Activate your ALUMNI

Whether you’re starting from scratch or building on the success of a reunion, Justin Smith explores how you can nurture relationships with former pupils


ndependent schools in the UK educate only seven per cent of children, yet they raised more than £130 million from donations

last year. Interestingly, 30% of state school alumni questioned on behalf of the charity Future First said they would be willing to donate to their former schools, if asked. This suggests that, nationally,

state schools could be missing out on donations totalling upwards of £100m a year, with each secondary school potentially able to raise an average of £30,000 a year from its alumni network. For Future First, which sets up

alumni networks for state schools, this is a missed opportunity. ‘It’s wrong to say that private school alumni want to give back and state school alumni don’t,’ says the charity’s director of programmes Beth Goddard. ‘We have more than 250,000 former students registered with us who want to support their schools, whether as role models and mentors, governors, donors or fundraisers.’

An open door Many people feel a strong bond or connection to their old school, but the key to making them active contributors is to develop a sense of ‘emotional buy-in’. Alumni will have many different reasons for getting involved, from a sense of duty or

44 SPRING 2020 FundEd

nostalgia to a need for recognition, enlightened self-interest or genuine altruism. This means your school has to develop campaigns and initiatives that will appeal to a range of individuals. With the right approach to relationship building, you can reignite the passion that alumni have for their old school, and encourage them to ‘give back’.

Develop closer ties Start small. Make sure you capture data on students before they move on. Secondary schools, in particular, can gather data on student interests and gauge their level of potential future involvement. When it comes to identifying potential support among former pupils, technology can help. Prospect-searching, wealth-screening and other analytical tools can provide raw data, while alumni management software offers communications platforms to help seek out and engage with potential donors. However, there’s nothing like

the human touch. So make existing

‘A secondary school could potentially raise an average of

£30,000 a year from its alumni network’

pupils aware that you would like to stay in touch, and reconnect with former pupils through a range of media channels. Future First, for instance, supports schools in reaching out to alumni through events and school communications, such as newsletters, social media and local press releases. It’s vital to develop emotive and

engaging storylines for your communications – project narrative is king when it comes to building support. Define the opportunities and the impact donations can make, however small, so that everyone feels they have a part to play. Demonstrating what can be achieved with specific donation sums can be very effective. Supporters want to feel as though they are part of a team, says fundraising consultant and author Joe Garecht. ‘When they do, they will be inclined to give again and again,’ he says. ‘Build relationships with your donors and turn them into friends for life.’ Engaging alumni as volunteer

role models will help raise the aspirations of current pupils. And using former students’ real-world expertise as part of your careers’ offer is a win for both parties.

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