Three Ways Your Institution Can Create a Culture of Giving This Holiday Season

Is your college or university struggling to create an engaging atmosphere in which a culture of giving is celebrated and shared amongst your students, faculty, staff, and alumni? For many institutions, it is the generosity of others that is relied on and vital to the continued growth of the college or university. How strong a school’s culture of giving is also affects the ranking the institution receives by organizations such as Forbes and US News.

However, as an institution, you cannot just expect to push students through your campus for four years and then await their generous gift. The gift you are hoping for may never happen. Instead, you have to use those years wisely and build a relationship with your students that will last far beyond graduation day.

Although so many schools have webpages dedicated to their “culture of giving,” it is not something that can be taken lightly and forged quickly. Creating a culture of giving is a very important duty a school must commit to if it hopes to make the most out of its vast network. To help, we’ve outlined the three best ways you can begin to improve your alumni engagement and develop your culture of giving this holiday season.

Resist the Urge to Ask

While it may be tempting, it is important not to repeatedly ask for donations. Students and alumni already collect plenty of requests for donations. They receive them in the mail, over the phone, and through their emails.  

For students, this may only dissolve their relationship with your school. As students at Baruch College argue, most of your current students are paying tuition and many consider their tuition a financial burden. In addition, your school hasn’t even proved whether your education aided them in their most important endeavor: finding a job post-graduation. Not only do they not feel especially favorable towards donating to your school when prompted, they also lack a confidence in your institution that makes them hesitant. A lot of institutions try to build a culture of “giving back” by asking current students to make token gifts.  After years of looking at donation and giving pattern data, we can assure you that such a request does more to hurt relationships with students than to help.

Alumni several years removed from college often are more financially-stable than your school’s current students. However, young alumni probably still have debt from your institution that they are paying off. You do not want to wreck your growing relationship with them by constantly asking for donations.

It is hard to resist the urge to ask. How else, you may wonder, will your school be able to earn the funds it needs to continue to provide a quality education, renovate its campus, and explore new technologies?

Make those in your campus community want to give. Make students and alumni proud of your school. Show them the amazing things your school can do, while also giving them an idea of what is at stake of being lost without fundraising and donations. Earn their support by earning their confidence first in those critical early years after graduation.  When it does come time to make an ask, only ask for a small amount and nothing more. Praise them greatly for their contribution and demonstrate that even small dollar donations have an impact on campus.

Forge a Community of Values and Beliefs

Your students and alumni are more likely to give back to your institution if they feel like they belong. As a result, one of your institution’s goals must be to build a community based around common values and beliefs.

What is something that unites  your students and alumni, your faculty and staff? Is it a promotion of the arts? An open, free-thinking, and safe environment? A dedication to community service? It is important that your institution have an admirable set of values to bring your community together.

You want the values you outline to be strong enough that current and former students share in them and powerful enough that they feel their donation will ensure these values and beliefs carry over to future generations. They must be values that, as with so much else, make your alumni proud to call your school their alma mater.

In a very interesting report published by The Huffington Post, based on interviews with a variety of representatives from higher educational institutions, it is recommended that schools pay close attention to the backgrounds of their students. Schools that have a large population of students local to the town, state, or wider region should always keep in mind the values and beliefs students have been raised with.

So, while colleges and universities must strive to expand the minds of and engage with their students in open, critical thinking, they must also never stray too far away from the values their students hold dear. It is also important to note that, as the report points out, schools centered in the Northeast will have students with values extremely different than schools in the Appalachian region. Large schools located in the city will have a very different set of values than smaller schools in more suburban areas.

Take Time to Highlight Your Alumni

Finally, it is important that you take the time to highlight the accomplishments your alumni make on a frequent basis. While last month we highlighted the importance of making your success matter to alumni, it is just as important to let alumni know that their successes matter to you.

When an alumni does something great, be proud. Take advantage of the momentary successes that may have otherwise been passed by. Has one of them published a book? Won an award? Earned their law degree? Opened their own medical practice? If so, highlight these achievements.  While the news may have long forgotten about “humanitarian” pieces, alumni love to hear them when it concerns people from their alma mater doing good things in the world. “Success” cannot simply be prestige or fortune, it must extend to the “unsung heroes” of your institution.

Highlight these “unsung heroes.” Let your alumni know that their hard work and their good deeds are acknowledged and respected and that your institution is not just a place they spent four or so years studying at and paid a bill to. Show them that you desperately want them to succeed, not just financially but personally. Share in their success and they will possibly share with you.

‘Tis the Season of Giving with KDG and ReachBright

In order for your culture of giving to remain strong, it is important that you continue to communicate with your campus community. Continue to make them proud and share in their values. Highlight their achievements and acknowledge their beliefs.

These communications must be engaging, frequent, and relevant. At KDG, our inbound marketing for higher education tool ReachBright can help you stay on top of your communication efforts and increase student engagement. In the application, you can create an unlimited number of email campaigns. ReachBright’s ability to track your contacts’ web activity and assign tags based on their behavior allows you to send more targeted, relevant, and timely communications to your students and alumni.

With automated email campaigns, your communications not only align with your students’ interests, but are also sent to the right contacts at the right time. The communications are scheduled regularly in an automated email chain, ensuring that you never have to remember to send the emails yourself. ReachBright is the only higher education marketing tool of its kind that can passively gather meaningful intelligence on your prospects, as well as deliver emails that consistently have higher open and engagement rates.

As this season of giving continues, it is never too early or too late to focus on your institution’s culture of giving. It is a culture that can be forged and strengthened throughout the entire year and one that, if done correctly, will greatly help your institution succeed for generations to come.

EducationKDG Insights