Creating Virtual Connections With Donors and Alumnus Amid COVID Restrictions

In person events are one of the most successful ways to connect with your donors and alumni groups. In a survey conducted by Washburn & McGoldrick, of over 400 higher education fundraising staff, 43% were worried they wouldn’t be able to meet fundraising goal for the year. In fact, the survey reveals that the top three worries among Alumni Engagement Teams are keeping momentum for current programs, adjusting giving strategies in a volatile economy and engaging donors, constituents and volunteers virtually.

Creating relationships by providing an experience is what we do, and we believe with a strong plan and creativity, you can create and retain those connections virtually.

Here are our top 5 tips for creating authentic connections virtually with your most valuable constituents:

5. Give as Much as You Get

The goal of most Alumni Associations is to be seen as a resource for your alumnus. The University of Denver’s Career & Professional Development and Alumni Engagement teams worked together to create a lineup of value-added information sharing and community building events featuring DU faculty and field experts. The series focused on topics such as physical health and wellness, career development, children and parenting, working remotely and more. To make it easy for their community to access the content in one place, they built and released a microsite dedicated to this content. The program has been a success with hundreds of donors and friends participating in each webinar.

4. Research Your Audience to Personalize Their Virtual Experience

Tim Forbes at Soapbox Engage challenges Alumni Engagement teams to do their homework before kicking off a fundraising campaign. Use prospect research and wealth screening tools to learn about your donor and alumni’s capacity to give and spend additional time researching donors and alumni with high giving potential in order to personalize their experience with you. Details such as their specific interests, their collegiate involvement, previous involvement in fundraising campaigns, business affiliations and other information should shape your fundraising efforts for each person you engage with. Tailor your approach with this detail, for example, was your donor a member of the band? Have a current band student or new alumnus reach out, or send a gift built around the band’s logos, a video of their performance or other meaningful items.

3. Be Thoughtful to Deepen Relationships

One Liberal Arts College believes that “thoughtful virtual engagement at this time will deepen some relationships and lead to stronger relationships in the future.” Sending thoughtful, simple and useful gifts and planning a campaign to call or email donors to ask how they are doing through the pandemic serve to remind your donors why they give and encourage donors to remember how important they are to the institution. In fact, Eric Streiff, from American Philanthropic, contends that the pandemic will weed out donors who aren’t serious about committing and provides true supporters the opportunity to show their loyalty.

2. Illustrate How Funds Are Being Used – On a Personal Level

Follow up with an impact story to tie a donation back to a specific cause or goal. Create a video, write a story with vivid images, or share the results in an exciting and personal way that helps your donor feel like they’ve made a difference as well as creating a sense of pride that will spur future giving.

1. Stay Connected

Hosting virtual events, such as virtual tailgate parties, wine pairing, cooking, and other special interest events is a fantastic substitute for in-person events. Bring a sommelier to host, have a cooking event hosted by a local chef, bring your mascot and cheer squad to rally the crowd. To pull these events off, simply request an RSVP and send a personalized box of supplies ahead of time to be used during the event. Don’t forget to take advantage of fundraising opportunities during the event, such as text-to-give, online auctions, and options to buy private events donated by the sponsor of your virtual event.

Download a copy of the infographic to share!

What are your teams doing to retain relationships with your donors, alumni and other special contacts?  Let us hear from you!

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