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Big Spenders: Who They Are and What They Mean to Your Fraternity Alumni Fundraising Efforts


You need a fraternity house renovation, like, yesterday. The banisters are rotting through, most of the house is outdated and the chapter’s outgrown the living space. Let’s not even mention that weird smell coming from the chapter library that may or may not be an old ham and cheese sandwich nobody can seem to find.

You may not like the old ham and cheese sandwich, but you have learned to respect it.

Yet however formidable that sandwich’s stench may be, however much you may want to simply demolish the smelly underworld your house has become, you’ll be smelling it for years to come if you don’t focus on building a fraternity capital campaign to raise the money needed for renovations.

When you run a fraternity capital campaign, alumni are more than likely going to be your top donors, and possibly your only donors. At the same time, it’s highly unlikely that alumni are all going to give in equal amounts that add up to your total goal. Also, not every alumnus will give in the first place.

It’s important that brothers understand the nature of alumni giving, and where their fundraising gifts big and small are coming from. We here at Pennington & Company want to walk you through the numbers of alumni giving step by step, and help you determine the Big Spenders: Who They Are and What They Mean to Your Fraternity Alumni Fundraising Efforts.

Pre-Campaign Feasibility Studies: The Who’s-Who of Alumni Fundraising

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Going into a fraternity alumni fundraising effort blind is simply a recipe for failure. There’s no way around it, brothers: You have to plan. You have to know what you’re up against. Is this capital campaign feasible or not?

It’s not only important to know if your campaign makes sense logistically, but to understand the most crucial element: alumni donors. The first step in that regard is figuring out which alumni are most likely to be your primary donors.

If you look at alumni giving honestly, the reality shows that only about 20 percent of alumni are going to give to your campaign. Of that pool of alumni, roughly 80 percent of your alumni giving goal will come from 20 percent of donors--that’s 4 percent of all alumni. Finally, on average, only the top 10 gifts will make up half of your total fundraising goal.

If you aren’t actively engaging alumni in the right way with the right message when soliciting donations, then you’re unlikely to come anywhere near your goal in the end.

On the other hand, if you do your homework and get a straightforward and nuanced idea of chapter-alumni motivations, engagement and communication, you’re more likely to go into your campaign with sober expectations and a better chance of reaching your goals.

Big Alumni Spending Doesn’t Mean Spending All at Once

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It’s normal for someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about fraternity alumni fundraising to think of alumni gifts as a one-time expenditure. Each alumnus who chooses to donate will give a lump sum up front of what they feel is adequate. Right?

Well, not exactly. Some alumni may choose to give their full gift all at once, but you’ll also have alumni who’d rather pay in increments over time.

The downside to only allowing one-time gifts is that it encourages alumni to give and then disengage from the project at hand, weakening alumni participation and communication with the chapter overall, as well as with the fundraiser itself. Additionally, it may discourage some alumni from giving in the first place. Giving in smaller installments may make more sense within their personal budgeting preferences

The solution is to allow alumni the option to give using recurring and automated alumni donations. This allows them to give in increments, according to a time table that makes sense for their financial situation and lends a sense of involvement in the long-term project. There are no constant solicitations or outright begging going on. Recurring donations are straightforward and easy to set up and adjust when necessary. They’re also a proven method to increase overall donations for the chapter versus only accepting individual, non-recurring gifts.

However the gift comes, it’s not the packaging that matters. Respecting alumni enough to give them options for giving can go a long way.

Give Alumni Fraternity Fundraising a Professional Touch

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Establishing what level of donation is right for each alumnus to contribute toward your fraternity capital campaign, and thoughtfully engaging those likely to contribute the most, requires a dynamic understanding of how to engage alumni and analyze and make use of available data.

While some of this can be done on an individual basis by your chapter, it’s crucial that you approach any large-scale campaign with a professional level of effort and commitment.

Efficiency is the key to any fundraising project. Thus, while chapters may be able to perform many of the tasks associated with major fundraising, they aren’t expected to be experts.

Luckily for brothers, professional fundraising consultants are willing and motivated to guide your chapter through the process of planning and executing a major capital campaign project as well as how to engage with alumni to encourage giving.

Chapters must identify and engage not only your major alumni donors, but have a comprehensive understanding of how to run a successful capital campaign start to finish. The generosity of fraternity alumni often depends on your willingness and ability to meet them halfway. Professional fundraising consultants can help you identify and cultivate that middle ground to get the most out of a capital campaign.

However much that ham and cheese sandwich stench has become a part of chapter lore, the smell really needs to go. If you want alumni to help, make sure your engagement efforts pass the sniff test.

Are you planning a fundraiser campaign for your fraternity chapter? What questions and concerns do you have about alumni giving? Let us know in the comments below.


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