Have you ever really thought about what influences your decision to donate to a foundation, cause or charity?

I ask because there appears to have been a shift in donation trends which reflects an increasing percentage of donation transactions being conducted online (versus more ‘traditional’ fundraising methods such as door-door and cold calling). According to a study on The Next Generation of Canadian Giving by Vibrant Canada, “boomers and Gen X represent significantly higher donor pools than Civics. Total contributions of Gen X are on par with the Civics. And Boomers give significantly more than any other generation.” This study was conducted in 2010, since then, Millennials have made their way into the workforce and have had a major influence on online communication and influences (see related articles below for more on this topic). Since they like their information fast and to the point, and seem to have an appreciation for facilitated engagement and transparency, I think we should be focusing on what type of donation platforms have seen success in more recent years.

Crowdfunding and micro donation platforms have become increasingly popular methods of fundraising. They encourage the balance of information and interaction by providing a live data overview of the campaign’s progress…and let’s face it, when it comes to something we believe in—whether it be a sports team, stocks, election polls or independent projects—we become invested, passionate even. Now, take these elements and introduce them to a pre-established group of people such as alumni, which links students, faculty and partners, and you’ve got yourself a solid network with a common thread who chose to stay engaged, who encourage innovation and forward thinking and who are (hopefully) willing to invest in its potential.

Alumni giving is a great way to give back, but in order for it to be successful, a supportive alumnus must be established; therefore, a focus on the ‘future’ funder is a must for success.

Target the person who is currently on campus and who will eventually become an alumnus and engage them early by demonstrating the value of an alumni association before they leave campus. After all, the only way that the alumnus and the alumni can provide value to one another is by maintaining contact. It may seem obvious, but this way of thinking has not necessarily been the trend to date. Many associations and memberships have relied on the “right thing to do” or  the “obligation”, rather than focusing on the motivation to maintain engagement.

Consider this: qualifiable alumni are starting to measure the value of the association and whether or not the network of people involved will add value to their personal network. Social media tools such as LinkedINFacebook, Twitter , etc. are excellent networks that can extend your reach to an even broader – yet “warmer” audience than other channels or method. Ultimately, it’s not about the association itself, it’s about the reach, the credibility and the depth of relationships surrounding the association that takes precedent. Don’t let 10 or 15 years go by before alumni see the value in contributing and becoming an active part of that network. Start building relationships before students even leave campus, this way they can engage in the megaphone for research and projects that are happening around them, hopefully echoing the future starters of tomorrow.

How? Build a fundraising platform. (Not sure what this looks like? Check out https://futurefunder.carleton.ca/ as an exemplary platform that bv02 has helped create). Students can start a project and receive funding from the alumni association, but also use the platform to campaign for donations from their networks, family and friends. This brings visibility to the different projects and creates an emotional reason for an alumnus to care about what’s going on around campus. Platforms like this allow alumni greater visibility into the people who are up and coming on campus, and who are doing great things for the school’s overall prestige. What matters here isn’t the size of the project; it’s the ability of alumni and communities to make a difference by supporting the projects that matter to them. This creates a connection, and it helps foster an extended relationship with alumni and students alike.

We have an opportunity to use digital tools to create this connection with students while they’re still on campus, and continue the relationship beyond graduation. People want to invest time, money and resources in projects they support, but there are just so many worthy projects out there looking for funding that it can be overwhelming. Give them a personal connection to the project, and they’ll be much more likely to send their investment in your direction.

I’d love to hear how you’re using digital as part of your alumni association’s strategy. Leave a comment or get in touch and let’s start a conversation.

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