It Works: A Strategy for Alumni Engagement, Fundraising, and Donor Cultivation

Alumni are a treasure of all colleges, universities, and in some ways, executive education programs. Alumni represent the alma mater’s brand around the world. Alumni help recruit students or hire graduates. Alumni are also a major part of a school’s fundraising strategy.

For some, alumni giving is on the rise. Others say major gifts are up while giving in general is down. Either way, schools need to do more with less and make sure their alumni relations and development teams are among the highest performing and most innovative units on campus. Many alumni relations and development teams are doing a great job leveraging technology for update calls, webinars, and access to school leadership. Other strategies in play are often more predictable (luncheons, happy hours, reunions, summits, cruises, direct asks) and lead to common challenges we hear:

  • “The same people show up.”
  • “It’s hard to attract the younger generation.”
  • “The alumni don’t give much.”
  • “Our donor pipeline is weak.”

Recent graduates love you and are on a high of finishing their degree and going to change the world. They have no money and you already know you can’t ask for it. Grads five to 10 years out are starting families. Grads 10 to 15 years out are investing in their families and career/business growth. Grads 20 to 25 years out are making more money, and they are now saving for or spending money on their kids’ education and perhaps still paying off their student debt. That leaves people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, right?

If you just keep asking the alumni to give, maybe.

If you give something amazing and give them an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater (and some of the coolest faculty) in a very unique way, you have just taken your game to a whole new level.

Today’s generation loves experiences. Today’s generation loves to travel and see the world. Today’s generation loves adventure. Today’s generation is active and cares about health and well-being.

At Adventure for Charity, we challenge you and your alumni to:

GET OUTSIDE.

HAVE FUN.

DO GOOD.

Tap the power of the great outdoors through adventure fundraising challenges!

What is your adventure?

The adventures can be as epic as mountain climbing, or they can be more accessible like cycling, hiking, trekking or rafting one of the great wonders of the world. Challenge participants will fun-d-raise to participate in these experiences and adventures of a lifetime, and you will engage your alumni like never before.

If donor cultivation and succession is your priority, this alumni-relations donor strategy will help you cultivate a new generation of loyal fans and future donors. Adventures challenges also support:

  • Networking and Relationships: It’s one thing to reconnect with old friends and make new ones at a business summit, cocktail party, or luncheon. It’s quite another when we add the outdoors, a challenge, emotions, support for each other, an incredible environment, and a noble cause. Outside, barriers go down. Clarity, communication, and openness (for each other and new ideas) are at their peak. New personal and business relationships that may last a lifetime are built. You–and the school–just built a new cohort of loyal, raving fans.
  • Continued Education: Negotiation, leadership, and a strategy session around a campfire at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? Do you think that will make an impact and the learning will stick? Like glue! A keynote speaker on global affairs after conquering miles along the waters of the Florida Keys or rafting the last segment of the Costa Rica coast-to-coast challenge: Will that make an impact? Yes. You can incorporate continued education sessions and integrate your own faculty and new research into an adventure challenge.
  • Health and Well-Being: There’s a subtle yet profound difference when a person is eating right and exercising because they know it’s good for them and they have to, versus when they want to because they have an adventure they are excited about and want to prepare the best they can. That’s why even companies with sophisticated corporate health and wellness programs love adventure fundraising challenges. Your alumni will too.

If you are ready to take your game to a new level, yet this sounds scary and overwhelming, we understand. We have experience in the nonprofit sector. We understand peer-to-peer fundraising, and at Adventure for Charity we have developed tools and processes to help you do more with less.

If you are or aspire to be a high-performing, innovative alumni relations and development office, let us know how we can help you get the engagement and support from your alumni to the next level.