Many schools have lists of alumni that they’ve never involved in the fundraising process. We’re talking literally thousands and thousands of alums here. They attended school, graduated, and may even receive non-fundraising materials from the school, but for some reason have yet to be included in the fundraising funnel.
Why does this happen?
The main problem is that the school waits, sometimes for years after students graduate, to involve them in the fundraising process. What happens then is that the fundraising team is faced with an uphill battle.
While former students who haven’t heard from you for some time may not exactly be cold prospects, it’s not difficult to imagine that they are going to be harder to involve than alumni who have been getting regular news from you since the time of their graduation.
Your young alumni are important to your fundraising program. By engaging them early you will be able to keep your prospect pipeline full as you deliver messages to them that sink in deep and result in better fundraising results as these young graduates experience success in their lives.
Here are a few ways to get your team thinking about providing value to your recent graduates:
1. Invite them back to campus—This is a meaningful way to give your graduates that warm and fuzzy feeling you, as a fundraiser, should be striving for. For some graduates this is a hard sell because they may have the feeling that there’s no one there they know any longer. Making the first move and asking these alum back to campus can be huge in building a healthy post-graduate relationship.
2. Invite them to share what they’ve learned about post-grad life with juniors and seniors—This is where collaboration across departments, among staff and faculty members, is critical. Empower academic departments to invite alums back for career workshops, alumni panels, in-class discussions, etc. Ask these young alumni for a little bit of their time to share their experiences with students who are just trying to understand the next step after graduation. Let staff and your team who have the strongest relationships with alumni be the ones to invite them to speak to a group of students about finding their first job.
3. Ask them if they need help—Ask them if they need help finding a job. One alumna from the University of Arizona suggested that she would be more likely to donate if the school shifted its focus from soliciting to helping students and alums find jobs. For young alumni who are struggling to find work or a better job, having a seasoned network of people who can help them get on the right track is invaluable.
The bottom line is to ask them how you can help them before asking them to help you with a financial gift of support.