Building a Travel Strategy for Development & Alumni Officers
Meeting prestigious alumni and potential donors in person is a big part of the engagement process. It allows the school to get a broader understanding of who their prospects are and at the same time provides a more personal bond between these individuals and their alma mater.
The employees in charge of this type of engagement may go by the titles of alumni officers, development officers, fundraisers, or some variation thereof, but no matter what their exact role, they all serve as representatives for their institution. They are responsible for engaging prospects on a more personal level and earning a commitment from them to help the institution.
As a new fiscal year begins, it is crucial to lay out the year’s travel plans and strategies. Here are some of our top recommendations when doing so.
Know your top alumni cities
Whether the goal is to meet up with as many potential major gift donors or meet with alumni ambassadors in charge of alumni events and associations – do your research. Since it’s impossible to be present in every city, you’ve got to know what your best options are by finding the cities with your ‘top alumni’.
For example – if you’re looking for major gift donors, base your trip around the cities where you have alumni who are senior level executives.
One of our LiveAlumni clients, a director of Prospect Research, shared that she was able to prepare a list of prospects for her traveling fundraisers to visit while on a recent trip. In addition to known prospects, she included some new potential donors with high-ranking titles for them to meet with.
The trip was a huge success. Her major gift officers were so delighted with the results they asked her to repeat ‘whatever she did’ for similar alumni trips in the future.
Get to know alumni before your meeting
Before embarking on your trip, do a little investigative work and compile reports on the alumni or donors you plan to meet with. This will give you an advantage and enable you to interact with them on a more personal level.
If they are past donors – find some recent data to see what they have been up to since the last time you met. If they are new prospects, knowing about their interests, community, or hobbies is even more advantageous. You’ll know how to engage them in conversation and leave the meeting having left a great impression.
Research Your Top Philanthropic Cities
In our blog, Search for Donors Within the Most Charitable Cities in America we spoke about last year’s most charitable cities and came to the conclusion that there are definitely certain cities across the U.S. that have a more philanthropic vibe. Charity Navigator’s 2017 Metro Market Study  came up with San Diego, CA, Houston, TX, and St. Louis, MS in the top three. Blackbaud’s study for online giving found these cities to be on top – Seattle, WA, Alexandria, VA, and Atlanta, GA. 
If philanthropic giving is becoming something of a trend in these places, take advantage of the fad. When planning out your year use this information to supplement your travel plans.
Finally, to best prepare for your upcoming year of alumni travel and meet-and-greets make sure you and your researchers are using the most accurate, up-to-date alumni data available. For help on creating strategies or finding and engaging prospects, reach out to us firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help.
Sources & Further Reading
1. 2017 Metro Market Study, CharityNavigator.org
2. Blackbaud Ranks Most Generous Online U.S. Cities for 2013, Blackbaudnews.com
3. Behind The Job Title: Alumni Officer, The Guardian
4. Search for Donors Within the Most Charitable Cities in America, LiveAlumni Blog – Fundamentals to Fundraising