Engaging Young Alumni: Strategies That Work
The most recent group of “new alumni” just graduated, and one thing on your development office’s mind is how to engage them and drive participation rates. To build that culture of giving right out of the gate, we offer tips for starting the process early and reaching your youngest – and often most elusive – group of prospects.
- Don’t lose track of them. One of the biggest challenges in young alumni fundraising is finding them! Start early by gathering accurate information from seniors and/or parents before graduation. Be present at school-sponsored events such as Senior Week, Commencement, and Awards Ceremonies and ask soon-to-be-alumni for their preferred contact information, or to connect with your digital and social presence. For this young group, it’s often a good idea to offer incentives, such as free swag or a raffle in exchange for joining the alumni community.
- Involve them. Get them involved before asking for a gift. Invite them to events happening on campus, ask them to participate on alumni panels, network with current students, attend alumni sporting events, etc. This is a great way to build an alumni community while your younger alumni are paying off loans and establishing their careers. More than 40 million Americans have student loan debt, with the average student loan for 2017 graduates being $39,400 (source: studentaid.ed.gov). Early on, alumni may be more apt to show their support in non-monetary ways, which, while they don’t help meet dollar goals, do help build a strong alumni culture, the foundation for future giving.
- Use social media. Chances are, younger alumni are on some form of social media. The institution’s own social channels are a prime way to reach that audience. Videos and great pictures draw alumni in – whether for nostalgic purposes or to highlight growth on campus. If they see a picture or video that resonates with them they are more likely to pay attention and get involved.
- Give them options. While this is a good approach for all donors, it especially resonates with younger ones. Giving them the chance to give to a specific project or department that interests them makes the experience more personal.
- Offer the opportunity to give monthly. Younger generations are conditioned to monthly subscriptions for things like Apple Music and Netflix. Offering the option to give a smaller amount consistently over time matches this culture of spending. This can be used as a gateway to become a philanthropic priority.
- Incite passion. These new graduates have been raised to follow their passions, do what they love and what they find meaning in. There is a big push in education to find what speaks to you. You need to be able to tailor your development language to meet this group. These won’t be your MAJOR donors, at least not yet, but you are setting the stage for them to rise to that platform.
- Show how donations make an impact. According to the Millennial Impact Report, the younger generation values transparency in giving – especially from colleges and other educational institutions. Impact reports, donor stories, and transparent budgets will motivate young alumni to invest in your institution.
In short, the new graduates are among your most passionate, connected, and engaged constituencies – and it is up to the advancement function to play an important role in maintaining that relationship. Personalization, impact, and transparency are key ways to keep young alumni connected to and valued by your institution.