Four years of college go by in the blink of an eye. It’s easy to engage students while they’re on your campus, but it’s more difficult to encourage alumni to stay involved once they’ve graduated.
To keep alumni as strong supporters of your school community, you can’t rely on intuition alone. You need to back up your alumni engagement decisions using your donor database.
In this article, we’ll go over our top ideas for alumni donor data collection and usage to maximize the support you gain from past students. Let’s get started!
1. Conduct prospect research.
AlumniFinder explains that prospect research is a way for institutions to check their alumni’s capacity and willingness to give. Conducting this type of research allows you to narrow your scope of which alumni to reach out to and maximize the chances they’ll give back to your school.
Prospect research entails collecting two different types of donor data:
- Wealth data. To determine an alum’s capacity to give, look for pertinent financial information, such as business affiliations, stock ownership, and home value.
- Philanthropic data. Perhaps even more important is an alum’s willingness to give, which can be evaluated using personal information, past giving, and higher education engagement history.
With this data in mind, you can reach out to alumni who are likely to respond to your fundraising appeals. Additionally, this data can help you identify potential major donors who will give large gifts to support your school community. These donors have the opportunity to significantly increase your fundraising revenue, so make sure to follow up with them and show your gratitude when they contribute.
2. Append missing alumni donor data.
Looking through your customer relationship management (CRM) system, you might notice that you’re missing some alumni donor data. To open up as many alumni fundraising and engagement opportunities as possible, conduct a data append.
Appending data involves supplementing your database with information from third-party sources. Then, you can use that data to upgrade your fundraising strategy.
For example, let’s say you’re running a direct mail campaign, but you don’t have updated addresses for all of your alumni. Using a data append, you can find and add these addresses to your donor database, empowering you to reach as many alumni as possible.
Other types of data you can append include contact information—such as phone numbers and email addresses—and demographic information—such as marital status and location.
3. Run a text message campaign.
After you conduct a data append, you can leverage the new data you have for better fundraising results. If you decide to append phone numbers, try running a text message campaign to use this data to its fullest potential.
According to Tatango’s guide to higher education texting, this type of campaign is effective because 93% of people with a college degree or higher have a cell phone. Additionally, text messages have a 99% open rate and a 90% read rate within three minutes of sending. Therefore, text message fundraising is particularly well-suited for this audience and is extremely effective at encouraging responses.
One way you can incorporate text messaging into your fundraising strategy is by using it to promote university giving days or wider fundraising initiatives like GivingTuesday. Since people respond to text messages so quickly, you can leverage text message fundraising near the end of your campaign to create a sense of urgency. Let alumni know what your fundraising goal is and how much more money you have left to raise to entice them to show their support.
4. Encourage matching gifts.
If you have employer data for your alumni, you can use it to encourage matching gifts. When alumni donate to your institution, they may be eligible to have their donations matched by their employers. However, many donors aren’t aware if their employer has a matching gift program or not, so they end up leaving money on the table that could go back to your school.
To prevent this from happening, you can leverage employer data to research your alumni’s employers’ matching gift programs. Take note of which employers participate in matching gifts, and notify your alumni to send matching gift requests to their eligible employers. That way, you can double or even triple the donation revenue for your school.
You can make the matching gift request process even easier by using a matching gift database. When you implement matching gift software, you allow donors to check their matching gift eligibility using a database right on your donation page. As a result, you make it easy for donors to learn what matching gifts are, determine if they’re eligible, and submit a matching gift request.
Some platforms even offer auto-submission capabilities that submit matching gift requests on the donor’s behalf, simplifying this process even further. When you use data to promote matching gifts, you not only earn more for your school, but you also make alumni feel good about their increased impact, encouraging them to give again in the future.
5. Create networking opportunities.
Another way to leverage alumni employer data is to create networking opportunities for current students. If alumni are willing to donate, they’re likely also willing to support your school community in other ways. Consider reaching out to alumni donors of different employers and professions that would interest your students, and invite them back to campus to speak with upperclassmen.
You can also use employer data to offer exclusive networking opportunities for alumni donors to connect with each other. This could be a great way for younger alumni to learn from more established alumni in their industry or to spark collaborations between alumni on upcoming business projects.
Lastly, you can investigate alumni employer data to provide key placements in university communications. For example, you may be looking to compile a list of upcoming internships or job opportunities for your students.
With employer data, you can easily find alumni who work at companies your current students are interested in and can reach out to learn more about any open positions. That way, you’re helping your students gain new connections while also aiding your alumni in their companies’ recruitment efforts.
When alumni feel that they’re giving back to their alma mater beyond just their donations and are receiving helpful opportunities in return, they’re more likely to provide support in the long term.
When it comes to alumni fundraising and engagement, data is key. There’s no better way to involve alumni in your school community than by reaching them with the correct contact information, catering to their interests and preferences, and personalizing your communications to each alum. As a result, you’ll build a base of loyal alumni donors who are proud to give back to their alma mater.