It’s no secret that events are an effective way to connect with your school’s alumni while raising money. Your alumni share a common tie to your college or university and are likely eager to reconnect with classmates and friends to reminisce about their time in school. Whether you’re hosting a charity golf tournament, auction, tailgate, or other type of event, it’s the perfect opportunity to tap into alumni’s fond memories of your school and secure gifts.
You likely already use email as a way to promote alumni fundraising events, but are you using it to its full potential? Let’s explore some tech-savvy tips and tricks to help optimize your events’ email campaigns.
1. Build, Expand & Optimize Email Lists
A complete, up-to-date email list for your school’s alumni is incredibly powerful and makes spreading the word about upcoming events easier and more efficient. It’s crucial to keep this information current and correct, so try these strategies as you plan your next fundraising event.
- Implement opt-in forms on your website. Give your alumni the option to stay in touch by including opt-in forms on your alumni website or page on the school’s website. This helps you reach the most interested people and increase the chance they’ll attend your event.
- Use lead-capture forms. If you have valuable educational resources on your school’s website, such as infographics or webinars specifically for alumni, leverage a lead-capture tool that prompts alumni to enter their name, email address, and relationship to your university. It’s a win-win: They’ll have access to your content, and you can add them to your email lists.
- Practice data hygiene. Keeping your alumni data clean is crucial to keep your marketing efforts on track. NPOInfo advises institutions of higher education to standardize database hygiene practices, such as regularly auditing contact information, to streamline their email lists.
- Ask alumni to update their information. In your regular email communications with alumni, or even in event-specific emails, include a link where alumni can access their profile and update any pertinent information, such as address, job title, or phone number.
2. Leverage Email Automation & Personalization
There are several ways to use email automation tools to personalize email invitations to alumni. It starts with collecting information about each alum and leveraging that data to best target recipients.
- Segment your audience. Refine your audience lists based on graduation years, career field, giving history, geographic location, past event attendance, or other useful parameters.
- Determine how you’ll personalize content for each segment. Your alumni have different interests and preferences, which you should take into consideration when creating email invitations. Decide which parameters you’ll use to focus your personalization.
- Send relevant messages. Hit each segment with messaging that’s relevant to them. For instance, if you’re hosting a golf tournament fundraiser for the fifth year, try sending different messages to alumni who haven’t attended before than those sent to past tournament participants.
- Take a slow-and-steady approach. Don’t bombard your supporters with a ton of emails all at once. Instead, try drip marketing, a method of sending a series of predetermined emails over a set period of time. This reminds alumni of your upcoming event without being overbearing.
3. Follow Email Marketing Best Practices
Best practices are all about helping you work smarter, not harder, when marketing via email. Employ these demonstrated best practices to boost open and click-through rates and get a better response to your event campaigns.
- Optimize your subject line. The most effective email subject lines are short, direct, and attention-grabbing. Strategically craft your subject line with these criteria in mind. Don’t be afraid to include emojis or merge fields to add additional personalization.
- Use visually-appealing design elements. Alumni are familiar with your school’s brand, so be sure you stay true to the brand image that resonates with them. Incorporate attractive images, graphics, and other graphic design elements to better engage potential event attendees.
- Share high level information. You don’t need to fill your emails with walls of text or bog your alumni down in the nitty-gritty details of your event in the invitation. Instead, call attention to the most important information, such as the event date, time, location, and perhaps the theme, so alumni can quickly decide if they’re interested.
- Use calls to action. Direct, straightforward calls to action create a sense of urgency that encourages your alumni to RSVP as soon as possible. Consider adding a clickable button in your email that links straight to your event website or registration page. You might also include a call to action that asks alumni to share the event with their school friends and classmates.
4. Take a Data-Driven Approach
Your alumni database is a gold mine of information that can aid in the planning, execution, and follow-up stages of any email campaign. Tap into this data and follow these fundraising data management best practices to draw actionable insights from your data and guide the continued growth of your event.
- Monitor important KPIs. KPIs, or key performance indicators, help you determine your campaign’s effectiveness in reaching alumni and getting them to RSVP for your event. Track KPIs such as email open rates, click-through rates, and RSVP conversions to help you gain a better understanding of what messaging and strategies are working best for your event campaigns.
- Review previous campaign data. Look at data from past event invitation campaigns—messaging, dates and times sent, subject lines, etc.—and see how your current campaign compares. Have your KPIs improved? How about the number of RSVPs?
- Collect and use qualitative data. Qualitative data is just as important as the KPIs mentioned above. Reach out to a set of alumni to ask which email campaigns they preferred and why to gain insight into important information that numerical data might miss.
5. Use the Right Software Tools
Technology tools make organizing and executing effective fundraising events simpler than ever and ensures that all the information for your event is tracked in one place.
- Use an event website. GolfStatus recommends using a platform with a dedicated event website where alumni can register, make a donation, or purchase a sponsorship. This makes it super easy to promote the event in email campaigns—it’s as simple as adding a link to your event site.
- Make it easy for alumni to commit. An event website lets alumni commit as soon as they open the email, rather than filling out a paper form, writing a check, and finding a stamp to mail the form back.
- Leverage in-platform communication tools. Look for a platform that includes built-in communication tools so you can send emails and share updates to registered attendees with a few clicks.
Email is a time and cost-effective way to reach your school’s alumni and invite them to attend upcoming fundraising events. The strategies outlined above can help you better leverage email to drive event attendance, and in turn, fundraising for your school. It’s important for development professionals to stay on top of email trends and technology, making adaptations and implementing new best practices to continually improve the ROI of your event email campaigns.