4 Ways to engage young alumni in fundraising efforts

Is your school doing enough to engage young alumni?

As an education-based fundraiser, you surely understand the importance of optimizing alumni engagement in your efforts. After all, former students can be some of the most valuable supporters in your donor pipeline⁠. They’ve already seen your mission impact firsthand! One subcategory within this group that is often overlooked⁠—but can play a significant role in your engagement⁠—is young alumni. That’s why, in this guide, we’ll walk you through four key methods to engage young alumni in your school’s fundraising efforts.

These include the following practices:

  1. Make the most of social proof.
  2. Communicate donation impact to young alumni.
  3. Thank and acknowledge alumni engagement.
  4. Emphasize workplace giving opportunities for involvement.

But before we dive in with our favorite tips, it helps to understand why it’s so important to engage young alumni in the first place. So let’s get started with the basics!

Why engaging young alumni is crucial to your fundraising strategy

When you think of alumni fundraising, you and your team are likely picturing a group of middle-aged (or older) individuals who attended your institution multiple decades ago. While that group might be a key contributor when you look at current giving, you may be overlooking those who graduated in more recent years. And the latter segment has significant potential, too.

As you consider refocusing your efforts to encompass younger groups of alumni, you might be asking yourself why. Here’s the answer: if you’re not currently targeting younger supporters in your fundraising plan, you’re surely missing out on a substantial source of giving revenue. And those are dollars that could be bringing your school to new heights.

Not to mention, young alumni don’t stay young forever. You’ll likely even end up focusing your efforts on them eventually, anyway. By focusing some of your efforts here now, you’re simply getting a head start on engagement. And if your hesitancy surrounding the group is their limited giving capacity, to begin with, know that if you facilitate giving young, alumni are more likely to continue supporting your institution in new and bigger ways as their abilities to give grow as well.

Engage young alumni and plant seeds that will grow into a lifetime of giving.
Engage young alumni and plant seeds that will grow into a lifetime of giving.

Engaging young alumni with these best practices

Optimal alumni engagement efforts should be deeply rooted in your school’s overall fundraising strategy. When you integrate the following tips into your smart engagement plan, you can see greater returns on investment from all segments of your donor network⁠—including young alumni.

Here’s what we recommend.

1. Make the most of social proof

Young donors, typically falling into Millennial and Gen Z cohorts, tend to be particularly impacted by the idea of social proof⁠. Essentially, this is a psychological phenomenon describing the ways in which people tend to be influenced by and imitate others. In terms of donor engagement, that means they’ll likely listen to⁠, trust⁠, and emulate their peers’ giving habits.

In order to best leverage social proof for your efforts, consider:

  • Incorporating peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives
  • Encouraging user-generated content
  • Promoting young alumni endorsements

Once you get one young alumnus in your donor network, the rest will come more easily. All in all, understanding this idea can go a long way toward strategically targeting your younger groups of alumni⁠—and keeping them involved in the long run.

2. Communicate donation impact to engage young alumni

All donors want to understand the impact that their hard-earned dollars are making on the causes they support⁠—but that’s especially important for younger age groups. In fact, a report from the Charities Aid Foundation states that “A focus on results and impact characterizes next-generation philanthropy and translates to younger donors wanting to see the impact of their philanthropy in their lifetime.”

Thus, in order to best appeal to your young alumni segments, it’s a good idea to prioritize giving impact in your strategic outreach. For example, the Gravyty 2023 Donor Communication Playbook suggests using creative ways to demonstrate donation impact⁠, such as round-up videos, data-driven stories, and even personal testimonials from those who’ve benefited from supporter giving. The more ways you can show tangible impact made possible by your donor funding, the better!

Plus, as you work to incorporate workplace giving opportunities⁠—like corporate matching gifts⁠—into your strategy, be sure to emphasize the amplified impact that participation brings.

3. Thank and acknowledge alumni engagement

Another key component of the overall donor journey has to do with demonstrating gratitude and acknowledgment. Those are aspects that you certainly don’t want to overlook when engaging  young alumni.

When it comes to showing gratitude to young alumni for getting involved with your fundraising efforts, it helps to meet them where they are, keeping their age group in mind. 

Check out these ideas to engage young alumni by showing appreciation:

  • Make the most of public acknowledgment through channels your donors already use. For example, a social media shoutout might be more impactful than a similar blurb in a physical newsletter they might not read.
  • Don’t write off snail mailings! While direct mail might be associated with the older crowd, many Gen Z and Millennial supporters appreciate the novelty of a tangible letter in their mailbox.
  • Be specific in your thanks. Donors⁠—especially young ones⁠—won’t be impacted by the same generic message copied and pasted from one supporter to another. Make an effort to diversify your wording, acknowledging alumni for particular ways they were involved in furthering your mission.

Many young donors are getting into charitable giving for the first time. Unfortunately, a lack of acknowledgement from institutions receiving their donor funding is one of the most common reasons why new donors choose not to give again.

Not to mention, thanking supporters for their generosity toward your institution is simply the right thing to do!

4. Engage young alumni with workplace giving opportunities

Workplace giving is a key component of corporate philanthropy, and it’s becoming a particularly high priority among younger generations entering the workforce. Research indicates that young employees⁠ (primarily Gen Z and Millennials⁠) are increasingly demanding positive social responsibility from the companies they work for and buy from. In fact, nearly 2/3 of young employees won’t take a job at a company with poor CSR practices—and their employees want to get involved.

That’s why we recommend highlighting matching gifts (and other workplace giving programs) to donors of all ages. Your young alumni just might be the most inclined to partake!

Studies show that supporters are more likely to contribute⁠—and to contribute in larger amounts⁠—when they know their gifts will be matched. Thus, your fundraising efforts ultimately benefit twofold from increased individual giving and corporate matching when you promote program opportunities.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Ensure you have up-to-date employment data for young alumni. If you already have this information on file, great! If not, consider incorporating an optional field in your online donation form to provide a company name or even leveraging an employer appends service.
  • Identify match-eligible donations and provide donors with easy access to their companies’ program guidelines and submission forms. The less research individuals are asked to do on their own to complete a match, the higher the chance that available matches are ultimately submitted.
  • Make an effort to market matching gifts and other corporate giving program opportunities in all of your donor- and alumni-facing materials. Tons of eligible donors are simply unaware that the programs exist, but taking a proactive approach to promoting the programs can go a long way.

More and more businesses are offering charitable giving programs, such as matching gifts, volunteer grants and beyond. Thus, reminding young alumni of these opportunities get them further involved with your fundraising efforts.

School engagement efforts⁠ often neglect young alumni—but doing so omits a significant portion of your supporter audience. When you make an effort to include all segments of your alumni base in fundraising initiatives, on the other hand, you ensure you’re not overlooking key donor potential.

Digital tools like Graduway and Advance from Gravyty help you engage, inspire, connect, solicit and steward your young alumni for lasting impact on your fundraising organization. Get a demo.