Don’t panic, engage!

don't panic

by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

It is mid-July and for those involved in the education segment of the social impact sector, you may be busy planning.  One of the frequent laments of those that I have worked with is that their alumni/ae giving is just not where it should be.  I have been part of discussions where clients begin to panic, lamenting why won’t our alumni/ae support us.  Instead of panicking this is the time to build substantive plans to build engagement among your graduates as people support causes with which they are engaged or in which have an active interest.

Steps to build alumni/ae engagement.

  1. Develop distinct and defined on-boarding opportunities.  Graduates are more likely to engage with an organization with which they are involved.  Create meaningful opportunities around events, issues to pull in your graduates and for them to contribute their thoughts.  Define the expectations and the timeline.  People will do work for you but this requires a reciprocal committment of time, planning and resources.
  2. Do not treat all your graduates the same.  Your graduates have different needs over their lifespan as well as different time availability.  Target your invitation strategically.  Create engagement opportunities tailored to your graduates time of life.
  3. Follow-up and do what you say you will do.  It is not enough to prospect, recruit and gather a group of alumni/ae.  You need to deliver on what you said you will do, and support your volunteers in their volunteer work.
  4. Ask!  Volunteers will do many things to help.  Ask them!
  5. Unapologetically ask for a gift.  As you engage alumni/ae part of your job is to help them understand why the school needs support and what the impact of that support makes.  Don’t be afraid to ask a volunteer for a gift.  An important cause deserves support.
  6. Thank and keep in touch. When a project or event is over and your alum has completed her/his commitment.  Spend time thanking and keeping in touch with him/her.  Someone who has had a good experience is more likely to volunteer, and give, again.

This is the perfect time to begin the work of engagement.  Don’t panic if your numbers aren’t where you want them to be.  Devise a roadmap and begin the work of engagement!

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