Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WINter doldrums

If your programs are anything like mine, January is the toughest month of the year. It starts slow, after all the majority of folks with interest in giving did so in the blitz of solicitations, materials and holiday spirit last month. Those folks who didn't give in December are now getting the bills for what they did do in December and that certainly serves to provide a dip in giving for those folks.

Phone programs are often paused or at best understaffed for the first half of the month and training some new callers as they work at gearing up again in the second half. Weather, at least up here in the northeast, can be a challenge, at very least short days and long nights make for lower energy days.

So what to do? It is a great time for some reporting on mid fiscal year success! Talk up where you are winning! Create a couple of social media and email messages that talk about what you have accomplished this year. Use the opportunity to solicit one or two larger annual donors who "missed" the last tax year for a gift in the current tax year with the leverage of using them to share the message as a signer or email author.

This reporting can often be done quite successfully via email. I would strongly recommend using a volunteer, creating a campus account for them and sending it as a html message but using text without images (like any other email you get) containing a link or two to more information on your web page and facebook account. This is how we communicate on a daily basis via email so matching that approach will increase the open and reading rates of the message.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alumni Couples and the school, a match made by cupid?

One of the solicitations that just about every school tries centers around Valentine's Day and couples. Years ago, I saw a number of pieces that were effective in doing this but it has been years since I have seen anything new that worked.

I would suggest that through social media we may have an opportunity to make "everything old new again" and revive the success of this type of effort. To make that social aspect work, I am focusing on facebook and would suggest creating a likeable and shareable post that asks alum to alum couples to share how they met.

Using these stories as a base, you now have additional value to share and push to other alumni with some meat to it. You can then ask them to read through some of those experiences, add their own thoughts or experiences and make a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one with the promise that those names will be shared the week of Valentine's Day as a way of recognizing them and encouraging folks to share that list with those honored, creating additional opportunities for new folks to see and make a gift.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Employment is up don't let your effort down

Lots of good economic news in the last couple of months. While I have not yet quit holding my breath for things to continue to trend upwards, I am at least venturing occasional moments of optimism that the view looks better tomorrow than yesterday.

With that in the front of your mind, consider what steps you have taken over the last 2 or 3 years to retain, steward and cultivate your donors and constituents. Many programs have put additional efforts into communication streams, career services, webinars focused on refreshing skills, networking receptions and many other creative approaches to provide the maximum value possible to continuing a relationship with your institution. As things get better, consider how to continue, improve and expand those efforts.

Some simple steps can certainly continue to grow your base - expand your career services efforts for alumni. As jobs become more available, many of your alumni will find themeselves looking again either for full employment or for the job that they quit trying to find months and months ago. Other alumni are going to be in hiring roles again - looking to fill positions. Make sure that you play a role in connecting the two groups. I think that the benefits will speak for themselves.

When alums report they got a new job, send them something to say congratulations. This can be as simple as a thank you letter from the president or director of alumni relations congratulating them, a free screen saver that shows them to be a proud alum or as complicated as a coffee mug for their desk proudly calling out their educational allegiance. Obviously there are many inbetweens or other creative ideas here - use your imagination and give them something that will be meaningful to your alumni.

Make it clear that you value them and their allegiance and that you are still there for them. Offer monthly resume, interview and job search webinars at no cost. Provide refresher or training courses for more experienced alumni who seek rejoin or improve their position in the workforce but are unsure how to do so in 2012.

Obviously these are just a few simple ideas but they start down the path of building rather than shrinking from engagement and involvement with our alumni. Keep in mind that the majority of jobs being generated right now are in the small business market, an environment where many more folks yield much greater influence than in big business, you just need to get them to tell you about it.