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How do you turn young alumni into life long donors?

Posted by Don Crow on Sep 19, 2014 11:17:00 AM

how to turn young alumni into life long donorsLet’s face it, if you’re in the business of raising dollars for a School, College, or University, you’ve probably been frustrated by your young alumni participation rates. They grab their degree, exit stage left, and unless they move in with mom and dad, you lose track of them for one to thirty years.

Add to that the more rapidly changing landscape of connectivity today and even if you do know where your recent grads are, they’re confronting student loan debt, lots of organizations and non-profits seeking their attention and dollars, and like all of us today, digital information overload. But the challenge remains, how do you turn young alumni into life long donors?

Cutting through the clutter and getting their attention is extremely important and profitable, so you can’t write them off and hope they’ll find their way home when they have capacity.

So how do you ensure your message doesn’t get lost in the noise?

The easy answer is to create the relationship while they’re still in class. Having a solid social presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and especially LinkedIn are key – but you’ve got to mix in relevant content while they are still card carrying members of your institution.

If you need more proof that social has to start on campus and carry all the way through, here are the thoughts of one of our clients who’ve seen alumni participation grow in excess of 10%:

“Social media has been essential to reaching our young alumni segment. With the accuracy of the self-reported data that is available through social media outlets it was never a question on using that to best reach our audience in the most timely and user-friendly way possible. The accessibility to peer network sharing and integration of our efforts with their sharing interests made social media a perfect tool to reach and grow our group.” ~Stephanie F. (Harbert College of Business Development Team)

Stephanie brings up a great point about young alumni giving that social helps you leverage: peer networks. You see, these young alumni don’t tune into into, nor do they really trust traditional media. They do trust peer recommendations and like to be involved in the things their peers are enjoying.

You’ve got to have a plan with social, because once they graduate those online relationships are at risk, but a new channel suddenly becomes more valuable: email.

That’s right, email. Those same students who ignored your emails while in school will soon (by way of the real world) realize that email is a staple of their new job. One area of opportunity we see across the board with our Higher Education clients is the lack of an email marketing and communications strategy.

At this point you may be asking, why again are we so concerned with young alumni?

Because they can represent up to one-fourth of your total audience, and that is too large a number to ignore when it comes to overall alumni participation rates. According to a report by RuffaloCODY, alumni who gave to their alma mater within the first five years after graduation gave (on average) eight times more to the institution by their 20th year out.

So you’ve gotten their attention with social and email and it’s time to transition that into participation. Great! Here’s the next hurdle: impact.

Yes, your young alumni aren’t going to just stroke a $50 PayPal payment without having some understanding of where that gift is going to make an impact. Gone are the days of giving for the sake of giving, alumni across the board now want to know their dollars are going to help change the world. This is where those social media and email channels you’ve developed come in handy. You can use those channels to help tell the story of how lots of small gifts, given consistently have helped fund student internships, entrepreneur business competitions, guest lecturer programs, and even helped push larger scale institutional efforts over the goal.

Lastly, leverage your campus career center. Today’s students need to know they can utilize your career center throughout their lifetime. It creates a great way to keep tabs on locations, job changes and promotions, and the overall current state of your graduates, without looking like an online stalker. Obviously, you’ve got to have a centralized approach to contact management to make this work, but that’s the topic of another post.

We're happy to chat about integrating social media, email, and even events into your institution's strategy of growing alumni giving and participation rates. Contact us today to learn more!

Request a FREE Consultation

NOTE: Image from the Harbert College of Business Young Alumni event in Atlanta, GA.

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