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Alumni engagement is all about forming powerful connections that encourage former students to give back. Prior to graduation, they were on campus every day, creating memories to last a lifetime. However, now they’re scattered across the country, making it difficult to maintain those relationships.

Alumni members are the heart of your school. Nothing equates to the support and connections they provide. Once that support is gone, it’s nearly impossible to get back. 

Ideally, you want to engage alumni from the moment they graduate. Otherwise, their support may slowly fade, leaving you without the emotional and monetary support your school needs.

However, don’t let that discourage you. There are a number of ways to cultivate relationships with alumni that may even earn back the support of those who graduated decades ago. Here are a few effective strategies to help you get started:

  1. Encourage donations using corporate giving tech.
  2. Invest in a digital fundraising platform.
  3. Create personas to better understand alumni.
  4. Use automation to keep alumni engaged.
  5. Turn to social media for more effective outreach.

Ready to revamp your alumni engagement strategy? Read on!

1. Encourage donations using corporate giving tech

Chances are, your school is looking to enhance alumni engagement for revenue-sake. Thankfully, corporate philanthropy makes this approach possible.

If your fundraising team doesn’t already leverage some sort of corporate giving software, there’s no time like the present! From matching gifts to volunteer grants, the revenue possibilities are endless. Plus, when alumni can increase their contributions, they’ll feel much more connected to your school.

If you’ve never heard of corporate giving programs, no worries. The process is fairly straightforward. For instance, here’s how matching gifts work:

  1. A donor (in this case, an alum) makes a gift to your cause.
  2. They research eligibility for their employer’s program using a database.
  3. If eligible, they submit the appropriate form to their employer.
  4. The employer confirms the donation to your school.
  5. The employer matches the alum’s donation, potentially doubling the gift.

It’s as simple as that! Plus, many other employee giving programs work the same way. For instance, with volunteer grants, alumni who donate their time and volunteer with your school can receive a grant amount for your school using a similar process.

Not only do matching gift programs multiply your current donors’ contributions, but they can encourage other alumni to give, too. In fact, according to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered.

Why this works: Even if your institution isn’t tech-savvy, these funds are easy to acquire. Plus, alumni will feel as though they’re making a powerful difference for their alma mater. When it’s all said and done, they’ll feel substantially closer to your school.

2. Invest in a digital fundraising platform

Schools of all sizes rely on funding to continue evolving. While it is possible to raise some funds through traditional fundraising methods, your best bet is to invest in dedicated technology. Otherwise, alumni won’t interact quite as much as they could.

There are a number of steps for encouraging alumni members to give, all of which involve fostering a closer connection. Even better, directly involving them by encouraging them to raise the funds themselves is a proven retention strategy. By taking their involvement to the next level, they’ll feel much more involved in the success of your organization.

A digital fundraising platform enables your school to develop these relationships and reach revenue goals with substantially less effort. For instance, the right platform can help your school do the following:

  • Organize giving events. You should be able to create powerful giving initiatives whether it’s with a crowdfunding campaign, peer-to-peer fundraising, or an annual giving day
  • Gamify fundraising. Nothing motivates alumni quite like a good competition. Turning peer-to-peer fundraising into a game encourages donors to compete for the top spot and accomplish important fundraising milestones for digital rewards.
  • Empower storytellers. Above all else, your platform should identify supporters who have powerful stories. This way, you can build much more engaging campaigns that entice others to give.

From payment processors (learn more here!) to matching gift tools, your fundraising strategy likely involves a multitude of other tech solutions. Because of this, the fundraising platform you choose should also integrate with the appropriate software.

For instance, you should be able to incorporate the campaign directly on your website. After all, an integrated digital fundraising strategy enables your team to accomplish so much more.

Why this works: In modern fundraising, it’s impossible to engage all supporters manually. A digital fundraising platform keeps alumni engaged and giving back to your school by getting them directly involved.

3. Create personas to better understand alumni

Getting alumni involved takes more than just encouraging philanthropic efforts. It takes getting to know them on a personal level. Your staff is likely already doing this to some degree but probably not as much as it should. To fully engage alumni using your nonprofit digital strategy, you’ll need to create personas.

Corporate brands often use buyer personas to help determine their audience. This enables them to create targeted appeals that help make more sales. Donor personas are strikingly similar.

Through prospect research, your marketing team will create a solid understanding of who each alum is and how to engage with them. As a first step, consider demographics such as age, gender, and so on. Even consider asking them why they feel so connected to your school. Gather this vital information through surveys.

Then, to expand each profile, look at the following characteristics:

  • Which of your campaign’s content engages them? Determine this through interactivity and engagements (e.g. likes or comments).
  • How do they interact with your school? Maybe it’s through social media, email, or another platform.
  • Where are they now? Look at their current career, the area where they live, and so on.

