Successful Strategies for Alumni Fundraising  

In 2017, alumni donations to UK universities passed the £1billion mark for the first time, and they continue to grow every year. For every university in the UK, alumni donations represent a key revenue stream and a fantastic way to enhance the learning experience for current and future students. 

For alumni donors themselves, often they will want to give back to an institution that has helped them get to where they are today. And by helping the institution become more successful through their donations, alumni are also enhancing the value of their own degree qualification. 

Here we discuss some successful strategies for getting alumni donors onboard. 

Understanding Alumni Motivations for Giving

Different alumni will have different reasons for giving back to the university. They include: 

Alumni Loyalty and Affinity

One of the biggest reasons that people want to donate to their university is to give back to a place which helped shape them in their careers and lives. Many people hold their higher education establishment close to their hearts. They want to help fund it to ensure that other people have the opportunities that they had. 

Impact and Legacy

Many alumni that have gone on to big things after leaving university want to give back to create an impact for current and future students. They want their name to be associated with the university and to leave a legacy at the educational establishment that formed them. 

Tax Benefits

There are also tax benefits available for higher rate taxpayers. Through Gift Aid, the university is able to claim 20% of the money paid on any donations. For higher rate taxpayers there is also additional tax relief that can be claimed back, to the tune of 20% (as higher rate tax payers pay income tax at 40%). 

So, if they donated £1000 to a university, the university would claim 20% from HMRC to make the donation £1200. The individual that donated could also claim an additional 20%, so they would get back £200. 

This tax relief is only available to individuals who pay income tax at a rate higher than 20%. 

Engaging Alumni in Fundraising

Many alumni might be considering donating funds to your institution, but you’ll need to properly engage with them to get them over the line. You may also catch others than hadn’t considered it previously. 

Establishing and Maintaining Connections

Establishing connections with alumni is key to getting them engaged with the work of the university today and the reason why funds are needed. But it isn’t just about the first contact. You’ll want to maintain these connections over the long term. 

When people first leave university and in the first few years of their careers, donating funds won’t necessarily be top of their agenda. They may not have the means to do it. As they progress in their careers, it’s more likely to become a consideration. 

Email newsletters are a fantastic tool to initially engage alumni and keep them engaged. In your monthly newsletters, you can dive deep into the work of the university and the fantastic fundraising that is already going on. You should look to tailor your communications to sections of your alumni too. For example, law alumni should have tailored emails around the current work of the law school. 

Social media and particularly LinkedIn is a great tool for establishing and fostering connections. You will be able to tailor your content and promote it to be seen by people who attended your university. You can shout about the great work of the faculty, any ongoing fundraising efforts and provide details of previous or upcoming fundraising events. 

If you are looking for specific alumni to donate large sums, it’s important to conduct further prospect research into potential prospects. You will then need to approach them with personalised communications detailing what their potential involvement can do for the institution. Their legacy will likely also be an important consideration. 

Involving Alumni in Decision-Making

For high net worth individuals, an involvement in the decision-making process of where there funds will go is likely to pique their interest. If you can tailor this to their time at university, you could be onto a winner. For example, a former law student donating funds to enhance the creaking law school building. 

For smaller donors, an involvement in decision-making can work too. Can you run polls on social media or surveys in your email newsletters and ask where the next pot of fundraising should go? This may spark the interest of alumni to see how even a small donation could have a big impact on the institution. 

Personalising Fundraising Appeals

Are you speaking to alumni that have donated previously? Are you looking to fundraise for a specific new medical building for example or new equipment on campus? 

A personalised fundraising appeal will be most effective. For the example of new medical facilities, you should tailor your email communications to past medical students. You’ll need to segment your database of email contacts to ensure you’re only messaging those contacts that you know will be interested in this fundraising appeal. Similarly, you can segment your audience on LinkedIn to offer a much more personalised experience with your content. Then it comes down to your language and tone. You want your past students to engage and empathise with your cause. Storytelling is a great technique to do this. 

