for them.
So, you need to build some messaging to keep them in the loop!
Of course, this includes updating alumni about your progress on and the impact of any fundraising initiatives. But it should also include more general news alumni want to hear!
For example, let alumni know if a long-time faculty member is retiring. They may be fascinated to learn their sophomore English teacher stayed at the school for another 15 years after they graduated. Let alumni, especially former athletes, know about any major additions or improvements to your athletic facilities.
And of course, let them know how contributions from alumni like themselves are helping make all of this possible. They will be excited to hear that the next generation is benefiting from everything you loved about the school years later!
3. Share success stories.
Speaking of good news, who doesn’t love to hear that an old friend is doing well?
And this is especially true when we share the success of people we can identify with. So, don’t hesitate to send an email to let your alumni know when one of their peers accomplishes something amazing!
Former students will be excited to learn someone they once ate lunch with launched a successful startup and is now leading a multi-million-dollar company. Or that a star athlete on their team is now getting their first shot at the major leagues.
It’s a good feeling knowing “one of your own” is doing great things in the world. And it speaks to the power of the place where you both spend your formative years.
And you’d be surprised how many new success stories you’ll find when you share one. A lot of your alumni are probably doing amazing things. And they may not think of reaching out to you to let you know about it on their own!
However, they may feel more inclined to share their own success with you when they hear about the great things their fellow alumni are up to.
Use tact when you ask.
Your alumni want to hear many things from you. But nothing in your outreach should make them feel like you’re just looking to make a quick buck.
So, you probably won’t need to build a separate appeal just for alumni in your current campaign strategy. But you should make a separate audience segment of alumni when you send your year-end appeal and other major solicitations.
And be sure to version these appeals to speak to alumni more directly. For example, adding simple phrases like “This is possible because of the support of alumni like you” can make a big difference!