Emailing Alumni: Five Simple Tips to Help Boost Donations

by Victor Green
3 mins read

Watching young minds develop and flourish as they enter the working world is the goal of any academic institution. Well, that and bringing in enough donations to keep the doors open for the next group of tomorrow’s great thinkers. If your college or university needs a boost to get donations rolling back in, take a few minutes to look over some tips that, when paired with an email marketing campaign, can get those wallets open and get your alumni reinvesting in their beloved alma mater.

Treat Your Student Mailing List the Same Way

The first place to start is with the group that hasn’t even walked across the stage on graduation day yet. While it might seem a little odd to target students, what better way to build your alumni mailing list than to bridge this gap? You already have all of this contact info, so working in content and messages that help promote donations and gifts back to the university in weekly student updates and other newsletters is a great way to plant the seed. While not all of these undergrads will make it all the way in the four (or five) years it takes to get a degree, having this concept become a part of the culture once they enter the real world can keep the money flowing back to your school.

Anecdotes Can Be Pretty Powerful

In a similar vein is making things a little more personal with anecdotes from past students. While posting a five page interview with a recent graduate in your next email might be a little overboard, having blurbs or small sections of your regular messages that quote or reference successful alumni who donate can send a powerful message. In fact, major universities like Rice have used a program that takes on the same style to bump alumni participation rates, especially in the new and lapsed categories. Adding in a donation matching program further spiced up this reinvigorated campaign, but that really only works if you’ve got the extra funds (or a few very generous donors) to back up the increased surge in donations.

Break Things Up by School

Another clever way of optimizing your email marketing campaign, particularly if your budget’s a little on the tight side, is to focus on increasing donations for the schools that need it most within your university. By honing in on the different sections of your institution, you can help pump funds back into the programs that are struggling or that just haven’t found the right way to connect with their alumni. Part of this process is moving your email content from the general and focusing more on what each of these schools will do with the funds. Think of it this way – if an art grad sees that her donation will help fund a new studio for the school of arts, she’s more likely to pitch in than if you simply send out a generic email that doesn’t show where the money is going.

Offer Giving Levels

One of the biggest reasons people don’t donate to their alma mater is because they think it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. Depending on which school you went to, this might not be too far from the truth. However, your institution can curb this concept and rebuild flagging alumni donations by offering up different “giving levels.” This strategy works by incorporating different donation levels – which you can set to whatever values you think are fair – into your promoted emails and website. This way, instead of letting people assume they need to fork over huge amounts of cash, you give them the opportunity to give smaller and larger amounts. While it might not seem like much, securing all the small donations that would have otherwise never come your way can add up fast.

Tie-in Your Messages to the Rest of Your Alumni Program

Once you’ve covered the previous tips, the final member of the list brings everything full circle. Heading back down to Texas for this example shows that Rice isn’t the only school looking to revolutionize the alumni donating process. Texas Christian University (TCU) has a plan in place that it hopes will surpass Rice by building a complete marketing process. Basically, if you want to follow in TCU’s footsteps, your email marketing campaign needs to compliment everything else that’s going on around campus. From movies shown at orientation to keeping donations on the minds of current and former students via direct mail, email, and social media, a full service campaign with promotional emails at its core can help lock down these funds for years to come.

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