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Personalized marketing for college fundraising

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In 2016, universities and colleges saw an increase in donations of almost $1 billion over the previous year. This steady growth has continued for four years now, and 2019 saw record heights in amounts raised. However, rather surprisingly, while the total contribution figures are on the rise, the number of individual donors is declining.

This is an interesting development because it means that while fewer people are donating to educational institutes, those who do are willing to, give more generously, outlining a clear goal to those colleges who will be running charity campaigns over the next year. If the size of the donations is already at an all-time high, then the aim should be to simply encourage more to donate.

There are plenty of ways to encourage people to donate, whether they are members of the general public, alumni, or representatives of a larger corporation. Ultimately, it is how you reach out to these groups that determine the success of your campaign. Below are a few things to keep in mind when planning a fundraising campaign for your college.

Maintain the Sense of Community

What gives colleges the edge over other non-profit organizations is that it promotes a direct feeling of inclusivity to its potential donors, particularly for alumni. What better place to donate to than to somewhere that you have spent four of your most formative years? This is a unique selling point that you need to fully embrace to make the most out of your charity campaign. After all, it’s the reason why alumni make up 25% of all individual donations.

Alumni donations also serve a purpose besides the financial support. A college with which its students feel so connected, so pleased with their time there, is surely a college that recent or future high school graduates are going to want to attend. There’s no better endorsement than alumni donations.

Interestingly, the most prominent factors that influence alumni giving are perceptions of intellectual development over the course of study, and the forming of meaningful friendships during undergraduate years. In other words, how much students feel like they are getting from being at their college has major influences on whether or not they donate once they've graduated.

This is why it’s so important to keep things personal when asking for donations. Always relate it to the recipient, not the campaign itself. If they’re an alumnus, it's likely they will have fond memories of your college. Approach them like a friend who has been out of touch for too long. Ask how they are doing and wish them well.

Instead of sending an email, try sending a personalized handwritten letter. By sending something physical and deeply personal, you will elicit feelings of intimacy in your recipients, and by engaging more of their senses, the correspondence becomes much more of an experience than just a cold message asking for money.

Scribeless’ personalized handwritten letters are almost always opened and have been proven to yield tremendous results. In the UK, the University of Bath used Scribeless' handwritten notes to engage alumni as part of a fundraising programme. After reaching out to their international alumni audience, the university saw a 32x return on investment.

You should also employ this personal approach even when campaigning to corporations. This personal approach humanizes your cause and makes your college stand-out from the other charities. Remember, when you reach out to an organization, you’re reaching out to a person first and foremost.

They’ll want to see that you’ve taken the time to contact them directly, to feel like their contribution is so important to you that it is worth their own time to donate. And remember, 9 out of 10 companies in the US offer a matching gift program, so a donation from them could be worth twice as much!

Not Everything Needs to Be an Ask

The worst thing that you can do is contact someone, ask for money, and then vanish when it comes through. They're not going to want to donate again, and it will probably put them off donating to charities altogether! You need to make sure every step of the campaign is a positive experience for your contributors, and not every correspondence needs to involve asking for money.

If they’re an alumnus, you could send a personalized handwritten letter simply asking how they remember their years at college, or you could ask a representative of a larger organization how it feels donating with the matching gift program. For many, it could be a brand-new experience that bolsters their workplace satisfaction! No matter what you say, the purpose is to develop a longstanding relationship that doesn’t revolve around the giving and receiving of money.

With Scribeless’ seamless integration, you can set up a regular correspondence with your contributors, ranging from birthday cards, thank you notes, updates on the progress of your campaign, or even simple check-ins to ask how they’ve been getting on in their personal life! All of these are great techniques to boost your relationship and encourage further donations.

Sometimes you could even reach out to them in a way that directly benefits your cause without coming across as too charity-like. By sending personalized handwritten event invitations, you can bring this budding relationship to a whole new level.

Invite your donors to come to meet you and the team face to face and get a first-hand experience with what it is that they are supporting. Remember, colleges have that fantastic advantage of offering feelings of inclusion to their supporters. Make your generous benefactors feel like an active member of the community and part of the family.

Offer Multiple Ways of Donating… But Be Specific

In order to attract the highest number of donors possible, you need to appeal to more than one audience. Sometimes a personal relationship just isn’t enough, and even though alumni are far more likely to donate than those with little to no connection to your college if the cause that your campaigning for doesn’t interest them personally, they are ultimately unlikely to offer a donation.

Let’s say that you’re looking to raise money to support your women’s football team as they play in tournaments across the country. This may seem like a great cause to those who had been involved with similar activities during their time at college, but it doesn’t necessarily appeal to those students who devoted their free time to their studies of aerospace engineering or dentistry. Present your potential donors with a variety of causes, from opportunities to sponsor scholarships to improving facilities around campus.

The most important thing, though, is to always be honest and up-front. Don’t just outline that their donations will be used for a number of causes. Be specific, people like to know exactly where their money is going. Like any other campaign, you need to make your CTA very clear. Highlight about five goals in your campaign and let your leads decide which of them they would most like to support.

Make Your Results Public

As previously mentioned, it’s important to keep in contact with your generous contributors long after they have donated, and a great way to do this is by updating them on the progress of your campaign. Letting them know how helpful their donations have been in achieving your goals is a form of positive reinforcement and will encourage the contributor to donate again.

You can even pair this with a personalized handwritten thank you note! Showing your gratitude with a handwritten note reinforces that feeling of belonging that your alumni have with their alma mater. Think of all you have done for them in the past. They are going to be thrilled that they've managed to give something back, even if it's only a small donation.

Even if your supporters aren't former students, sending a personal thank you note with Scribeless will still lend a sense of intimacy to your relationship. Handwritten correspondence implies a closeness that the recipient will remember long into the future, making them feel appreciated and proud of their donation, encouraging them to donate again for your next campaign, and maybe even to give more.

To get the most from your college charity campaigns, you need to understand that it isn’t just a matter of sending a few quick emails. The best campaigns involve nurturing a deep and meaningful relationship with your benefactors in order to optimize their involvement with your college.

By using a personalized handwritten letter every step of the way, from the initial plea, through subsequent follow-ups and thank you’s, and back round to a further CTA, you turn what might appear as a something of regular expense to your donors, into an ongoing experience.

Click here to give Scribeless a try and find out how our personalized handwritten letters can help boost levels of engagement in your charity campaign.