Today’s principal gift prospects and donors have increasingly high expectations of higher education institutions. They want to support transformative ideas with world-changing impact—and they want to connect directly with the people doing the work.
However, many faculty members are reluctant to engage with donors.
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Kids these days—are we right?
At private and public institutions of all sizes, millennials have annual giving directors scratching their heads. A socially conscious generation, they’re quick to open their wallets for a variety of causes, but also skeptical about giving back to universities. Seventy-five percent of millennials say that they’d rather donate to another not-for-profit before making a gift to their alma maters.
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To me, reunions and annual giving go together like “peas and carrots,” to quote the inimitable Forrest Gump.
Of course, I’ve spent the better part of my career on small liberal arts campuses, where reunions are ingrained in the institutional culture. But all institutions—large or small, public or private—can grow engagement and donations by harnessing the sentimental magic of class and affinity reunions.
Why reunions are essential to annual giving
Occasionally I hear, “reunions are out of date.” Others lament that reunions are too taxing on staffing and budget resources with limited ROI—due to low interest or attendance from alumni who lack a strong sense of connection to their college, university, class, or program.
But reunions can still be a relevant and effective tool for engagement and fundraising. When executed with forethought and precision, reunions provide advancement teams a meaningful way to engage their alumni by giving them a memorable, relationship-building experience. Reunions emotionally bond your donors, volunteers, and university—a bond that can be long-lasting.
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Similarly, reunions play well with up-and-coming millennials—young alumni who value their networks and friendships. Reunion giving blends perfectly with their preferred giving channels of digital and social media.
Why reunions are still essential to advancement