After your chapter members graduate, they start to establish themselves in the professional or academic world. Many move away from campus to pursue their goals. But, no matter which direction their lives take, they will always have a strong link to their college: your chapter.
This is exactly why fraternity and sorority fundraisers treasure alumni as prospects. In fact, fraternity and sorority alumni are estimated to account for over half of all money donated to universities. To get a piece of that pie, your chapter must invest time into connecting with your alumni and making them feel appreciated by your community.
Fundraising events provide ideal opportunities to cultivate relationships with your alumni, ignite their passion for your chapter’s success, and thank them for their efforts. Follow these tips to show your gratitude to your alumni donors through every step of your alumni fundraising event rollout.
What does effective alumni recognition look like?
Before we dive into the phases of recognition during your alumni fundraising event, let’s review the characteristics of effective alumni recognition messaging. When creating these communications, you should prioritize:
- Sincerity: Your alumni play a crucial role in your chapter’s continued success. As a chapter leader, express your heartfelt gratitude on behalf of your members by sending personalized thank-you messages that highlight your appreciation for each individual donor.
- Segmentation: Another way to improve your recognition cadence is to create different messages for different segments of your donors. For instance, you can use segmentation to send appreciation messages via each donor’s preferred contact channel so they’re more likely to read it.
- Automation: While personally writing a unique note to each donor would be ideal, your chapter might not have the time or resources to do so. According to NPOInfo, with the right database hygiene practices you can easily send messages with each donor’s name, specific contribution amount, and gift impact to provide a personal touch without exhausting your resources.
- Timeliness: It’s crucial to follow up as quickly as possible after alumni donate. Try to get thank-you messages out within 24 hours of each contribution or event signup.
- Demonstrating impact: Share the specific outcomes of your fundraising event or, even better, the impact of the donor’s specific gift. If possible, add a message from your current members that highlights how much alumni support means to them.
Ultimately, the key to writing a successful appreciation message is customization, which requires time spent building relationships with alumni. The rest of the guide will help you infuse alumni appreciation into every part of your fundraising event rollout.
Preparing for Recognition Before the Event
This stage provides the prime opportunity for you to learn as much information about your alumni donors as possible so you can tailor your recognition efforts accordingly. During this phase, be sure to:
- Identify alumni donors and their contributions. If you have alumni donors with a pattern of attending your fundraising events or whom you’ve identified as significant donors through prospect screening, note their involvement and plan how you’ll thank them. Additionally, organize your research by contribution amount so you can plan your appreciation efforts accordingly. For instance, it’s beneficial to take on higher-effort appreciation tactics for major donors that give unrestricted funds so you can secure their support for future endeavors.
- Plan meaningful recognition moments for the event. Formally acknowledging significant alumni donors at the event is a great way to publicly express your gratitude. At this stage, you should identify which segments you want to showcase.
- Prepare tokens of appreciation. An easy way to reinforce your gratitude is to provide your event guests with a small gift for attending. For example, you can provide complimentary branded merchandise or a goodie bag with small mementos and snacks.
- Use the right technology. It’s crucial to ensure that no donor data falls through the cracks during the event planning process. OmegaFi recommends using chapter management software that’s tailored to your chapter’s specific needs. For instance, an ideal solution would be able to store important alumni donor information and be able to report on their involvement over time so you can make data-driven outreach decisions.
While thanking donors often happens on an informal, ad-hoc basis, your chapter should still prioritize structuring appreciation into your fundraising event by planning ahead. This way, you’ll guarantee that your alumni attendees leave your event feeling recognized and invested in your future success.
Creating Meaningful Recognition Opportunities at the Event
Now that you’ve considered which segments you want to highlight, it’s time to plan how you’ll thank them at the event. Some effective options include:
- Adding donors to acknowledgment plaques or donor walls
- Inducting impactful donors into your Alumni Hall of Fame
- Reading first-time alumni attendees/donors’ names aloud
- Giving alumni donors VIP seating or other exclusive opportunities at the event
- Preparing special recognition speeches or videos
- Offering exclusive networking opportunities with other donors and current members
Whichever methods you choose, ensure that you have permission from all of the alumni you’re shouting out, as some might prefer to remain anonymous supporters of your chapter.
Recognizing Alumni Donors After the Event
Even after the event concludes, you still have the important task of securing your alumni’s future involvement in your fundraising efforts and events. Consider these strategies to keep your alumni engaged with your chapter after your fundraising event:
- Send personalized follow-up communication expressing gratitude and sharing the event’s results
- Providing ongoing updates on how donors’ funds are utilized and the impact they make
- Recognizing donors through newsletters, your event website, social media, or special appreciation events
- Using contact information collected at the event to conduct custom prospect outreach
These post-event engagement strategies can help keep the momentum going after the event ends and keep alumni engaged until the next one.
While your alumni share a powerful connection with your chapter, it’s up to you to keep that relationship strong. As long as you stay true to your chapter’s core values of brother/sisterhood and community service, you can leverage events as a tool to show your genuine appreciation for your alumni and secure their support year after year.