Why Your Constituents Aren’t Listening: How to Properly Engage Alumni

Why Your Constituents Aren’t Listening: How to Properly Engage Alumni

Why Your Constituents Aren’t Listening: How to Properly Engage Alumni
December 12, 2019 James Werner

If you’re anything like me, you probably send and receive around 100 emails a day. This doesn’t even take into consideration the many targeted email campaigns and promotions that also land in my inbox.  

Now, imagine that you send an important email to a co-worker and don’t get a response. You follow up, and still no word. You find out that your emails to that person are going into a “black hole” and are never seen. 

Not a great use of your time, is it? 

Between spam filters and people ignoring emails, trends show that email is less effective than it was a few years ago. As a result, development shops are honing their social media campaigns and reviving direct mail.

No matter what methods you use to reach your alumni, keeping them engaged is a difficult task. Fortunately, a modern CRM helps coordinate both your communications and trend-spotting metrics so that you can meet (or exceed) your communication goals with relevant and timely communications.

In this 3rd post within our advancement industry technology series, we will be showcasing three ways to effectively engage with your alumni.


3 Best Practices for Engaging with Your Alumni


#1 Relevance

Relevance goes beyond putting a first name in an email communication; you must have a clear idea of the person with whom you’re speaking. To make your communications relevant to your constituents, every email, phone call and direct mail outreach must speak to the interests of each individual. New “social listening” tools allow you to see (and capture) what they are posting on social media and to understand the ways in which they interact with their communities. Truly understanding who your constituents are allows you to speak to them in ways that are both respectful and compelling. Add to your current-state knowledge additional background information (such as what was happening on campus during their time in school), and you can create truly meaningful and emotionally impactful communications. 

One way you can implement more relevant messaging is by using metrics to improve your audience segmentation. There’s no reason to send theatre buffs information about the baseball championships unless you know they’re also interested in athletics. Meaningful analytics will help you know who you’re talking to and what they care about.

Takeaway: A modernized platform with cutting-edge tools pulls together the data you need by analyzing online behavior in combination with historical data. When armed with this type of detailed and telling information, you have the ability to personalize and segment messaging in a meaningful way.


#2 Equip Front-Line Fundraisers with Insights and Analytic Capabilities

By now, analytics are an ingrained part of the advancement industry. For example, organizations have done a lot of analysis on how email to constituents performs in terms of content. “A/B testing” and “open” and “click” analysis help determine which types of content gets the most engagement from which recipients.  This type of data analysis is making its way into every aspect of the advancement industry. 

One conclusion that appears consistently is that building a story into the messaging works well. Donors want to know specifically what a gift is going to do for their alma mater. This phenomenon is especially true with younger generations who expect greater transparency. 

Takeaway: Your analytics team can locate patterns that will help you build the most relevant stories for your constituents. By targeting specific areas of interest, you can more rapidly engage individuals who have shown an affinity for specific topical areas of your mission.


#3 Engage Future Alumni While They’re Still Students

Students are the lifeblood of any university; There’s no better time to capture that bond than while they’re still students. The advancement office can plant the seeds for future giving in many ways. For example, the institutional connection is amplified when scholarship students connect with the donor of their scholarship funds. Both sides make a meaningful human connection and the memory will last for years.

Engaging future alumni may also consist of forming partnerships with offices on campus that students commonly frequent. Aligning with the career center, for example, could show students how alumni giving plays a crucial role in their own future success. Aligning with the student activities office allows the advancement office to show a connection between the production of high-quality student events and the alumni donations that make such events possible. There are countless opportunities to turn routine interactions with the university into subtle encouragement of future support. 

It can take some creative thinking and commitment to build strategic partnerships, but connecting with students earlier rather than later sets a strong foundation for your institution’s future.

Takeaway: From the time students enter the university setting, the advancement office has an opportunity to build connections that will last a lifetime. Armed with tools to manage your pipeline across departments and teams, you are better equipped than ever to connect students with communications and touchpoints that can be viewed and analyzed in future years.  


There are many reasons individuals give to their alma mater; from the highly personal to generational beliefs – and we’ll explore these in a future post. Yet, the fact remains that being relevant is one of the most crucial elements of your fund-raising success.. As every industry – from commercial to not-for-profit – becomes more personalized, alumni have adjusted their expectations. Cloud-based tools offer you the flexibility, power, and reach to speak to your constituents in a way that will match their expectations. 

Connect with and cultivate your constituents in one powerful system.