Dawn Stever joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz as a Vice President and Senior Consultant in Fundraising Management in August 2014. She brings 11 years of experience in higher education annual giving. Dawn works with nonprofit organizations in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada to design and implement successful annual giving programs. Her experience includes in-depth strategic planning, new program development, frontline fundraising, collaboration with high-level volunteers, crowdfunding, giving days, and phonathon management.
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It’s an uncertain time for higher education fundraising. In terms of dollars, total giving is on the rise. But from 2007 to 2015, 69% of higher education institutions saw a decline in their alumni donor counts, with an average loss of 26%.
This is an unsustainable scenario. Institutions are becoming increasingly dependent on small groups of large donors, and at some point, that will undermine total giving.
A healthy donor pipeline is the lifeblood of a college or university, and the annual gift is often the starting point for donors.
The long-term solution is to build a robust giving pipeline with young alumni. The difficulty, however, is that young alumni are a tough group to engage. Today’s young alumni receive more solicitations from more nonprofits, direct their giving to fewer charities, and are less inclined to make a gift purely out of loyalty than previous generations. So what can your institution do to engage this group and build a foundation for giving that could eventually lead to major gifts? Here are four ideas to increase your chances of success with young donors and strengthen their engagement with your institution.
1) Understand the changes in young alumni behavior and the increased competition for their attention
There have been seismic shifts in demographics, technology, and behavior that have radically changed how young alumni interact with their alma maters. Recent graduates are more mobile, interact online, and rely on social networks for confirmation of their behavior. While young people are definitely giving to charities, their loyalty cannot be expected, it must be earned.
In addition, young donors have grown up in an age where they have been bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages per day. There is so much competition for their attention that your message can easily be drowned out.
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