Strengthening Alumni & Donor Relationships
Updated: Aug 18
In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, it’s been heartening to see the compassionate and generous nature of the Higher Education community. Coronavirus or COVID-19 has resulted in many changes to the way we all work but our community – your community – is a resilient one.
Last week we asked you how you and your teams are handling the sudden changes brought on by COVID-19 and we received an outpouring of calls, messages, and emails. We are incredibly grateful for the time each person took to share their strategies and ideas with the simple goal of helping their peers around the world.
As a long-term partner of the Higher Ed community, we wanted to play our part because we’re all in this together – and we want to make sure you all have access to the best ideas. After speaking to a number of you over the last week, we have begun to compile a list of the contingency plans and strategies that different schools have begun to put in place to find balance in this chaotic time.
Working remotely has become the new normal for many of you. Here are some tips to help you tackle the challenges that remote working brings.
How can you become efficient at working remotely?
Zoom.us: Create an account for FREE access to easy-to-use video-conferencing that includes screen-sharing – so you can still show your colleagues what you mean instead of just telling them.
Slack.com is the most popular business messaging platform at the moment – and good news, they also have a free option. Bring your team together, wherever you are with group chats, one-on-one chats, topic-specific discussions, file-sharing and more. Trust us – this is one we use ourselves, every day.
Be communicative. You’ll notice that both platforms we’re recommending help with communication. That’s because it’s the key to getting things done when your team is remote. Strong communication allows for teams to continue to still reach their objectives and support each other when needed. Many teams are implementing daily morning check-ins via video conferencing and signing off together at the end of the day to ensure support for one another.
And one more thing. Working from home means that now, during a meeting, you might hear a young child’s voice or a dog barking in the background. This is OK. Now is a time for us all to be empathetic about each other’s situations. We’ve been thrown a complete curveball and many of us are trying to balance work and family life whilst remaining efficient. Be patient with each other and remember to ask how are you doing and how can I help?
Check-in with Donors Virtually!
What would we do without the internet? As mentioned above, Zoom video conferencing allows users to create a free account and host 45-minute conference calls at no additional cost.
Several schools have told us that they are now replacing in-person meetings with video calls to check in with donors.
Others are opting in to “live streaming” features on social media platforms. Some are streaming content from faculty, alumni, artists, and other experts to present and answer questions.
Other options for community outreach are Webinars & podcasts. Some schools are getting involved by hosting daily and weekly talks for Q&As, inviting expert panels for informative sessions and more. These are often not only for alumni but for the entire community.
How can you use video conferencing to engage your community?
Schedule meetings with alumni
Schedule meetings with donors and donor-prospects
Stream live content with your community for engagement, entertainment, information, and awareness.
Host webinars and podcasts! While your community is likely tuning in for COVID-19 updates, a distraction away from all the chaos helps bring calm with upbeat entertainment or information.
Is it The Appropriate Climate for Fundraising?
The answer to this question is most likely no for a lot of people. On a positive note, many schools have informed us that up to 80% of their donations have been already accounted for. However, most giving day campaigns and other events have been put on hold.
There are however some schools that have opted to keep up minimal interaction with traditional phone-a-thons and email engagement.
Some are also trying to re-configure specific important events to be held virtually because they traditionally bring in donations from their alumni and donors.
Build & Strengthen Relationships
It’s really important to remember that your alumni are experiencing the same disorientating effects as you.
So, while most fundraising may be on hold, building relationships is more important than ever. How you handle your alumni and donor relationships now will help determine your future donations.
This goes beyond donations and generic newsletters. Connect with your community. Take the human approach. Be sincere. Ask your alumni and donors – How are you doing? How can we help?
Some of them may want to know what’s happening on campus now. Keep them informed.
A number of schools have set up emergency alumni & student hotlines to provide advice and support. Consider doing something similar if it’s appropriate for your area.
Personalize All Engagement
Social distancing does not mean social disengagement. We might be repeating ourselves but now is the time to focus on your relationships with your alumni and donor community.
How? There are a couple of approaches. Many Colleges and Universities have been focusing on their biggest donors during this time of crisis, while other schools are reaching out to everyone they can.
Either way, personalizing your engagement strategy is crucial in helping to build strong relationships and showing your alumni their alma mater cares.
How can you implement personalized engagement?
Connect with your alumni in the healthcare industry. Many medical workers are away from their families working tirelessly to save lives and care for others in this time of need. Check-in on your nurses, doctors and others working in the industry – How are you doing? How can we help?
Tip: Don’t leave out potential alumni! Reach out to your alumni based on their latest employment or industry, not only be degree or major.
Connect with your alumni who are small business owners, offer support and connections to SBA loans that are available. Can you help them by promoting their small business to others in the community? Use Gift cards, social media shares, etc. Get creative.
Connect with your alumni in affected hot-spots of COVID-19. While it has affected nearly everywhere in the world, reach out to alumni abroad via email, letting them know you are thinking of them in this time of need. Current hotspots are – China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, Switzerland.
You can also focus on putting together more light-hearted and creative communications. Some schools, for example, are supplying activity ideas while at home. After all, how long can you binge watch Netflix and keep your little ones occupied?
What can you provide your alumni with?
Booklists – maybe even create reading clubs
Exercise routines to help adults and little ones to stay active
Free online learning possibilities/resources
Give Back to your Community
In addition to all the above, some Institutions are finding ways for their donors and alumni to give back to those most affected by COVID-19. Remember; How are you doing? How can we help?
Your alums are human. Right now, many of them are faced with difficult questions or confronted with problems where the solution isn’t obvious. Connect them with mentors who can help.
Reach out to your successful alumni to see if they are willing to give back and offer advice to their fellow alumni or those in the community who are in need. You’ll be surprised by how many people are willing to be generous with their time and knowledge.
Support the Elderly
Due to no-visit limitations in the majority of nursing homes around the country, many schools are asking their community to send cards and letters of support and encouragement to the elderly community. While managing a 21-day quarantine seems difficult for everyone, elders depend on daily visitation for stimulation.
Support Families with Young Children
Some communities are being hit hard with young children’s daily meals suddenly gone! Partner with local organizations to help raise awareness of their cause. Your school’s voice within the community is often much larger than local initiatives.
How are you doing? How can we help?
COVID-19 took everyone by surprise and many of you are busy dealing with the effects. We know how you feel and we want to help in any way we can. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing all the best new ideas and creative strategies that schools around the world are using right now.
Do you need help? This week we have been building specialized reports, strategizing, bouncing off ideas with our clients and on-boarding new users to help them find ways to work with their data.
Do you have something to share? We would love to hear what your team is doing during this time.