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What about Brothers' Folks? Give Parents Attention & They May Give Back

    

Sometimes you have fundraising on the ropes. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes you have to get innovative.

Such is the nature of all fraternity fundraising campaigns.

If you don’t believe us, you haven’t lived through a major campaign effort. You haven’t scraped the barrel for gifts to reach that goal.

It can get so bad that they hand out shirts that say, “I survived Fundraiser ’07 and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt.”

Any way you manage to breathe fresh life into your fundraising can be a game changer.

We tell the undergrad brothers to build meaningful relationships with you as their alumni, and it encourages you to take a more active role in chapter fundraising efforts.

Yet if they ignore you except when they need money, as if you’re just walking debit cards, you’re going to feel insulted and disconnected from the chapter’s goals.

Of course there’s more to it than that, and each alumnus has his own feelings and tendencies toward giving. But in general terms, asking for handouts while neglecting to form any connection beyond that is, undeniably, pretty cruddy.

Through the process of genuine engagement, brothers realize that their alumni are actually pretty awesome people, with hopes, fears, values and goals, just like them.

It’s the same with any group of people who just want to be valued for their efforts.

So what about undergraduates’ parents? In many cases, they’re working hard to put their kids through school and help pay their fraternity membership dues.

Yet some may also be able--and feel compelled--to give more. They’re proud of their sons for representing the hallowed values of their chapter, and these parents could probably make a difference. But when fundraising time rolls around, no one’s talking to them.

Pennington & Company wants to help correct this missed opportunity.

If you Give Parents of Undergrads Some Attention, they might just Give Back.

Have an Alumni Publication? Send It to the ‘Rents

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A chapter newsletter acts as an important baseline to connect with the undergrad brothers as they share alumni, university and chapter news of note. In the same vein, you can use alumni publications as an innovative entryway for communication and engagement with parents.

You can always pass along national fraternity magazines and other glossy publications. However, producing an alumni-specific publication (even if just a list email or occasional letter from the association president) will better connect you with parents.

It’s important not to inundate parents with information. Too much and they’ll view your communications as burdensome spam and write you off. Think of how you’d feel in their position--which, honestly, doesn’t require much effort; you’re often in the same spot.

Be brief, to the point, and follow up with other more personal means of engagement. Invite parents to alumni events, and update them on their sons’ noteworthy achievements. Making the deans’ list, attending a leadership conference or snagging a chapter scholarship all qualify as worthy of a mailed letter and phone call.

Follow up with a pamphlet or press release with basic details about your fundraiser and how to become a donor.

If they do give, thank them the way brothers thank their fraternity alumni.

If you want to get parents of undergraduate brothers engaged in your fundraising, you have to start somewhere. Establish a baseline of communication, and go from there.

When Fundraising, Know Your Parents: Are Any of Them Alumni?

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As you know, donor research can impact a fraternity fundraising campaign in major ways.

If you blindfold yourself when targeting potential donors, it’s like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You’re more likely to give someone a pinhole in the seat of their pants than to actually hit your mark.

Go into fundraising with your eyes wide open.

If you haven’t already, build a biographical database of parents. Get to know them as well as possible:

  • Who graduated from your university, or already gives to fundraising through the university alumni association?
  • Are there any legacy parents who’re alumni of your fraternity?
  • If so, what efforts are already being made to get them involved in fundraising?
  • Who’s shown the greatest interest in chapter involvement? Who’s local?
  • Who’s less involved, and what are some innovative ways you can bridge that gap?

Undergrad parents who’re engaged with the university or chapter will more likely donate to fundraising efforts. This leads us to our next point--what motivates them.

Are the Kids Alright? That’s What Fundraising with Parents Is All About

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Let’s just be brutally honest for a second.

Brothers’ parents are never going to care about the inner workings of your alumni board--at least, not if the initiatives you present them with have bupkis to do with their kids.

Connect any fundraising efforts with parents directly to their impact on the undergraduate chapter. If you can connect to common values, such as education--say, with a chapter scholarship--that’s even better.

Give parents tangible outcomes that improve the undergraduate experience for brothers.

Engage them in annual fundraising campaigns and, if they’re local, chapter volunteer opportunities. Get parents involved and keep them involved.

Make giving as painless as possible.

Universities typically offer online payment for tuition in addition to in-person and direct mail bursar’s office services. The undergraduate chapter can accept and record the history of payments through an online budget management system such as OmegaFi’s Vault. Follow this type of model.

Offer options, such as recurring and automated giving. Being able to schedule payment dates and amounts can be a huge motivator for parents who’re already making other payments on behalf of brothers.

In the end, parents probably won’t be your biggest donors for a fraternity fundraising campaign. Yet some may be willing and able to donate and get you that much closer to your goal. It’s up to you to be innovative and engage them the way you like to be engaged.

What are your thoughts on undergraduate parent fundraising? How does your alumni association currently manage parent engagement? What innovative ideas would you add to this list? We’d love to see your ideas in the comments below!

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