Learn how to get alumni to donate for fundraising success with effective internal partnerships at your education institution.

Philanthropic support for the education sector has nearly doubled in the last ten years, and it is no surprise that the commitment of generous alumni serves an integral role in this significant increase. Wondering how to get alumni to donate to your institution?

As those responsible for the advancement operations of schools know, the engagement of alumni is essential for a healthy and robust donation pipeline. In fact, 15% of annual fund support at primary and secondary schools comes from alumni. Among colleges and universities, the top three alumni engagement strategies include alumni reunions/events (59%), annual giving campaigns (50%), and targeted digital communications (43%).

For many advancement shops, the role of alumni engagement and gift officer lies in separate silos; however, successful leaders in advancement understand the need for deep partnership in order to effectively build a comprehensive and dynamic alumni donor program.

In this article, we share three strategies to help create an aligned partnership between your alumni engagement and gift officer teams.

Fully immerse alumni engagement team members in fundraising strategy

Where there is a disconnection between alumni engagement and gift officer teams, miscommunication and information gaps can arise and be detrimental to the larger goal. To create a robust alumni donor pipeline, leadership must be intentional about including alumni engagement team members in donor strategy conversations.

As the advancement team looks at the philanthropic goal for the institution, we encourage you to include the alumni engagement teams in early prospecting work to help inform gift officer portfolios. The alumni engagement team has a working knowledge of alumni prospects that may lie outside of traditional data analytics results such as an RFM analysis. This information can be invaluable to adding a personal approach when developing gift request strategies. Coach alumni engagement team members by reminding them that they are just as much responsible for revenue-generating goals throughout the years as their gift officer counterparts.

It is beneficial to create a fundraising workshop for the entirety of your advancement team to share best practices in fundraising and alumni conversation cues and ensure your alumni engagement staff members feel confident with your fundraising goals. Gift officers should also make it a practice to include alumni engagement team members in gift request meetings to cultivate a working partnership.

Align Alumni Engagement Activities to Get alumni to donate

When developing the activities calendar for alumni engagement, team members should actively review gift officer pipelines to understand which prospects could be invited to serve as volunteer leaders, thus deepening their engagement with the school. Gift officers should advocate within alumni engagement team meetings for opportunities for their prospects and ensure activities align with the overall philanthropic goal for that year.

A picture of an Alumni Engagement team member and gift officer going over a calendar of alumni engagement activities to get alumni to donate.

As the team assesses each gift officer’s portfolio, it is essential to highlight the status of each prospect and dive deeper into how to move them along the moves management cycle. When reviewing the advancement pipeline, ensure all team members understand the importance of serving the school’s donor pipeline and how each activity moves alumni closer to that end goal. Alumni engagement team members must understand that their activities, which at the surface focus on engagement and stewardship, deepen their engagement and provide opportunities for future financial investment.

When we look at our prospects in relation to their moves management status, I coach my team to understand that we play a role in every stage—with a particular emphasis on discovery, cultivation, and stewardship.

Heidi Bruce, Assistant Vice President, Alumni Relations & Strategic Engagement, Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD
A profile picture of Heidi Bruce.

As events near, alumni engagement and gift officer teams should strategically plot the tactical steps of identifying volunteers, recruiting attendees, having event conversations, and following up. This partnership allows for a comprehensive approach to event engagement and provides gift officers the support they need.

get alumni to donate by Creating operational systems for internal alignment

In many cases, alumni engagement and gift officer teams are aligned in strategy but fall short on results because the operational structures are not established to serve their partnership. Advancement leadership should ensure the following operations items are established:

Establish a synchronized platform for both alumni engagement and gift officers

When teams operate out of several databases or user interfaces, information continues to be lost, and an unintentional divide is created. Operating out of one streamlined system allows for teams to communicate seamlessly, pull reports with meaningful datapoints, and develop aligned strategies with accountability metrics.

A picture a member of an Alumni Engagement Team pointing to information on their desktop computer as a Gift Officer observes their synchronized platform to get alumni to donate.

Institute bi-weekly prospect review meetings with alumni engagement and gift officer teams

When reviewing prospects, identifying volunteers, or establishing strategy, all members of the team should feel involved in this work. Alumni engagement team members can inform gift officers of donor historical context and involvement, notable updates, and nuanced information. Gift officers should engage alumni engagement team members in initial meetings, briefing or visioning sessions with donors, and, where appropriate, gift request meetings.

Include alumni engagement and gift officer leaders in institutional leadership prospect briefing

Just as alumni engagement and gift officer teams should collaborate to develop strategies for prospective projects, it is important that both present plans to institutional leadership for how to get alumni to donate. This will provide the president or head of school with a high-level perspective on alumni and create a comprehensive view of alumni involvement and how best to request their financial support.

A picture of members of the Alumni Engagement and Gift Officers teams briefing the Head of School on prospects and how they will get alumni to donate.

strong alumni engagement Is essential for Getting Alumni to Donate

Engaging your alumni is essential to the development of a robust donor pipeline and to ensure the sustainability of your institution. Strengthening the partnership between alumni engagement and gift officers will ensure a comprehensive approach to alumni engagement, resulting in more meaningful relationships and deeper, lasting support.

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