Who has the money to donate to their alma mater at age 23? What about 27? I sure didn’t. It took me until age 30 before I felt my career path had afforded me enough income certainty to give back to the University of Richmond. And to be sure, I’m a proud UR alum. I just didn’t have the funds. It would have been great to be able to give in another capacity. Because I couldn’t give money, I lost some of my feelings of connectedness with the university during my twenties.
Asking alumni to give content was part of the framework when we created our unique Alumni Perspectives program – see previous Eduniverse post. About six months ago Washington and Lee University began publishing short advice-based editorials authored by alumni. Our goal was to obtain great content from alums, provide tangible advice for students and young grads though their words of wisdom, and to offer a platform for alumni to be featured as “thought leaders” in their industry and region. But something else happened as a result of our new content acquisition program; our Development Officers had a new touch point to utilize with prospects, particularly young alums.
Reaching out to young alumni and asking them for content could be part of our prospect cultivation. Before making the sometimes awkward ask for money, we ask for content and discuss our brand new way to give back to Washington and Lee University. Our Prospect Research team also believed this to be a great way to reach out to older alumni that have been disengaged and attempt to bring them back into the folds. They’d have a platform to share their achievements within the university community.
Over the last six months, several of the Alumni Perspectives contributors have either been presented to me as a referral from Development, or were directly contacted by our Annual Fund team as a touch point – a reason to call and chat. I believe the creation of this new content platform has improved some of the daily synergy between Development and Alumni Affairs; it created a work flow connector.
It’s crucial to showcase the value of the alumni network. The sharing of advice within our alumni community and the resulting creation of new personal and professional relationships generates success stories. Over the long term these successes often equate to financial rewards, but the experiences our young alums are having as they launch their careers can be harnessed as “gifts” in their own right. It’s the “long approach” to fund-raising, but we’re in this for the long haul anyway, aren’t we?