Build your donor pipeline through alumni engagement + stewardship

How to build your donor pipeline

Your alumni of today are your donors of tomorrow. Recent alumni in the earliest stages of their careers may not be the biggest donors (yet) but give it a few years, and some of them almost certainly will be. Forward-thinking educational institutions are always focused on growing their donor pipeline–and it’s never too early to start. Cultivating your alumni donor pipeline begins with engagement. 

Fundraising organizations tend to reap what they sow (or grow), so it’s important to recognize alumni engagement and stewardship as a long game. From the time that your future alumni are still students through graduation and then along their career journeys, you need to establish yourself as a positive presence in their life in order to build the kind of relationship that leads to loyal and regular donations over the years. 

The following tips and suggestions will guide you through the steps necessary to grow your donor pipeline through alumni engagement and stewardship. 

Find shared interest and vision with your institution’s community

With so many nonprofit organizations vying for your potential donor’s attention, you need to be clear about why your institution is worthy of their support. As alumni of your institution, they already have some degree of connection, but this isn’t always enough to convert a well-wisher into a donor. 

People tend to donate to organizations that resonate strongly with their interests, values and vision. It is this domain of shared interest that you need to emphasize in all your communications with future donors. But how can you be sure you’re hitting the right message?

Tap into the wisdom of your board members to find impactful connections

Board members are a valuable asset when it comes to working out what makes your future donors tick. They are able to see the organization in its entirety and also maintain in-depth relationships with a variety of stakeholders—from alumni leaders and career services to volunteer engagement and major donors. This makes them ideally placed to advise about how to find shared interests with donors.

Check in with your board regularly, run any messaging and campaign ideas by them before launch and ask for their help in ensuring that the information you put out is aligned with the vision and values of your community.

Ask your most involved volunteers why they got involved

Those who give freely of their time and energy–i.e., your volunteers—are some of your most committed community members. You can learn a lot by asking volunteers what prompted them to get involved. It is likely that their reasons and motivations will resonate with others in your community and you can therefore, use the information you learn from volunteers to influence your outreach efforts with other donors.

Tailor events to new donors and/or members

Events—whether online or in-person—are a wonderful way to draw future donors to your organization and build personal connections. New donors or members of your wider community that have not yet established a long-term commitment to your organization have only tenuous relationships with your institution.

To strengthen these burgeoning relationships, offer events designed to appeal to these new donors and members. This will invite them deeper into the fold and provide opportunities for you to get to know them personally.

Use digital presence to build your alumni donor pipeline

Building a donor pipeline through alumni engagement and stewardship is a resource-heavy job. Whether you are trying to identify which potential donors to approach, launch a fundraising campaign, keep in touch with donors, or build an alumni networking platform, digital tools will help you get the job done faster and in a more efficient and painless manner.

Fundraising technology for building your alumni donor pipeline

Mass generic communications are not an effective way to build enduring relationships. The personal touch is far more effective, but it’s not easy to carry out in practice—especially if you have a limited staff. Fundraisers need to identify which donors are ripe for a request and then work out what to ask for. Sometimes, it’s not even appropriate to ask for anything and all that a donor needs is an update or a thank you message.

Raise from Gravyty helps fundraisers make these difficult judgment calls and suggests the best approach for each donor. Powered by AI, Raise will analyze the donors in your CRM and craft an appropriate message to send each one, saving hours of fundraiser’s time.

When it comes to running a fundraising campaign—such as a Giving Day or special event—Advance from Gravyty offers dynamic tools, including powerful gamification and marketing tools, to make any online fundraising initiative a success.

From the earliest planning stages to live execution on the day of the event, Advance saves time, boosts efficiency and adds that extra splash of dynamism that will make your campaign truly sticky and memorable.

Stewardship technology for building your alumni donor pipeline

Whether it’s a thank you message, a birthday greeting, or an update explaining what’s going on in your organization, donor touchpoints are far more effective when delivered personally. As anyone in fundraising knows, it’s rarely possible to reach out personally to every donor, however much you would like to.

This is where tools like Gratavid from Gravyty can be a real asset. Gratavid allows fundraisers to pre-record, store and disseminate dynamic videos designed for use in donor engagement and stewardship. Used creatively, these videos can feel personal and inspire more loyalty than an email or a newsletter would.

For example, a personal thank you recorded by the headmaster or dean of your school or a video in which the recipient of an award or scholarship personably describes the impact this gift made on his life can feel a lot more personal than any written version. 

Alumni engagement platform for building your alumni donor pipeline

Donors give for philanthropic reasons and out of a desire to help, but—especially in the education space—donors often seek ways to get value back from the institutions they support as well. Digital tools can provide an effective way to offer your alumni donors and potential donors some value. Graduway from Gravyty, for instance, is a wonderful way to provide an online networking platform that can be of great benefit to your community.

Schools use Graduway to run mentorship programs and offer useful social and career networking. Graduway can help you unleash the full value of your school’s alumni community, offering your alumni value while inspiring greater confidence and loyalty in your organization.

Additionally, an alumni platform like Graduway offers a way for institutions to bring together groups of students and alumni for a common cause, such as an affinity group. Rallying around a specific interest or cause builds community and loyalty throughout the school.

Present your institution as a trusted expert or leader

The content you put out is your shop window and can be a great way to attract potential donors to your door. To inspire confidence in your organization, be intentional about any content you share. Ideally, you want to establish yourself as a knowledgeable authority in your niche, so make sure that your content is well-written, researched and authoritative.

If you have any relationships with well-known and respected industry leaders, have them write articles or participate in webinars that you share on your website to increase your authority.

Be clear and consistent in your messaging

Nothing puts people off like unclear and inconsistent messaging. Before reaching out to donors, make sure that your message is clear and that it is not at odds with anything else you have sent out previously. It is also essential that you get your facts straight.

If you are writing to thank someone for a donation, for example, make sure you know which initiative the gift was given to and what the amount was. An AI-based fundraising tool like Raise from Gravyty will make sure you never get these essential bits of information wrong.

Tools of the trade to build your alumni donor pipeline

Building your donor pipeline through alumni engagement and stewardship requires consistent and continuous effort. Digital tools like Graduway, Raise, Gratavid, and Advance from Gravyty can help you manage the process and get more done in less time. Get a demo.

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