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Engage recent graduates with these 5 surefire alumni fundraising strategies.

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Although you might not think of recent college graduates as the next generation of charitable givers, this growing demographic should be on your university’s radar when developing your alumni fundraising strategy.

Recent alumni are some of the most valuable donors that your organization should be going after. While they may not be able to give very much right now, it’s important to build a positive relationship with this donor demographic as early as you can.

However, engaging young post-grads can leave some organizations scratching their heads.

Want to learn more about fundraising with these important new donors in mind? Take a look at some of these targeted engagement strategies before you get started on your next fundraising campaign:

  1. Market to your recent alumni strategically
  2. Adjust your alumni fundraising expectations
  3. Make giving convenient for recent alumni
  4. Maintain relevant donor data for recent alumni
  5. Maximize recent alumni engagement through social media

Your university’s recent alumni are some of your greatest untapped fundraising resources. Before you get started engaging with these important new donors, let’s explore these strategies in more detail.

When engaging in alumni fundraising with recent grads, market strategically.

1. Market to your recent alumni strategically

If there’s one thing recent alumni can’t stand, it’s advertisements. One place this can be seen is in the rise of ad-free television streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, or with the growing use of ad blockers online.

Put simply? Young post-grads hate advertising. At least, they hate many of the traditional advertising strategies that have historically dominated marketing both in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds.

In targeting recent alumni as the next generation of donors, your nonprofit has to fundraise with this mindset as your guide. So, how are universities supposed to get the word out about their fundraising campaigns?

Consider implementing these proven marketing strategies to help your organization capture the attention (and donations) of these young donors:

  • Help your young alumni develop professionally. Your university can engage with young alumni by hosting networking events, sharing professional development information, or otherwise providing them with tools that they can apply to their careers. If they like what you have to offer, they’ll be more keen to donate.
  • Host an informative blog. You can bring young alumni to your website by hosting an informative blog that caters to their interests. Once they’re on your site, you can subtly direct them to donation pages, your social media, etc. through calls-to-action. Be sure to offer valuable content, though; nothing is less attractive to a millennial donor than thinly-veiled ads.
  • Refrain from excessive solicitation. Even worse than being bombarded with ads? The easiest way to turn away millennial donors is by too frequently requesting donations. Just like spam emails, recent alumni donors will balk if your organization seems to always be hitting them up for cash.
  • Link yourself to a cause outside the university. Sometimes donors are more inclined to support programs not directly related to the institution. This means you’ve got to think outside the book. Does your university support the local community, specific public health initiatives, or support disaster relief? Make an appeal related to those causes in addition to your typical fundraising solicitations. This technique broadens the potential audience that you can reach.

The big picture: Recent alumni see through many of the marketing techniques that worked just fine with their parents’ generation. Instead of using traditional tactics, your organization should take a targeted marketing approach when honing your alumni engagement strategy.

When engaging in alumni fundraising with recent grads, adjust your expectations.

2. Adjust your alumni fundraising expectations

For younger alumni, one of the greatest barriers that stands between themselves and donation is their modest giving capacity.

Since they’ve had less time to grow as professionals than older alumni donors, it’s not difficult to understand why they may be less inclined to lend their financial support to your organization.

Further, while it’s always been true that recent alumni find it difficult to give back to their alma maters following graduation, it’s worth noting that they are often saddled with more debt and less wealth than previous generations.

However, this doesn’t mean that recent alumni cannot be counted on to help support your university. Here are a few ways your organization can tailor your expectations for alumni to maximize their giving power:

  • Suggest smaller gifts. While it’s nice to receive sizable gifts whenever possible, recent alumni are some of the least likely candidates for giving larger gifts. Instead of starting high when you make your ask, suggest small gifts. This way, these donors are more likely to say yes to your request and more able to donate in the future.
  • Make recurring donation flexible. Recent alumni are great candidates for recurring giving since that’s a low-effort way to offer continual support to your organization. However, always give donors (especially millennials) the ability to pause donations at will, skip months, or change their recurring gift amount easily.
  • Lay a foundation for future support. While recent alumni donors might not be able to offer large gifts now, it’s likely that in the future their giving capacity will be much more substantial. Now is the time to focus on building a positive relationship with these individuals through long-term donor stewardship so that when they are able to increase their support, they will do so.

The big picture: Just because recent alumni might not be able to lend the same type of support that more mature donors can, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus your attention on them in your alumni fundraising efforts. Simply tailor your expectations to their giving capacity and focus on building bridges that lead to future support.

When engaging in alumni fundraising with recent grads, make giving convenient.

3. Make giving convenient for recent alumni

While convenience is key when engaging with any donor, this is especially true for recent alumni. Compared to their parents, these donors are more likely to favor online giving opportunities.

Young alumni donors consistently rank ease of giving as one of the most important factors in their decision to donate to an organization.

More so than their predecessors, younger donors are also less likely to carry cash or write checks at fundraising events. For this reason, it’s important to meet recent alumni where they are and offer them multiple convenient methods of giving.

Your organization should establish the following giving avenues to ease donations among this demographic:

  • Online donation forms. Even if your university already offers online donations, you need to be sure that your online donation forms are direct and easy to use. Additionally, be sure to make these forms easily accessible throughout your website so that interested supporters don’t get lost looking for them.
  • Mobile giving. Giving via text is another way to capture the support of recent alumni donors. By putting the power of support in their hands, it’s never been easier to facilitate giving for recent alumni. 
  • On-site giving. Not every supporter will give remotely; many will be interested in donating when at an on-site fundraising or stewardship event. By investing in a mobile credit card swiper, giving is made even more convenient for younger alumni who are less likely to carry cash or use checks.

The big picture: Your university should cater to the giving preferences of all of your supporters, but it’s important to be especially cognizant of donation trends among recent alumni. Convenience is paramount for this demographic, so don’t let their support slip away by relying solely on more traditional avenues of donation!

When engaging in alumni fundraising, maintain relevant donor data.

4. Maintain relevant donor data for recent alumni

The key to perfecting your alumni fundraising strategy for recent grads? Through every interaction you have with these young supporters, your nonprofit should be collecting relevant donor data to improve your engagement tactics in the future.

As with all donors, your recent graduate alumni can teach you a lot about how successful your fundraising strategies are if your organization is able to learn from your experiences with them.

Your nonprofit can employ some of these strategies to help improve what you know about this important group of donors:

  • Clean your donor data. Periodically revisit and consolidate donor data as time goes on so the data is as informative as possible. Delete duplicate profiles, verify profile information, and be sure to collect consistent data points across your constituency.
  • Conduct donor surveys. Don’t discount the value of directly asking recent alumni donors how they feel about your fundraising strategy. Regularly surveying supporters with questions concerning about their interactions with your organization is an excellent way to monitor the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts.
  • Use analytics tools. Data means nothing if it isn’t being analyzed. Your team should use analytics to evaluate trends in your recent alumni interactions to monitor the success of your fundraising strategy among this sought after group of individuals.

The big picture: Because of the overall trend towards online fundraising (especially among recent alumni), data has never been easier to collect on your supporters. The more your team is able to learn about recent alumni donors, the more equipped you’ll be to implement an effective fundraising strategy, so be sure to maintain effective data collection standards.

When engaging in alumni fundraising with recent grads, maximize alumni engagement through social media.

5. Maximize recent alumni engagement through social media

When devising your organization’s engagement strategy for recent alumni, the first thing your marketing team probably discussed was how to better connect with recent grads on social media.

Social media outreach is incredibly important to your fundraising efforts when it comes to this segment of donors, but it’s not enough to simply be on social media as an organization.

How can your university leverage the power of these sites to strengthen the ties between your institution and your recent alumni? Consider implementing some of these social media strategies to maximize your online engagement with these young donors:

  • Engage in crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. Both of these fundraising styles are excellent ways to leverage your network of online supporters to grow your donor base. Recent alumni are likely to share these campaigns on their pages before or after donation, which helps spread the word of your fundraising needs.
  • Allow donations through your social pages. As as supplement to your website’s donation forms, your organization should also be able to collect donations through social media, especially on Facebook. Many donors will only interact with your social media profiles and never come into contact with your main site, so it’s important to make it easy for these donors to give as well.
  • Conduct prospect research on social media. Social media can tell your organization a lot about your supporters. Using sites as diverse as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more, you can make better asks by learning more about individual donors and trends among donor demographics.

Make alumni fundraising easy for recent grads by providing online donation forms.

Bonus! Ready to strengthen your overall donor outreach strategy through prospect research? Be sure to review DonorSearch’s guide to prospect research to learn more.

The big picture: While social media outreach is a growing way to connect with younger donors, it’s important that your marketing team approaches engagement in this medium carefully. Be sure to make the most of this strategy by using platforms like Facebook to fundraise more efficiently as well as to inform what you know about recent alumni.

Don’t discount this growing donor demographic! By tailoring your engagement strategies to recent alumni donors, your university will forge long-lasting ties and hopefully gain lifelong supporters. Good luck!


Additional Resources

  • How to Ask for Donations. Our step-by-step guide gives you advice on approaching younger donors (like your recent alumni) with donation requests, as well as gives advice on other aspects of the donation request process.
  • 5 University Fundraising Strategies for Standout Campaigns University fundraising doesn’t have to be all work and no play. In fact, we guarantee that as long as your college makes use of these phenomenal strategies, you’ll be racking up funds all while having a good time!
  • University Fundraising: 3 Flawless Tips to Engage Alumni. Alumni of all ages are some of your university’s most important supporters, so it’s important that your institution has a solid alumni engagement strategy in place. Check out DonorSearch’s tips for engaging with alumni to learn more!
  • Charitable Giving by Generation. Want to learn more about the the giving habits of younger donors? Our infographic breaks down donation patterns among millennial donors, as well as other generations of charitable givers.

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