Planting the seed by engaging current students in a student philanthropy program is the first step in creating a donor pipeline. When done correctly it can lead to lifelong loyalty and support for your organization.
The next step to address is young alums: all those who graduated within the last 10 years.
This is a touchy demographic, however. I’m sure you remember your early years after graduation. You were actively getting your career off the ground – starting, of course, with finding that first job. Your student loans started coming due, along with the realization of exactly how much your education cost and how long it would take to pay it off. You might have gone on to attend grad school, working toward your Masters degree or PhD. And then on top of everything else, you were getting married and starting a family. How can anyone possibly ask this group to contribute?
I can understand that thinking! We all want to be thoughtful and compassionate. But, connecting and engaging your young alums is the natural next step in your donor pipeline. And as your student philanthropy program matures, your young alumni will expect communication and understand the need to give back.
After all, you don’t want to ignore them for 10 years and then mysteriously pop back into the picture to ask for a donation. So you have two choices. You can either 1) ask from the time they graduate and risk bothering a small portion or 2) do nothing until you think they are established enough not be offended.
As my dean always says, “we know what the outcome will be if we do nothing!” Sage advice – thank you Dean Thompson!
It’s important to remember that young alumni are your major donors of the future!
It’s worth taking the risk and sending your most recent graduating class their first solicitation letter. They will learn what’s happening at the university which makes them feel connected and informed. It will make them feel important for being an alum and being solicited. And, yes, a very small fraction might have a negative reaction. But the vast majority of reactions will result in increased awareness and alumni engagement – and even gifts!
What successes have you experienced with young alumni? Please leave a comment below.