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Universities are constantly expanding their departments and campuses to continue shaping the future’s brightest minds. Donations and major gifts are vital in achieving these goals, and your alumni are a valuable resource for collecting those donations.

Grateful graduates can easily turn into loyal donors and supporters of your institution. It’s important that you’re identifying the best alumni to engage in your fundraising and capital campaigns in order to exceed all your goals.

Need help getting started? You can request a demo or schedule a free fundraising assessment with iWave to jumpstart your alumni program and fundraising efforts.

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Establish the Right Alumni Profiles

To engage your alumni, you first need to identify the right people to reach out to. Your school already has graduate records on hand, but are they organized in the right way?

Compile all your data in one place for easier access. Also, make sure to file your alumni data based on inclination and propensity to give, so you can easily differentiate between the most viable donors. If you’re unsure about what makes someone more likely to donate, fundraising software can help!

There are three key types of data you should research to better understand if an alumnus is likely to give back:

  • Biographical Data

    This background information is crucial for getting to know your alumni better. Before reaching out to a graduate make sure you have basic information on hand like their name, current address, graduation year, major/minor, current employer, and even social media pages.

    Background information will help you build a better relationship with your alumni and let them know you want to stay in touch—leading to higher engagement.

  • Philanthropic Indicators

    You don’t want to waste time and resources reaching out to alumni who may not be in a viable position to support your institution. Therefore, it’s essential that you engage with graduates who exhibit the right indicators.

    For example, if one of your alumni has a history of charitable giving, especially to education organizations or has even given to your university in the past, then they are more likely to help support your higher-learning institution and your new goals.

  • Wealth Markers

    Another indicator that a graduate would be able to contribute your university fundraising is their capacity to give. If one of your alumni has gone on to work for a profitable tech company, they may be likely to give back to the institution that gave them the tools and education to land that job.

    Does one of your graduates own a vacation home in Aspen? They may also be in a position to contribute to the success of your university. Additionally, alumni whose families have a history of attending your institution and have all enjoyed success may be willing to make a significant contribution to express their gratitude.

Once you’ve uncovered the right alumni to engage, you’ll be better set up for more successful fundraising efforts. Your team will then be able to reach out to the best graduates to make gift asks from and feel confident you’ll be getting the support you need.

University Fundraising Pro Tip:

Utilizing the proper fundraising platform and tools can help you save time when it comes to finding the best potential donors from your alumni pool. Instead of having team members browse through biographical data and wealth indicators to find the best potential donors, fundraising technology can do the hard work for you, so you can spend more time engaging your alumni. Make sure you’re getting started with the best technology for your university.

Regularly Maintain Profiles

Once you’ve identified the right alumni, you need to maintain these potential donor profiles. Students will be graduating from your university regularly, and you need to make sure all of the information in their profiles is up to date. As job statuses and incomes change, so will their profiles and potentially their ability to give.

Many universities have various datasets across different departments so it’s important you have all the information you need in a place that’s easy to locate and read. Some of the ways you can make sure your information is updated include:

  • Validate Information

    Utilize your admission department or student workers to reach out to alumnus on a routine basis to make sure all the information is current and accurate. Whether there has been a job change or a personal address change, it’s important your dataset has all the most up to date information. You need to feel confident you’re contacting the right prospective donors.

  • Delete Duplicate Information

    If your university organizes the same information across different platforms or departments, you may find repetitive information or profiles. For example, someone who double majored in mathematics and physics may have alumni information in both the science and math departments.

    By using one uniform database, you eliminate the replicated information and will stay more organized. This also creates less work for your team and eliminates the concern for one department having outdated information from another.

University Fundraising Pro Tip:

A great way to easily keep personal information updated and organized is through a fundraising platform that does the hard work for you. Fundraising software can store alumni profiles on your account and your team can all access those same files when searching for graduate support. Make sure you have the right tools to stay organized.

Another great way to make sure all your information is accurate is by performing routine engagement surveys.

Create an Engagement Survey

A quick and easy way to get the accurate and updated information you need is from an engagement survey. This handy resource not only helps you keep personal information current, but it helps you learn how to involve graduates and ask the right questions to engage your alumni.

Some of the ways you can reach your alumni with your engagement survey includes:

  • Email
  • Social media
  • Direct mail
  • Over the phone

Once again, make sure you have the right information on file, so you can ensure you’re contacting your graduate through their preferred channels.

