Why the future of alumni relations is donor engagement

What’s the growth strategy for advancement teams over the next decade? How does the work of alumni relations teams fit into the picture?

These are two of the most important questions facing senior university leaders as they contemplate the work of developing a culture of philanthropy that will increase giving. At this moment there are thousands of alumni, parents, and friends of colleges and universities who engage with their social media pages but have not received any one-to-one outreach from development. They are past, current, and future donors. They expect to be treated as individuals rather than targets of mass marketing, and they expect ongoing value from their investments. The next wave of donors has a completely different set of giving behaviors; they want to be engaged in ways that provide them with continued and ongoing value.

In his most recent article published on Linkedin, Ryan Catherwood makes the case that the future of alumni relations is as a part of a broader donor engagement strategy with a particular focus on reaching stakeholders on the social web. He outlines six strategic pillars that when followed might enable forward growth and a pathway to building a culture of philanthropy.

Here is a quick summary. Check out Ryan’s full article here

    1. Embrace a Paradigm Shift: We’ve been analyzing for-profit sales and marketing strategies to see how they can be applied to higher-ed for years now. And the results speak for themselves. As Ryan notes, donors today are looking for a more well-rounded experience than the usual solicitations and annual fund appeals. 

    2. Focus on the Digital Realm: Alumni are already participating in the online communities we’ve created on social media. It’s time to leverage that. Constant appeals don’t serve to build relationships, so what will? 

    3. Build a Digital Content Hub: Is there a place your donors can go to see stories, volunteer opportunities, engage with philanthropic content, and directly give to the university? 

    4. Build Brand Loyalty: Engage alumni in storytelling that illustrates the “world-changing” effects of philanthropy on current and future students. 

    5. Deepen Engagement: The most powerful way to deepen relationships through engagement is by employing a mix of traditional alumni relations programs with creative strategies tailored to your alumni base. 

    6. Have Fun with Philanthropy: People love a good competition. Find creative ways to engage donors through competition and highlighting fundraising projects both large and small. 

Read Ryan’s original post here. 

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