It is now that time of year when the class of 2017 is thinking about graduation and the next step coming in their lives. As advancement officers at colleges and universities, you are once again hoping you can crack the code to engage these recent graduates. For that matter, finding ways to engage not just the most recent class, but the last five or ten years of graduates would be nice, knowing that they are the pipeline to the future.

As you think about engaging these alumni, know we have done ourselves a disservice by defining them as young alumni. When the phrase “young alumni” is used to define the group, it brings with it connotations and expectations that are not necessarily a good fit.

Here are three steps to improving engagement with these recent graduates, including ways to increase philanthropic giving.

Engaging Recent Graduates

Engaging Recent Graduates


    1. Define the group you are targeting based on demonstrated behaviors rather than approaching them as young people with limited income and potentially large loan indebtedness. It is true that this group of alumni may be early in their careers and may have loans, but if we focus on that, we miss the opportunity to tell them what we are able to do for them.
    2. Focus on both message and channel when communicating with your recent graduates. Wrong channel, and the message doesn’t get to them. Wrong message, no action. Reaching them on the right channel doesn’t mean fluency in every new social platform. You can locate them on Facebook, speak to them via print and email, and use the phone to welcome them to a new region or perform a survey to see how they are doing. The message needs to be about them, not about the college or university. It needs to be personal, and it needs to have value.
    3. In order to engage the recent graduates, tell and show them what is in this relationship for them. Do call them, but don’t immediately ask for a gift. Call them and have current students connect with them. Have a conversation about where they have landed, what they are up to, and how the regional club or career center can help them. Even if there are limited resources, there are ways to offer something to these population first. If the conversation goes well, let the student caller ask for a gift. But it is fine to wait and follow up with an email, or reach them on another channel that was collected from them during the phone call.

Remember that our profession is about storytelling, and those who are most successful think as marketers. Think about the outreach from the university in terms of a value proposition. Students expected the college to deliver things when they were enrolled. Now that they have graduated, the transition to the next phase of the relationship needs to happen gradually.

Is your program struggling to reach your audience? Could you use assistance identifying those most likely to respond to your message or in determining what channel will be most effective for different segments? At BWF, we work with programs of all sizes and in all types of institutions to help them through this process. We can do a program assessment, build predictive models, or help locate constituents via social media. Reach out today to learn how your program could improve your ROI by targeting the right audience via the right channel. Together, we transform philanthropy.

BWF Client Advisory originally published April 12, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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