Skip to Content

Emerging Themes within Alumni and Donor Relations

By November 29, 2019

As higher education institutions today reimagine their approach to alumni relations, fundraising and development, there are some key emerging themes that we’ve highlighted that will support relationship building and engagement among key constituents within the higher education sector.

First, in order to drive institutional success and remain globally competitive, institutions are becoming more strategic by developing their insights on, knowledge of and engagement with both local and global alumni populations. Digital transformation is formative to gathering the right data and insights. But we know that digital transformation alone cannot do the same work of humans. The advancement office is fundamental to institutional growth and development – and at the forefront of this growth are the communities that take an interest and contribute to the lifeblood of the university. Therefore, appealing to the interests of local and global populations is valuable for the advancement office to flourish and succeed in their outreach efforts. 

What can higher education institutions do differently to raise more funds and remain globally competitive? Developing relationships with alumni before you begin fundraising is vital. This process begins once those students are admitted to the university and should be upheld right through to when they graduate. The entire student experience matters whilst developing strong alumni relations and data is key to achieving a strong network of active alum and prospective donors. Understanding alumni and donor communities helps advancement teams identify strong prospects once they begin fundraising. Furthermore, understanding how your alumni want to be communicated with is beneficial prior to beginning annual and/or campaign outreach. These efforts will cultivate a sense of trust, an aspect that takes years and decades to build. 

“Our work isn’t just about raising money—it is about engaging leaders in the process of building relationships to engage communities and advance institutions. Advancement professionals do just that and do so together.”

-Sue Cunningham
President of CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education)

Gaining buy-in from senior leadership to support and reach annual campaign goals is another prevalent theme within the advancement space. Senior leaders are an important element when it comes to strategic planning and budgeting. Successful fundraising often requires hefty investment – those institutions that invest in their marketing and communications often see a greater return in its major giving departments.

Another way senior leaders can be hugely valuable for advancement teams is through their network. For example, they are often well-connected and have a healthy network of supporters to reach and engage with. Additionally, projects and initiatives that relate to the specific interests of the senior team often result in stronger affiliation and involvement from those stakeholders. Strategically choosing senior sponsors based on their expertise can influence the outcomes of fundraising efforts and result in a positive response from the community overall. 

For more insights and resources on higher education fundraising, visit the Advancement website. To understand how universities are becoming more strategic and mindful about their fundraising efforts and alumni engagement, particularly when it comes to the technology they use, download the report below.