Monday, June 27, 2011

BIG's Blog: Can you help us?

In my last blog, I posed the question based on an inquiry made by an educational institution seeking help with their fundraising efforts. My thought was: Is direct mail fundraising cost the real problem to the lack of financial growth of this institution or should other factors be considered? Here are a few points that may address this question.

An educational institution is a great example of where multi-channel marketing should be considered. Depending on the age of the institution, five generations of alumni could be present in the fundraising efforts as seen below:

Born 1912 – 1921: Depression Cohort (very few)
Born 1922 – 1945: World War II Cohort (small)
Born 1946 – 1964: Baby Boomer Cohort
Born 1965 – 1981: Generation X Cohort
Born 1982 – 2001: Millennial Cohort

Alumni communication should address not only the message that resonates with that generation, but also how they want to receive it. An example, institutions who use only direct mail to communicate with alumni are not engaging their most recent graduates, the Generation X (Gen X) and Millennial cohorts. Their primary communication tools are Facebook, YouTube and other similar social sites. Sending direct mail to these cohorts requesting support will bring little to no response. GenX and Millennial alumni may want to support their school, but do not own a checkbook. Most use cash or have a debit/credit card. The institution should consider an online giving plan to support these alumni cohorts. Some will not have disposable income due to college debt and/or starting their own families. But, this should not stop the communication coming from the institution to alumni. Keeping connected with alumni after they graduate is key to future support.

The use of direct mail with Baby Boomer alumni has a better chance of being opened. Some alumni of this generation may use the Web to pay bills and to support nonprofit causes. Others will write checks. Alumni from this cohort are more likely to support an educational institution’s needs, but the communication piece (letter or website) must show perceived value. Alumni in this cohort are more likely to search the Internet seeking information about what is going on at their past alma mater. A strong website with a “donate now” button could bring additional funding to the school from those who do not respond to direct mail.

These are just a few ideas I would suggest that an educational institution consider when seeking funding. Review current alumni communication and fundraising strategies. If you are not sure of how to incorporate new strategies into your plan, consider hiring outside help to guide you through the process. Together you can create a new strategy to grow and sustain the institution’s funding needs.


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