By looking at these powerful indicators, you can determine how to better appeal to them on an individual basis. Then, you can streamline this approach by segmenting alumni based on commonalities. In turn, alumni will feel much more connected with your school.

Curious as to what other elements make up a donor persona? Check out DonorSearch’s prospect research profile guide.

Why this works: Creating alumni personas allows you to better understand former students. This way, your marketing team will know how to engage them and retain their attention.

4. Use automation to keep alumni engage

To re-engage alumni, you’ll need to consistently remind them of their roots. However, because your school has a large alumni base, this is impossible to do on a one-on-one level. That’s where automation can help.

When hearing the term “automation”, your mind may jump to “not personalized” or “ineffective”. However, with modern technology, this is entirely untrue! Today’s automation allows you to personalize communication while also expanding your outreach.

In terms of interacting with your alumni, your platform should enable you to automate all communications from email to social media. For instance, you can schedule posts or emails to send at a later time. Another common example is automating thank you emails that trigger as soon as a donor makes a contribution online.

Conducting prospect research and segmenting alumni can be automated, too. Prospect research data can even provide customized automated messages.

Instead of creating general messages that don’t appeal to anyone, automation that adheres to segmentation allows you to create personalized appeals. In other words, automating communications is only half the process. The other half is ensuring that your messages reach receptive audiences.

To take it a step further, make combinations of segments for different appeals. For instance, start by drafting an appeal for a specific program that a list of donors avidly supports. Then, tailor that message based on communication platform. That way, you’re adhering to communication preference while also engaging them based on common interests.

Once you’ve harnessed the power of automated marketing, create targeted newsletters and incorporate it into your fundraising campaigns. This way, alumni can stay up-to-date on what’s happening at their alma mater while saving your development directors more time.

Best of all, the right giving platforms can help you automate processes without purchasing additional tech.

Why this works: Automating redundant tasks can save your communication and marketing directors a lot of time. Plus, when communication is consistent, alumni will feel much more engaged.

5. Turn to social media for more effective outreach

Like most schools, your college or university probably leverages social media pages. If you haven’t already, create a dedicated alumni page where you post important updates and where alumni can interact with one another.

Plus, social media gives you a great opportunity to highlight your most interactive alumni members. Other alumni will see their former classmates giving back to their alma mater and will likely want the same recognition.

To boost engagement with your posts, adjust based on the platform you use. For instance, Twitter is more fast-paced and has a character limit, so post quick and succinct updates. On the other hand, Facebook may be the platform to post links to longer articles and blog posts.

Pictures are a powerful storytelling method, so don’t forget about Instagram. Instagram campaigns allow you to interact with alumni on an emotional level, connecting them to your school. For instance, share photos of how their alumni dollars have transformed your campus.

Humans are naturally visual creatures. We prefer to see the difference someone is making rather than just hearing or reading about it. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Whatever you do, make sure your posts are consistent. Don’t go weeks at a time without posting anything. Instead, post multiple times a week, analyze which types of posts alumni interact with, and adjust your strategy according to those results.

Want to continue your research? For more effective social media tips, click here.

Why this works: These days, social media is the preferred method of communication. It allows you to reach a wider audience of alumni members by telling powerful stories. 

When it comes to garnering support, don’t let your alumni fall through the cracks. Instead, enable multiple giving opportunities and establish a strong line of communication.

Remember, alumni support is vital to your school’s success. Start implementing these strategies, and boost alumni engagement today!

Guest Author: Adam Weinger
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.

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Katie Haystead

Katie Haystead

Senior Vice President, Partnerships

With over a decade of experience working with K12 schools and higher education institutions’ fundraising efforts, Katie Haystead now oversees the partnerships team at Community Funded. Her passion for partner success and satisfaction aligns with Community Funded’s priorities and Katie’s unique background is well suited to manage the day to day operations of our partnerships team as well as new market acquisition.

Prior to joining the team at Community Funded, Katie served many roles within the Fundraising Division at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Her experience ranges from working onsite and remotely with clients executing phonathon programs, developing annual giving strategies, onsite consultations and also developing multichannel strategies allowing for strong synergy between annual giving channels and creating strong major and planned gift pipelines.

Katie is based in Metro Detroit and is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where she worked for the phonathon for 3 years while working towards her History Major.

Kim Jennings

Kim Jennings

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Kim Jennings, CFRE is a skilled fundraising leader who believes in the power of Christian education to raise up thoughtful, strong, committed leaders who can make our world a better place for all.

Kim Jennings

Todd Turner

Director of Digital Strategies, Generis

In addition to his 11 years overseeing Chuck Swindoll’s Insight Living Ministries communications department, Todd Turner has worked as a digital strategist for faith based organizations across the globe..

Kim Jennings

Jennifer Perrow

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Jennifer is a skilled fundraising and communications professional who helps ministries articulate vision, communicate mission, and raise abundant funds to advance Kingdom priorities.