Books stacked on a chair in a library

3 Higher Education Fundraising Trends You Need to Know

Let DonorSearch help you improve your alumni fundraising.

Higher education fundraising helps your institution grow and improve year-over-year to better serve and educate your students. Whether it’s coming from organizations, community members, or alumni, the donations your institution receives are crucial for the work you do. That’s why all higher education institutions need to prioritize understanding the fundraising trends that will inform your strategy. Because staying up-to-date on donor expectations is the key to increasing funds, we’ll cover three crucial fundraising trends that your institution should be paying attention to: 

  1. Online Donations Are Increasing
  2. Alumni Giving Remains Crucial 
  3. Institutions Should Focus On Donor Retention 

Adapting your strategy to focus on growing trends in higher education fundraising will make it easier to reach your goals while showing donors that you understand their expectations and needs. Use this guide to help create your strategy for future fundraising initiatives. Let’s get started. 

Higher education institutions should focus on online donations.

Online Donations Are Increasing

Because online donations are up 11.7% and more and more alumni are young and online, all higher education institutions should be focusing on online giving. This means that you need to have a robust and mobile-optimized website where supporters can donate and a  social media presence and digital marketing plan that drives supporters to your website.

Because this trend is not likely to reverse in the future, now is the time for your organization to focus on your digital strategy and presence. As you focus on connecting with alumni online and driving them to your online donation form, you should ensure that you have an excellent website that won’t present any challenges for your donors. 

A few ways you can optimize your website to be more accessible and functional include: 

  • Optimizing your website for mobile users.
  • Featuring a “donate” button prominently.
  • Having an easy-to-use navigation menu.
  • Using accessibility best practices.
  • Including images and videos of campus, current students, alumni, and past events.
  • Branding your donation form to increase trust.
  • Including all important information about programs and events.

Use your marketing channels, such as social media and email, to drive donors to your online donation form. Even at in-person events, consider using QR codes to allow your attendees to donate right from their phones. Not only is this often a more convenient way for your alumni to donate, but it also shows them that your institution is forward-thinking. 

Alumni giving is crucial for all higher education institutions.

Alumni Giving Remains Crucial 

While alumni are not the only source of funding for higher education institutions, their loyal support still plays a large role in the development of these institutions. To keep your alumni engaged in giving, consider taking a look at your existing outreach strategy. A few ways you could improve your alumni engagement includes: 

  • Using a multi-channel marketing strategy to reach more alumni. Share information with your alumni via different channels with tailored messaging for each platform. Some channels to use include email, social media, direct mail, and phone calls. 
  • Focusing on younger alumni to establish a relationship. While you don’t want to neglect your long-time alumni supporters, developing a relationship with young alumni can help strengthen future fundraising. 
  • Hosting alumni events to make more connections. Give back to your alumni and get to know them better with in-person events that allow them to meet each other, connect with current faculty and students, and enjoy fun perks and activities. 
  • Using prospect research to make appropriate asks. Prospect research can help you identify wealth indicators that will enable you to ascertain your top major gift prospects. With this information, you can focus your stewardship efforts and confidently ask alumni for appropriate donations. 

As you engage with and steward more alumni, it’s crucial that you’re both collecting donor data and using it to continuously improve your strategy. The best way to make your data work for you is to use advanced AI-powered software that will give you deeper insights into your donors’ actions and capacity to give so that you can craft a tailored and effective stewardship strategy. 

Focusing on donor retention will help al higher education institutions increase funds.

Institutions Should Focus On Donor Retention 

Long-term, loyal donors will not only give you the best ROI, but will also help you form a genuine and reliable donor base for years to come. However, maintaining donor interest and trust over the years can be difficult. For fundraising success, focus on creating a comprehensive strategy and a deep understanding of your donors and their affinity, propensity, and capacity to give. You can do this by collecting the necessary data and using advanced tools to understand what it’s telling you. 

A few elements that all organizations should include in their donor retention strategy include: 

  • Creating multiple touchpoints. Reaching out to alumni once a year is hardly enough to create a connection and convince them to donate. Create a communication plan that involves strategically-timed touchpoints that help you convert alumni into donors. 
  • Personalizing communications. Using communication software allows you to automatically input an alumnus’ name and even their previous donation amount into any digital communication for increased personalization.
  • Segmenting donors for higher engagement. In addition to personalizing your communications, you should also only be sending relevant emails to alumni. Donor segmentation can help you more effectively target your communications to increase 

To get the full picture of the impact of your donor retention efforts, you’ll need to be collecting donor data, fundraising data, and engagement data. Software with AI capabilities, like DonorSearch, that helps you capture and then make sense of your data will be most effective in helping you improve your donor retention. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the changing expectations and needs of your donors is crucial for maintaining their trust and growing your funds year over year. Donor data can serve to make your strategy more effective and easier to execute. Make sure your institution has the right tools, like DonorSearch, to maximize your alumni giving and all other fundraising efforts. 

DonorSearch can help you take your alumni giving to the next level.

Additional Resources

Webster’s Defines Dysfunction as: Your Board

Read More
Video camera in the background with profile pictures of Chris Cannon and Michael Felberbaum

Getting Focused in a Chaotic World

Read More

After the Disruption: Returning to Work, Navigating the Transition, and Driving Systems Change

Read More