September 19, 2013
The senior gift is perhaps the most important part of a student philanthropy program. It is your last chance to get students to give while they are students and providing an enriching senior gift experience can be the key to transitioning matriculating students into alumni donors. Here are 5 easy methods you can implement today to get seniors more involved with the senior gift campaign.
1. Student-Driven, Peer-to-Peer Structure
Sometimes seniors can feel like the gift program is just another one of the many campaigns offered to them as seniors. Many will opt out if they are not engaged with the program by someone that they can relate to. This is why a student-driven, peer-to-peer structure can be your best way to get your seniors actively giving. First, identify the students that would be ideal for leadership roles in the campaign. These will likely be students that have been involved with student philanthropy programs since early in their college career and campus leaders such as athletes, honors students, and/or members of student government. Once you recruit them, devise a strategy for each of the program leaders to use their personal student networks to grow interest and support.
2. Gamification: Make Giving a Fun, Friendly Competition
Last October, Columbia raised over $6.9 million during their annual Give Day, reported by Holly Hail. How did they do this? – By making it a friendly competition. The Ivy League school issued a challenge to see which of its 16 schools could raise the most money on Give Day. They used alumni volunteers to spread awareness of the event in the 16 different schools. They then publicized the event with a social media blitz, hitting all channels at the same time for maximum gain. The end result was nearly $7 million raised, 23% of which was contributed from first-time donors, according to CloEve Demmer, director of Columbia’s annual fund. Odds are there are a variety of team-themed peer competitions going on around your campus. Tapping into students’ natural desire to compete with one another is a great way to increase their involvement in senior gift giving.
3. Offer Alternatives – It’s Not Just About the Money
Many of your seniors no doubt have financial troubles. With student debt and tuition costs on the rise and the prospect of finding new work after graduation being difficult, some of you seniors just might not be in a position to give money. Don’t let this common roadblock stall out your senior gift program. There are many ways students can give, without giving money. Volunteers are always needed (especially if your using the student-driven model in the first suggestion). If your students belong to a club or organization, they can help recruit other students in student philanthropy programs. Finally, you can always accept a future pledge: a student’s promise to give to school after landing their first industry-related position.
4. Communication – Early and Often – Is the Key to Engagement
Have you ever you heard a student say, “I would have given if I knew about the program?” You may launch an email campaign to your students about the senior gift program, but it is very easy for a student to miss, glance over and/or forget about one of the many emails in their inbox. Engagement needs to begin early and get repeated often. Social media has proven to be a massive engagement tool for students. You need to get the senior gift campaign up and running on all social media channels and post regularly, if not daily to remind students. The effect of this really gets amplified if you have a student leadership team. They can repost your post to all of their friends, followers and connections. If you can introduce a little humor and/or Gamification, posts can go viral in no time in your campus online community.
5. Awareness Education: Making Giving Personal to Your Seniors
It is proven that students who understand the value of giving are much more likely to become alumni donors. Teaching students that importance can be done in a number of ways. First and foremost, highlight how the giving program contributes to the legacy of your graduating class. Does your senior gift program finance a commemorative adornment to that particular class, be it a plaque hanging in the halls or along a main walkway, a statue or something else unique to your institution? Is there a club, building or popular recreational area financed by the donations? Sharing the story of how other giving programs have had a positive impact on the institution is a great way to get seniors to understand the importance of their gifts. One of the best methods for this is to have recent graduates come back and share their story of giving.
Senior gift programs play a vital role in continuing the support for your school, both during the drive itself and cultivating seniors to become alumni donors. To maximize its impact, you need to do all you can to engage students, teach them the importance of giving and make the experience of giving meaningful to foster a lasting, positive association. Following these 5 easy steps is a great way to improve senior gift engagement on your campus.