When you’re engaging with previous donors, a personal approach is essential. They won’t respond to a mass email and will expect everything about it to be personalised. Include information about their previous donation, what it has helped you achieve, the legacy it is helping to build at the institution and the impact of what another potential donation could do. They will likely also appreciate a face-to-face meeting. And depending on the scale of their previous donation, they may want to see exactly what it has done for the university in person. It may also help to introduce them to students who are directly benefiting. 

Organising Alumni Events

There’s nothing quite like getting alumni together to stir the emotions and help them along the road to donating. 

Reunion Fundraisers

Getting a year group together at their old university haunts can really bring the nostalgia factor. Alumni will remember those feelings of being at university and realise what an important stepping stone it has been in their careers. They will also see so many familiar faces and can all share in each other’s successes. It’s a huge opportunity for you to secure donations, big or small. 

Dinners and gala balls are ideal options for reunion fundraisers. You can raise funds through ticket sales and charity auctions on the night, and it also gives you an opportunity to speak to individual people directly about donating funds. 

Sporting Events

For those alumni involved in sports teams at university, sporting events are an ideal way to get them together again and for them to consider giving back to an institution that gave them so much. A sports dinner is a great option, especially if you can tie this into a big match involving the current university team – it’s perfect for a little nostalgia.

Golf days also work extremely well for larger groups. You can secure donations through ticket sales and auctions on the day. But as it’s a full day event, it also provides a lot of opportunities to speak to potential donors face to face and get them engaged with your fundraising efforts. 

Virtual Events and Webinars

Sometimes it isn’t possible for busy alumni to give their time to in-person events. Others may have moved cities or countries. Running webinars and virtual events gives you an opportunity to really dive into the work of the university and the impact of any potential funds. It’s likely to be a more focused session than a reunion fundraiser for example. 

You can tailor your virtual events and webinars to different segments within your alumni audience too, whether the law school, medical school or past humanities students. Plus, you can reach a wider audience online and use it as a tool to secure online donations. 

Maintaining Alumni Engagement Beyond Fundraising

Once you’ve secured funds from your alumni, your work doesn’t stop there. It’s key to maintain their engagement beyond fundraising. 

Recognising and Appreciating Alumni Donors

For those that have donated, it’s crucial to show recognition and appreciation. Simple thank you notes can work wonders, while for bigger donations this may involve a personal thank you. For large scale donations that have gone towards a new university building for example, you may also want to consider running events to open the building where you can invite donors and personally thank them. Inviting donors to other high-profile university events is also another good tactic to keep them engaged. 

Other options include mentions of donors in your regular email communications and your posts on social media. Just a little recognition can go a long way. 

Providing Regular Updates on Fund Usage and Impact

Fundraising is all about storytelling. The stories you tell will be vital in securing donors in the first place, but they will also keep them engaged too. Donors will want to see the impact of their donations. How have they made the university a better educational institution? How have they directly impacted the lives of the students? 

In your regular communications you should detail how much has been raised and show what it has gone towards. Include pictures and video tours of new facilities. Provide reports of where the funds have been spent and even use videos and case studies of students to illustrate the difference that donations are already making to their time at university. If you keep the story going, your alumni donors will stay engaged and will be more likely to donate again in the future. 

The Power of Alumni Fundraising

Alumni fundraising initiatives can help you secure valuable funds for your university. Donations, big or small, can go towards new buildings, new equipment and new facilities that can help make the learning experience better for students right now and in the future. 

While you have a range of options to help fundraise for your institution, as we’ve discussed here, you can also help your ongoing fundraising efforts by signing your cause up to easyfundraising. Once you do, your supporters can donate to your cause every time they shop online with any of our 7,500 partner retailers. It doesn’t cost them any extra on top and is a super simple way for them to donate to your cause. You can promote your fundraising efforts easily online and engage with your supporters with a cost-effective way to boost your ongoing fundraising efforts. Discover more about easyfundraising and what it could mean for your alumni fundraising.