Some years ago a man who made a great deal of money on different shady deals had a string of top selling books. The title would be some version of "Things They Don't Want You to Know". It might be about medicines or cures doctors did not want you to know or the Social Security information. Almost all of his information did not live up to his hype and was generally available in free sources. Last I knew, he was in prison.
I have always wanted to write, "Things They Don't Want You to Kmow About College Ministry"....and I will.....as soon as I know what they are. Since I don't know them yet, I will share my "secrets" to working with alums and their being a big part financially of building our on campus Center and of giving to staff support.
One of my greatest frustrations with our campus based tribe of denominational College Ministers is the significant number of people who do not take the idea of the necessity of working with alumni seriously. As there continues to be cuts made in Collge ministry staffs and budgets particularly among campus based denominational workers, it is like whistling passed the cemetery.
3 Reasons to Work with Alums:
1. Young Adults continue to walk away from the church. We can help.
2. Informed alums can speak out when cuts are on the table for discussion.
3. You need budget support..,AND...could even some day be asked to raise part of your salary (as Virginia has now told their BCM Directors).
Six SECRETS to Working with and Raising Funds from Alumni:
1. Alumni Newsletters are key.
It is an investment in them. But, it must be news about alumni. Some years ago a campus based ministry had been sending out a very homemade type newsletter with lots of Personals and a little ministry news. The alums were giving large sums of money. A new leader took over and went to a very polished slick and professional newsletter with lots of ministry info and little personals. The contributions dried up and the newsletter was discontinued. Give them news. By the way, older people have a hard time reading black print on red paper...don't do it...that's the Christmas go-to that is wrong.
2. Stress the value of small gifts.
Many do not give because they feel they cannot afford to make a large enough gift to really help. Lots of small gifts help....and I have learned some people who like what you do with a small gift later give a large gift. Twenty people that give $25 still adds up to $500.
3. Write personal thank you notes.
A note on a half sheet or a commercial thank you card can be simply three or four sentences. "Thanks for your check for $25. It came just before our Back-2-School Retreat and I used it to scholarship a freshman guy. I appreciate your continuing interest in what we are doing. Hope y'all are well! Arliss"
4. Communicate regularly, but not too much.
People don't want to be hounded or over run. But, I believe you must communicate at least twice a year. For many years we did a full alumni newsletter twice a year, but later did one full blown newsletter and then just a one page letter at the end of the
year. Remember; postal forwards expire after a certain length of time. If you are mailing, it is huge to keep getting those forwards and address corrections to keep your address list up to date. It is amazing how quickly you can lose people. Once a quarter I sent a "Friends Letter". This went to those who gave monthly or had for a long time or gave large gifts. It was not a newsletter. It was strictly a one page letter about what was going on and I did not enclose a return envelope. It was strictly information for those who were deeply invested. It went to about 50-75 people. Some were now older and retired who no longer gave, but had been significant in the past....and they still pray lots!
5. Always enclose an addressed return envelope in the newsletter.
We got these returned to us through out the next twelve months. I believe it not only makes it more convenient to give, but people stick it somewhere as a reminder to give at a time that works better for them.
6. List donors in your newsletter.
Do an alphabetical listing. I do not differentiate between the lady who gave $5,000 every year and the recent grad who gave her $25. You do not want anyone to be embarrassed. Again, it is part of saying all gifts are significant. Some ministries have different funds and they list which fund they gave to. Seeing that someone gave they went to school with often motivates another alum to give.
Don't like these "secrets" then come up with your own....but do something with alums!