How You Can Engage Alumni in Fundraising Efforts: 4 Ideas

How You Can Engage Alumni in Fundraising Efforts: 4 Ideas

Julia Claire Campbell Fundraising, Nonprofits, Online Fundraising Leave a Comment

This post is a guest blog by Patrick Alderdice at Pennington and Co. 

It’s important for every nonprofit organization to keep a pulse on fundraising trends and adjust their strategies accordingly to give their campaigns the best possible chance of success. And right now, for colleges, universities, fraternities, sororities, and other school-related organizations, all signs are pointing to a rise in alumni donations.

In fact, Inside Higher Ed asserts that alumni donations to U.S. colleges and universities rose by 10.8% in 2021. 

Clearly, alumni care about their alma maters and giving back to current students. But what does all this mean for your organization? That it’s time to fine-tune your alumni fundraising strategy! In this post, we’ll give you a leg up by offering four ideas that can help you better engage your alumni in your fundraising efforts:  

  1. Keep your database organized and up to date. 
  2. Refine your approach to alumni communication. 
  3. Offer user-friendly donation tools. 
  4. Plan engaging alumni events. 

By leveraging these ideas, you’ll not only be able to pull in more donations from your alumni community. You’ll also be able to boost alumni engagement in other areas, getting them involved in opportunities like mentoring students in need or serving on your board. Let’s dive right in!

Keep your database organized and up to date. 

To effectively engage your alumni in your fundraising efforts, you’ll need to know a thing or two about them, and that’s where your donor database will come into play. 

Maintaining an organized and useful database begins with investing in the right software. If you’re still seeking the best donor database solution, you’ll need to approach the buying process deliberately. According to OmegaFi, you should conduct thorough research on each option you’re considering. Check out software review websites and ask colleagues from similar organizations for their recommendations! 

Once you’re to the point that your database is full of your alumni’s information, you’ll likely have the following data points (and more!) to work with:

  •  Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Physical addresses 
  • Giving history
  • Event attendance 
  • Web engagement information 
  • Employment information

In order for this information to be useful to your organization for fundraising purposes, you’ll need to regularly maintain and update the information. For example, an alumna might move and get a new job with an employer that offers matching gifts that you can tap into. Or, an alumnus may begin interacting more with your organization on Facebook, letting you know that he might be interested in being a part of your next peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. 

When you stay on top of changes like these by updating your donor data, you will be better equipped to harness new fundraising opportunities when they arise!

Refine your approach to alumni communication. 

Staying on top of your donor data will also allow you to level up your approach to alumni communication. This is critical for better fundraising, as your alumni will only be able to participate in fundraising opportunities that you let them know about! 

Here are our top two tips for opening communication channels that will lead to more donations and stronger connections with your alumni audience:  

Use a multichannel marketing approach. Though much of our communication today takes place in the digital space, you should also market your fundraisers through other avenues. Don’t neglect the importance of printed newsletters, posters, flyers, letters, and postcards in addition to things like your website, email campaigns, and social media posts. 

Personalize your communication materials. Personalization makes your alumni feel seen as people. Make an effort to use their names in your communications, swapping the generic “Hello, Valued Donor” for “Hey Cameron!” or “Hello, Elizabeth.” You can also use other things you know about your donor to personalize your outreach further. For example, if you know a major donor goes on an annual ski trip with their family in December, you might email them ahead of the trip, wishing them happy travels and letting them know about your year-end campaign. 

Ultimately, communication is about more than just bagging another donation. Keep your eyes on the more important prize—a long-term relationship with alumni who are invested in your organization’s work!

Offer user-friendly donation tools. 

When it’s finally time to secure donations from your alumni community, you’ll need to make the donation experience as smooth as possible. You can do so by providing donation tools that make the process simple, convenient, and fast. 

Here are a few tools you’ll need: 

  • Online donation page: Create an online donation page directly on your organization’s website. Make sure this page is branded to your organization and includes multiple ways to give. For example, you might allow donors to opt-in to your recurring giving program or dedicate their donation to a loved one. 
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising platform: A peer-to-peer fundraising platform allows donors to take the reins on fundraising on your organization’s behalf. They set up a personal donation page and share it with their network of family and friends. You can use peer-to-peer fundraising tools for a specific peer-to-peer campaign, or just offer them for one-off uses, such as birthday fundraisers. 
  • Matching gift tool: Matching gifts are essentially free money for your organization that many nonprofits and their donors don’t know about. The right matching gift database provider can set you up with a tool that allows your donors to look up whether their employers offer gift matching. From there, they can submit their matching information to their employer and double their impact without spending another dime!


In addition to these suggestions, consider using other donation tools like text-to-give software, crowdfunding platforms, and online merchandise stores. Using multiple donation tools will give your donors the chance to customize how they participate in your campaigns.

Plan engaging alumni events. 

Hosting events can be a great way to connect with your alumni community and collect donations. Whether it’s an annual graduation party, a back-to-school alumni get-together, a high-end gala, or a conference, an event can be a great way to interface with your alumni community and collect donations. 

Here are a few things to remember as you plan your next event: 

  • Start planning your event early, and book venues, catering, and entertainment as soon as you can. 
  • Don’t underestimate the value of virtual or hybrid events—the flexibility they provide can be especially appealing to busy event attendees, and you can still make them extremely engaging experiences. 
  • Send out invitations early—you can even send out save-the-dates before you have all your event details finalized. 

Keep in mind that there are a number of different ways your alumni audience can be involved in your events besides attending. You might ask one of them to emcee or be the auctioneer at your gala. Or, you might offer alumni the opportunity to volunteer at your event. Alumni could be persuaded to donate auction items with the right procurement letter. Providing multiple ways to get involved ensures that your alumni can choose a way to participate that gets them excited about being a part of your organization now and in the future. 

As an education-focused organization, it’s important to keep your fundraising approach fresh and interesting in order to have the best possible chance of engaging your alumni audience. Use these ideas to boost your fundraising efforts and drive greater results that can move your organization’s cause forward!

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