Alumni reunions have become a major piece of the fundraising puzzle for many schools. They provide a natural way to bring alumni from all generations together and get them back on campus. While the goal of alumni reunions is not strictly to raise money, reunions present a unique opportunity for schools to create reunion fundraising and participation goals from the entire class.
Whether your school is just starting its reunion programming or has a long-standing history of reunions, we have four tips that will take your fundraising efforts to the next level and not only spur donations, but also generate goodwill, happy memories, and reinforce the impact your school made on its alumni classes.
Your alumni reunion program likely has a committee responsible for planning and managing the weekend’s events, but it is just as important to have a subcommittee dedicated to fundraising. You can choose to have individual class committees or one committee that covers all reunion years. Work with the committee members to assign dollar and participation goals so they feel connected to the fundraising effort. By soliciting their help and opinions, they’ll become your cheerleaders and frontline solicitors.
No matter when your alumni weekend falls on the calendar, start your reunion efforts early. Notify reunion classes of the weekend’s date at least six months in advance so they can make arrangements to be on campus.
This also means planting the seeds for the fundraising campaigns. For reunion goals, in particular, giving people time to consider and make substantial gifts is necessary and considerate. Integrate fundraising language into the majority of your communications so you establish a connection between the weekend and each class’s fundraising goal. Outline what the fund supports and explain that they can pledge a gift to be paid over five years. By pledging during their reunion year, the class gets credit for the entire gift during their alumni reunion and your school has gifts it can count on for the following four fiscal years.
The Hill School even offers discounted prices for early registration, as seen below on their website.
Engaging your alumni community well in advance of alumni weekend allows people to incorporate it into their schedule and plan their donations and travel accordingly.
Give your alumni a place to check in and track their progress toward their fundraising goal with an online thermometer. You can either create specific landing pages for each reunion class or include all classes on one giving page. By making fundraising tangible and visible, your alumni classes are more likely to check in and donate. Adding a donor list by class alongside rising thermometer levels encourages donations, school spirit, and a bit of healthy competition between classes.
The Harvey School created a fundraising competition between two alumni clubs during their Centennial. The goal was to raise $500,000 from 280 donors and they succeeded! They used giving thermometers to display each club’s progress and keep alumni connected to the challenge. By understanding what mattered to different alumni groups and using their club pride to get donations, the school met its goal while engaging hundreds of alumni.
No one likes to give when it’s an obligation, but when there’s a bit of fun attached to fundraising challenges, it inspires alumni to give. For major reunion years, such as the 25th and 50th reunions, drum up competition between those classes and their counterparts at your competitor school. Strive to have the highest participation rate or meet a fundraising target by a specific date. You’ll be amazing by how school pride comes out during alumni reunions and engages alumni to participate and give during their reunion year.
Norwood School posed a challenge to all alumni to raise $10,000 from 201 donors. Their simple landing page shows progress to the goal, alumni by region, and donations by decade. It is a light-hearted challenge that reflects the alumni community’s positive impact on the school. Again, showcasing and praising donations, especially during reunions, creates a sense of camaraderie and spurs donations from alumni reunion classes.
These are all strategies that give your alumni a sense of purpose, and rekindle memories from their years at your school. Make your fundraising efforts cheerful, full of school spirit and pride, and you’ll notice a major uptick in donations from your alumni reunion classes.
Want help with your alumni reunion fundraising? Contact us today for a free consultation.
Julie is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent nearly ten years fundraising for non-profits and private schools, where she focused on alumni annual giving. She loves sharing her insights and helping schools improve their development efforts in service of fulfilling their missions of improving each child’s life.