No matter how you distribute the survey, you’ll want to ask these questions:

  • How do you like to give?
  • Which campus organizations would you want to support?
  • Would you participate in peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding, or a capital campaign?
  • Are you involved in alumni engagement events?

The most important thing you’ll learn from engagement surveys is what inspires graduates to give back to their alma matter. If an individual isn’t compelled to give to you at the moment, what can you change about your strategy to reach them in the future? Engagement surveys are all about setting your university up for greater success in the future.

Not only does this information better help you understand how to engage alumni, but based off who responds to the survey, you’ll get a better idea of which graduates are more likely to become involved, too. If a certain graduate consistently responds to the survey, they clearly have a strong loyalty to your university. Even if they are not in the position to make a large donation, they may be willing to help organize an event or engage with their fellow alumni.

University Fundraising Pro Tip:

Combine your engagement survey results with a wealth screening to gain a better picture of who is more likely to engage with your university as well as what their potential to give may be. You’ll then be able to reach out to this identified pool of supporters when it comes time to launch a capital campaign or hold a fundraising event.

Plan Impactful Fundraising Events

With the right information by your side, you’re now ready to start planning more successful fundraising events and campaigns. Some events that will engage your alumni while also bringing in funding for your programs include:

  • Capital Campaigns

    Capital campaigns are a great way to fundraise on a strict timeline for a one-time goal such as building a new library or tech department. Capital campaigns are broken down into two stages of fundraising: Private (quiet phase) and public.

    The private phase is when the majority of donations are raised, so it’s a great time to reach out to your identified alumnus for support. A more successful private phase ensures you’ll reach your targets on time, so this is a crucial part of the capital campaign process.

  • Silent Auctions

    Auctions are a great way for donors to support a cause while also gaining something in return. Reach out to graduates who have connections to great auction items and ask for a donation.

    For example, an alumnus who works for a sports team may be able to contribute tickets to a game. You can then invite other graduates to the auction to maximize your fundraising. The best part is auctions can be done in person or online. Through email or your school’s social media page, you can send a link for an online auction where graduates can place their bids.

  • Host an Online Event

    Online events are a great way to not only involve your alumni but the public as well. It helps to get the word out about your university and what you are trying to fundraise for. Even if you have alumni all around the world, they’ll be able to attend events when online, furthering the success of your fundraising campaign.

University Fundraising Pro Tip:

Inviting the right people to these events is crucial. A well-selected guest list from your alumni program will help set up your event for greater success. Having the right fundraising platform by your side can make uncovering the right donors seamless and simple so you have added assurance that your donor events will be effective.

How to Host a Successful Event

To help make the event easier to plan you may want to segment your alumni. In addition to inviting graduates with a greater ability and desire to give, you can also break down you event based on graduating class, former residence halls, majors/minors within your university, or career track.

After your event make sure to send out a follow up engagement survey. Some of the questions you can ask attendees include:

  • Did you donate at this event? If so, did you plan to give prior to attending or did you make this decision while at the event? What factors influenced this decision?
  • Did you hold off on making a gift? If so, what were the factors that dissuade you from contributing?
  • Was this event relevant to your life?
  • Was this event a positive, neutral, or negative experience? Why?
  • Would you consider attending additional alumni events in the future? What types of events would you be interested in?

Following up with your attendees ensures the continued success of future events. It will also help your team tailor events to what the public wants. Some graduates may prefer more formal events while others want an online auction to fit in better with their action-packed schedules. Engagement surveys will help give you a clear picture of what fundraisers to plan next.

How Can our Fundraising Software Help?

There are many ways to engage alumni in your university’s fundraising efforts, and a major key to success is having the right fundraising platform by your side.

At iWave, our next-generation platform is built on billions of datapoints all structured to help you uncover the right potential donors from your alumni pool. Our fundraising software for education will help you save time and more accurately uncover which of your alumni has the greatest capacity to become an impactful donor.

You can also take our technology on the go with you through our companion app. Touch up background information before heading into a meeting or update your files while on your commute home—the possibilities are endless.

Request a demo today to learn more or schedule a free fundraising assessment to see how iWave’s software can be tailored to your university’s specific needs. We’re ready to help you achieve your fundraising goals. Are you ready to join us?