Homecoming and Alumni Donors: Engagement is Key

Can you believe we’re already halfway through October?

Among the things I count as the simple joys of fall are mellow crème pumpkins, crockpot chili, cozy sweaters and boots, and Homecoming weekends!

This year was the first I wasn’t able to make it to my college Homecoming reunion, but I still was happy to receive the updates and event information from the alumni and development office.

I started thinking about the different ways that educational institutions can tap into their alumni support through Homecoming – a time of excitement and reminiscing about the place that brought them so many lifetime memories and experiences.

As an alumnus, I feel it is important to give back to the place that helped to shape my career goals, lifelong friendships, and even my spouse!

Whether you are an independent school or a higher education institution, the importance of keeping your alumni updated and engaged at this time (and at all times!) can’t be ignored.

If you aren’t already doing them, try some of these ideas for rejuvenating your Homecoming fundraising and maximizing your future potential with your alumni donors:

  • Increase family activities: As your alumni grow, so do their families. Make the weekend family friendly by including children, or even pets, as a part of the celebration. Host a 5K Run and Family Fun Walk, have a “School Spirit” contest where families can dress in school colors together, or plan a children’s carnival with school-themed activities.
  • Integrate community service projects: Give a discount admission to games or events for bringing canned food or other goods for a charity the school supports, have student athletes and school officials join attendees to pack meals or toiletries bags for the homeless in your community, or host an “auction” for special school mementos or “famous alumni” dates, with proceeds benefiting a charitable organization.
  • Expand your homecoming offerings: Alumni vs. student dodgeball, kickball, or volleyball tournaments can engage young alumni. For your more studious types, integrate common interests with mini lectures or classroom events – “A History of Beer in America”, complete with taste-testings, “Italian Cooking for Busy Moms”, or “Travel on the Cheap for those who Skipped Budgeting 101.” Arrange for a football or other sports team and coaches meet and greet or reception after the game.
  • Reunion giving: Find out what your alumni expect of the weekend – when planning, pay attention to what people say they are looking for in activities and events. Hold a reunion weekend brunch, cocktail party, or tailgate for each cohort of alumni – 5, 10, 25, etc. – and throughout the year engage donors with stories of what their dollars have been achieving.
  • Get technical: Princeton University used Reunions Mobile to give attendees easy access to all things Homecoming: campus maps and event sites, event schedules, entertainment, parade routes, updates and alerts, and other important information. Sharing information via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter also spreads the word quickly and effectively, especially to your younger alumni. At Wabash College, alumni were recorded sharing memories and stories which were then posted to their YouTube page.

These are just a few different thoughts to help you brainstorm on the best ways to reach your alumni donors. The important thing to remember is to know your audience, and cater to their interests. As you keep your alumni connected, they in turn will continue to remember and support their alma mater.

Do you have any unique ideas or Homecoming tips to share?

 

 

Photo Credit to the Facebook page for my alma mater, Vanderbilt University; Homecoming 2013.