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Two Essentials for Alumni Engagement

    

Successful fraternity campaign fundraising begins with strong and consistent alumni engagement. 

What sets Greek fundraising apart from other sectors of nonprofit fundraising is that Greek donors already value education and the fraternity experience. Alumni give so current members may enjoy the same positive experience the alumni did. Soliciting alumni donors is about actively acknowledging their value in the chapter’s ongoing success.

Alumni engagement should begin long before asking for a campaign contribution or pledge. Potential donors rightfully expect their chapters to value the loyalty and wisdom they offer, not just for the sake of capital support dollars. Alumni appreciate being included in the ongoing community of their chapter, and even if they don’t contribute financially, they are often willing to lend support through their expertise and experience. 

If the chapter has neglected to cultivate a relationship with the potential donor, the alumnus is far less likely to contribute, no matter how worthy the cause might be.

Nurturing alumni relationships is a complicated endeavor, a multifaceted and cumulative process that demands a tremendous amount of attention. However, the task can be simplified by adopting a two-pronged strategy of, first, communicating consistently with alumni, and secondly, creating opportunities to bring alumni back to their chapter.

 

Consistent Alumni Communication

There are many ways to effectively communicate with a Greek donor base, some of which are unique from how other nonprofits communicate. Your alumni association may have its own specific methods to facilitate taking alumni relationships to the next level. But there are also some important mainstays of good communication. A consistent, multi-channel approach is usually best.

Consistency Is Key

Above all, it’s important to build consistency into alumni communication. The resulting sense of predictability and dependability demonstrates to alumni their chapter’s deep desire for regular, continual relationship-building. It also speaks to an alumni association’s professionalism and reliability when alumni can rely on a printed newsletter in the mail every six months, and get at least a thank-you phone call or handwritten note when they give.

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Here are a few tips for building consistency into your communications:

  • Start with a strong alumni database. This database should include biographical and contact data, graduation year, and professional field. It should also track donor gift data, such as top givers to campaigns, amounts, and when each alumni last gave. Update the database regularly.
  • Build a robust communication schedule. A dedicated communications calendar makes it easier to engage alumni with more consistency and strategy. The outreach mix looks different for each organization. An alumni association might send a bi-annual newsletter, a monthly email, and a weekly social media post. Once these items are noted on the calendar, gaps in communication become more apparent. Consider the context of your other communications when deciding how to fill these gaps. Chapters may plan specific engagement efforts around its unique events and important dates. 
  • Analyze effectiveness. After executing these campaigns for some time, assess which outlets and mediums received the most response. An alumni association may find that its posts on LinkedIn receive more traffic than posts on Facebook, or that its newsletter is being read more by one demographic of alumni than another, or that alumni who attend a chapter event are more likely to respond to a solicitation for a donation.

 

Alumni Communication Strategies

Diversifying your alumni engagement and communication strategy into a multi-channel approach will help reach alumni through their preferred channels. 

Tips for diversifying you engagement and communication strategy include:

  • Send a print newsletter, even if it’s already offered digitally.
  • Strike the right balance with email. Focus on the messages that tend to be most effective, rather than overwhelming alumni with a constant stream of messages. When creating emails, be sure the message is optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Develop a plan for postcards to reach alumni who may have missed a digital message. Be sure to account for the printing and delivery time of the postcards or any other print material.
  • Be smart with phone calls. Phone calls are reasonable when thanking alumni for their donations or when personally inviting a key alumnus to an event. 
  • Communicate your gratitude. Call donors with a timely message of thanks, publish a tiered donor list, and offer other public accolades.
  • Communicate the need and how alumni can help. Not all alumni are top-level givers. Some may give smaller, recurring amounts to annual campaigns and grow into more generous givers later. Some will offer pledges. Even those who may not donate stand to greatly benefit a chapter as volunteers or by offering their professional services in legal contracts, managing project finances, engineering expertise, or architectural perspective.

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Bringing Alumni Back 

It’s unrealistic to expect far-flung alumni to fly in from other states and countries to attend multiple alumni events at the chapter house. But a well-planned engagement strategy built around one or two events per year can leave alumni feeling respected and appreciated and impressed with the chapter’s capability and drive. 

The easiest events to capitalize on are the ones that naturally attract alumni back to campus, like the university’s homecoming. Promoting chapter-specific homecoming events alongside campus-wide festivities is a reliable method to boost attendance. Giving alumni the chance to connect with current undergrads can lay the groundwork for future touch points and conversations.

The importance of consistency holds true for these types of events. Alumni shouldn’t wonder if a chapter event is happening from year to year. Even if turnout isn’t ideal, consistency will build alumni attendance over the long term.

When promoting chapter events, it’s always preferable to prompt alumni to respond regarding their ability to attend. For instance, post the invitation and details on how to RSVP to your social media feeds. Send emails specifically inviting alumni to attend. Mention the details of the event in the chapter newsletter, which should direct them to RSVP through email or social media. Enlist undergraduates to conduct a call-a-thon, and provide them with a list of basic talking points and instructions.

A phone invitation might look something like this:

  • Introduce yourself and why you’re calling.
  • Invite them to the event. Ask if they received prior communications about the event and if they plan on attending.
  • Ask about their chapter memories, and update them on the chapter’s latest goals and accomplishments.
  • Offer the main event details, dates, and times, and tell them how to RSVP.
  • If they have contributed, thank them for their generosity and loyalty to the chapter. 
  • If you leave a voice message, introduce yourself and offer invitation details, including RSVP instructions. 
  • Thank alumni for their time, and let them know you look forward to seeing them on campus.

By no means are these the only solutions to drive engagement, but they are strong foundational tools and tips to build into your overall strategy. 

Pennington offers professional solutions for Greek letter chapters for communications and fundraising. Learn more about our services or call direct at 785-843-1661.

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