Your Annual Fund Needs Affinity Data Now

Today’s guest post comes from Gagan Dhillon, the founder of The online and mobile tool provider designs personalized campaign experiences to help higher ed institutions and nonprofits understand the affinity interests of their existing constituents and find, engage, and understand new and lost constituents.

Imagine getting a call from an old friend you haven’t talked to in years, and the first thing they say is, “Hey, can I get some money?” Chances are, you’re a bit turned off by their question and are searching for every excuse to not say yes. This is a very real scenario that annual funds face when they call upon alumni for support.

Without building any data on alumni, annual funds are constantly shooting in the dark when asking for gifts. This data gap can be difficult to overcome for many institutions that struggle to find an easy way to discover what their alumni are interested in supporting.

Rather than spending valuable resources on blind engagement, let’s walk through some of the steps schools like Indiana University use to segment their alumni.


Determining Affinity

It can be difficult for schools to easily relay all of the different ways alums can support the annual fund. To get the right alumni helping in the right ways, your alums should be able to “opt in” to what most interests them at your organization.


Getting and Applying Good Data

With accurate affinity data on its alumni, Indiana University’s annual fund officers now know how to effectively start conversations rather than make cold asks, and can even segment out a large population to engage with a specific ask like the school’s Scholarship Fund.

It’s not a matter of replacing existing methods of alumni communication such as direct mail and phonathons. You can collect insights from email, LinkedIn, and other parts of the web and loop it back into your school’s database to connect affinity data with your alumni profiles. The data your school collects should then be used to enhance your existing efforts.


The Messaging

Perhaps the most important piece in determining an alum’s affinity is perfecting the message you want him/her to respond to. Instead of going in with a direct solicitation for funds or specifically asking an alum for his/her time, you want the alum to receive a neutral call to action. You’re informing the alum that this is an opportunity for the institution to hear from him/her and learn what s/he wants to support.

By focusing on a “segment of one,” you can personalize your messaging to alumni and increase participation in annual giving.

Learn more about the impact that affinity data from social insights can have on your major and leadership gift asks in this post by Cornell’s Keith Hannon.

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