One of the truisms in fundraising is to think like your donors, and you’ll be more likely to succeed at capitalizing on loyalty and goodwill.  The goal of every foundation is to convert annual giving to deeper connections that result in lifelong relationships between alumni and alma mater.

Here are six relationship-building trends to be aware of in your fundraising strategies:

  1. Utilize Social Media – many advancement offices now have an online manager or a group of people responsible for developing a comprehensive program to develop and direct communications and content to social media. Messages can be based on affinities, age and lifestyle habits (such as Millennials and Baby Boomers).  Content created for print and other direct communication can be repurposed with the intent of fostering engagement, networking and two-way communication with your alums.
  1. Coordinate with Student Affairs – remember that your current students are “alumni in training.” So be sure to share strategies, programming and resources with your Student Affairs department. Student Affairs can provide opportunities for student orientations, career mentoring, senior class events, booster and spirit activities and other networking events.  When students become lifetime members of the alumni association before they graduate, they learn first-hand the benefits of supporting their university.
  1. Move alumni through an engagement funnel – this allows strong relationship building at every point of the interaction. Alumni should have multiple opportunities to connect with the university and not all of those interactions should be requesting donations.  As Alumni Associations build stronger relationships with their alums, they will learn more about their interests, which guides future interactions and allows stronger engagement.
  1. Provide opportunities for advocacy – alumni and foundation boards in both private and public colleges are a great source of informed advocacy when armed with information about dwindling legislative budgets for higher education. The more advocates who are visibly successful in their professional and personal lives, the greater the perceived value of the college’s degree. Alumni can be central to your strategy for increasing revenue sources and partnerships.
  1. Measure Effectiveness – often the core elements of sustainable alumni relations are technology and analytics. Data-driven, measurable outcomes need to track impact and determine the best use of future resources.  Alumni Associations that carefully measure the ROI of their fundraising efforts provide the foundation for sustainable alumni relationships. Knowing how to use data to segment and target key audiences, manage relationships that bring value to both alumni and the institution will drive the best outcomes.
  1. Focus on programs with the highest return – building off the previous trend, alumni relation offices need to use data and analytics to determine their most and least connected alumni.  Strategically invest in growth programs and make tough decisions to eliminate annual reunions or meaningless events that have low return on investment.  No alum will be left behind using this strategy either.  Be sure to use special incentives or different messaging for alumni that are identified as least engaged.

The need to implement these six strategic approaches to alumni and advancement relationship-building is vital to ensuring loyalty in this quickly changing, digitally connected world.  If you need help with your fundraising efforts, AlumniFinder can assist you in maintaining the accuracy and completeness of your donor and alumni records, locating lost donors and using analytics to identify supporters with the greatest likelihood and ability to donate.

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