Once again, we are approaching commencement season at colleges and universities across the country. Your students are cramming for finals. Your teachers are working hard to grade those finals. Your grounds and maintenance crews are working overtime to spruce up campuses.
While everyone handles student philanthropy differently, one thing is clear, the time to act is now when building relationships with young alumni.
In a LinkedIn article a couple of years ago, Parks Smith, an alumni engagement professional at Longwood University in Virginia, outlined “Four easy ways to welcome your new alumni.” His first suggestion — “Immediately welcome them into your digital ecosystem” — has never been more important.
“When I graduated, you were immediately given a piece of paper welcoming you to an amorphous alumni association and directly lecturing you on the importance of giving back,” Smith writes. “That passive approach should be a thing of the past.”
As we’ve discussed before, young people today expect their communication and transactions to be effortless and seamless. This means a digital approach to most things. If you want to maintain strong ties with your new alumni, you have to get them into your online network now — while their still on campus, feeling excited and proud about graduating from your institution.
“At Longwood, we’ve urged soon-to-be alumni to join the Longwood Network at grad fairs and various other events,” Smith writes. “We’re also throwing a big party during Senior Week with the sole purpose to get these new alums to sign quickly up for the network.”
Why is this so vital? New evidence is showing the value of digital engagement in philanthropic decision making. By using low cost digital engagement, messaging can focus on genuine relationship building.
- “We think you will like this article.”
- “Please be our guest.
- “Help us celebrate.”
These are the messages that create relationships, not adding another mailer to ask for more money. And that’s what young alumni want, a relationship with their alma mater.
Said another way … when they make their millions or come into an inheritance, who are they more likely to support? The institution that values them as a relationship or the institution who sends three mailers with VDP imports or phone calls asking “when was the last time you were on campus?”
More so than any of your previous classes, this new group of alumni is accustomed to ubiquitous connectivity facilitated by technology. It is not only their preference it is their expectation.
By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed