Making the First Gift: The Power of Connection

By Heather H. Thornton

I recently made a significant gift to my beloved alma mater, The University of the South.

It wasn’t a large gift by any means, nor was it in support of an important campaign or a particular project meaningful to me.

So why was this gift so significant, you ask?

It was the first time I had forked over money to Sewanee voluntarily since graduation, without the explicit intent of paying down a loan.  This still might not seem so extraordinary, especially since I can be a bit of a tightwad, except for the fact that I graduated ten years ago.

Having worked at Alexander Haas for almost eight years and with many education clients, I know very well the importance of alumni support to an educational institution.

In fact, giving to education is up!  According to the Giving USA 2014 report released in June, giving to educational organizations has seen the most positive growth of any sector since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.

I was inspired to make my long-overdue contribution because of a seemingly small thing; I received an email from Sewanee informing me of a fire in one of the oldest buildings on campus.

I appreciated this timely and informative piece of news that reawakened in me a sense of connection to the University and made me wonder about other happenings on campus.  The next day, I found myself curiously searching their website, eager to find out about former professors and classmates.

And the day after that, I made the gift.

Keeping alumni abreast of happenings on campus is as important as keeping your past volunteers interested in your organization which they served or supported.

Offering alumni or past volunteers access to exclusive events, discounts or communications may also make them feel more involved.  Periodic emails, mailings or phone calls, whichever contact method is preferred and however frequently may foster this connection.

That is what prompted this tightwad to make her first gift in over ten years, and it may spur additional first-time giving to your organization as well.

How does your organization keep past volunteers or alumni connected?