Universities and higher education institutions rely on their alumni for long-lasting support. In the digital age, this has become more complicated. As direct mail lags in popularity with younger alumni, advancement professionals must rely on email campaigns. While they are more likely to reach prospects through this medium, it can be difficult for a message to grab attention in an overcrowded inbox.
While some former students will stay active in the school community from the day they graduate, it takes work to re-engage others. Here are three suggested strategies:
Track email opens and differentiate messages
Alumni that haven’t converted to active donors can have a variety of reasons. Some may find that the appeals sent to them aren’t relevant. Perhaps they speak to experiences that they didn’t have as a student, or areas of the school that didn’t impact them. In other cases, the alumni may be very interested, but just not able to contribute financially.
By tracking email opens and click-throughs, you can get a sense as to each recipient’s unique situation. Based on the results, you can segment alumni into different message groups or adjust your suggested gift amounts.
Send communications from names they’ll recognize
Research shows that email campaigns with a personal touch are more successful. Rather than sending emails from a general school account, you may have better luck engaging alumni by writing from more recognizable names.
For example, you can send an email from a popular marketing professor to former business students, reminding them of their favorite classes. You can also try sending an update from a former student union president, who helped make great memories on campus. The personal touch is likely to encourage email opens and generate interest.
Hold on-campus events for nearby alumni
Of course, there are only so many memories you can trigger by email. For maximum impact, it can be effective to bring your alumni back on campus.
If a former student isn’t actively engaged, you will want to reduce barriers by offering the event with no admission fee. Once they have attended, you can showcase familiar sights and sounds, speak one-on-one, and share your appeals with their attention captured.
Other than capturing donations during or after the event, you can also creatively benefit your advancement initiatives on-site. You can sell concessions, merchandise, and hold a revenue-generating raffle or auction.
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