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Preparing an alumni relations plan

Alumni as prospects

All alumni are fundraising prospects. They are the most likely group to give (if the institution has done its job right), as alumni should have a sense of gratitude and want their institution to succeed.

A strong link between alumni relations and fundraising will enable you to spot alumni who have the capacity and inclination to make significant gifts. It will also enable you to effectively segment the majority of alumni who might only give smaller amounts so that you can match them to the ask that has the highest likelihood of success.

Don’t be overprotective

It is tempting to keep close control over your alumni and funnel all contact with them through the development or advancement office, but this can have negative consequences. The capacity of the office to deal with alumni contact might be overwhelmed, frustrating the alumni who want to get in touch. A bond between an alumnus and the institution that is focused on a single point will be weaker than a bond focused on multiple points.

Good alumni relations should be flexible enough to allow an alumnus to maintain a positive link, not only with the office, but also with his old tutor, former football coach, careers adviser and any number of his peer group. This broader network experience is far more enriching both for the individual alumnus and the institution.

The trick is to be aware of these links, capture the information and make sure these interactions are recognized as a part of the overall donor cultivation process (as multiple links are a strong indication of an individual’s favour toward the institution and probability to give).

More than one way to engage

Providing financial support is just one way for alumni to engage with their institutions. Engagement can be on multiple levels and rewarding for both parties. Examples include:

  • Donating regularly through the annual fund or with high-value single gifts
  • Sponsoring research, student projects or courses
  • Commissioning consultancy from academics
  • Leaving legacies – financial as well as through personal bequests e.g. art or property
  • Participating in peer-to-peer fundraising
  • Brokering introductions to create new partnerships for the university with their employers, governments and other affiliated organisations
  • Providing expert advice and guidance to the university’s leadership
  • Providing case study material, guest lectures, equipment or similar to enhance teaching
  • Supporting student recruitment both at home and overseas
  • Providing careers advice, mentoring, placements, internships to current students
  • Acting as positive role models to current students
  • Sharing talents to enhance the cultural life of campus through performances, exhibitions, etc.
  • Contributing to the international public profile of the university
  • Contributing to the online profile of the university through channels such as social media