What if I told you to bypass cultivating your alumni and dive right into soliciting them? Hopefully, you would find that outlandish.
You may be surprised to know; some higher education institutions are doing this. They are practicing “ask early and ask often” and making a detour around cultivating relationships and heading straight to asking their new graduates for a gift.
In fact, among the 600+ participating institutions in the VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study, roughly 70% reported sending two or more gift solicitations to new graduates within the first year.
What happens when you ask too early?
The survey reports that the Quit Rate or Opt-Out Rate among institutions that solicit new grads two or more times per year is 16% – meaning they have requested that they be on your “Do Not Call,” “Do Not Contact,” or “Do Not Solicit” lists. That is more than DOUBLE that of schools who don’t solicit new grads in the first year.
Could you imagine losing 16% of your potential new donors so quickly? They were barely through commencement before you asked for a gift, and now they are gone, probably for good.
Why does cultivating your alumni matter?
When your goal is to drive revenue and prepare alumni to give for a lifetime, making a hasty decision to solicit them before building a genuine relationship puts your institution at risk of losing a significant amount of revenue. Because once your grads have opted out, that’s it – game over. Their lifetime value will be $0.
Think about it – your alumni have a million choices for where they can focus their energy and support. They are expecting value and want to feel appreciated. For that reason alone, your advancement office should make maintaining and deepening connections a priority.
On top of that, if your young alumni are among the millions of people riddled in student loan debt, they’re probably going to be a little resentful each time they receive your communications asking for a gift – especially if it is generic, isn’t relevant to them, and provides no value! Steering the focus immediately towards asking for financial support can easily make your grads feel unappreciated and weaken their loyalty to their alma mater.
Additionally, your alumni want to feel like they are getting something extra out of the time and financial investment they’ve made at your school. So it’s critical for your institution to spend the time cultivating each of them, providing them with value, and laying the foundation for future support.
How do you master the art of cultivation?
The key to creating lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with your alumni depends on your data strategy. It is the foundation for how you communicate, fundraise, and engage your alumni community.
Effective alumni programs recognize the importance of data integration and collaboration across departments. With a complete view of their graduates, they are able to provide a more individualized, personalized experience, build stronger alumni relationships, and deliver meaningful content. For example, messaging to an alum who received scholarships will be markedly different than to an alum who did not.
Ask yourself: Do your admissions, student success, and advancement and alumni relations departments collaborate, coordinate efforts, and share data?
Having the right tools in place to aggregate and share data from disparate systems is critical to improving your engagement efforts and building alumni loyalty.
Curious to learn more? Ask us how we can help turn your alumni data into relationships.
Wait, before you go –
Check out this post from iModules. They’ve outlined five ways you can show your members some love.
Stacy Caponetti is a Marketing Manager for Omatic Software where she is responsible for monitoring industry and technology trends to help deliver value-based content for nonprofit organizations.