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4 Questions to Ask Before Planning a University Fundraiser

Planning a university fundraiser involves a lot of moving parts and engaging with alumni.

The planning portion of a university fundraiser can take many forms depending on the type of fundraiser you choose. It also takes time and energy to carry out the fundraiser itself. Before you begin executing your plan to raise money for your university, it’s essential that you ask a few key questions to make sure you maximize your fundraising potential.

From determining the type of fundraiser to marketing it effectively, there are many moving parts to plan for before you start. Whether you’re working to improve your website to better engage students and alumni or trying to grow your marketing outreach, one thing is for certain: you want to showcase your university’s impact and value.

Once you’ve done that, it’ll be a lot easier to raise money. Let’s take a look at the following questions you should ask yourself in order to plan the most successful fundraising event:

  1. What types of fundraisers can we host?
  2. How should we communicate?
  3. Who should we reach out to?
  4. How can we make the most of the fundraiser?

Your university makes an impact on the community and even the rest of the world. Now, it’s time to let your donors make an impact by partnering with you. Are you ready to take a closer look at these questions and answers? Let’s dive in!

What types of fundraisers can universities host?

1. What types of fundraisers can we host?

You have many options when it comes to choosing a fundraiser for your university. You can do a variety of events, phone-a-thons, and promote different ways to give. Let’s dive into some ways you can choose to fundraise:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful social giving method where volunteer fundraisers raise money on behalf of an organization or institution. This can help your university expand beyond its typical donor base and is especially great for students who may not be able to donate a lot of money. Instead, allow them to help by sharing your campaign on social media and raising money on your behalf.

  • Community service event. Host a walk-a-thon or similar event meant to benefit a cause or research department at your university. This will allow students and alumni to come together and donate their time to raise money, even if they can’t make a monetary donation themselves.

  • Branded apparel. Sell branded apparel as a great way to raise money for your university! Go beyond the typical university apparel and get creative with a unique t-shirt fundraising platform.

  • Text fundraising. Offer more ways to give! By incorporating text fundraising into your strategy, you’ll make it more convenient for donors to contribute. If you’re looking for more information on how this works, check out Qgiv’s text fundraising platform.

There are even more ways to put on a university fundraiser that can get students and alumni involved. But it’s important to consider the financial situations of recent graduates and incorporate that into your strategy, too. Donating time and effort can be just as valuable!

You should consider how you’re going to communicate with potential university donors and promote the fundraiser.

2. How should we communicate?

Before diving into your fundraiser, you should consider how you’re going to communicate with potential donors and promote the fundraiser to other groups of people. There are many factors that will play into your strategy, including explaining the purpose and value of your fundraiser and incorporating some tried-and-true marketing methods.

Follow these best practices for communication:

  • Maintain a university CRM. Keep track of both outside donors and alumni in your CRM (constituent relationship management) system. You’ll be able to keep individual profiles of each person and note their history with your university, your previous communications with them, and any contributions they’ve made in the past. You can also segment your donors. This way, you’ll be able to make more personalized and accurate fundraising asks.

  • Give a compelling reason to donate. When it comes time to make your ask or invite constituents to a fundraising event, give a compelling reason for them to get involved. Explain how your university helps its students by providing a high-quality education and how that education later impacts them and the rest of the community, then show them how they can make a difference in students’ lives by donating.

  • Phrase your written outreach in an effective manner. Beyond giving a compelling reason, it’s essential that your written outreach is formatted in an effective manner and framed to demonstrate the value of a donation. Check out Fundraising Letters’ templates to give you a headstart.

  • Promote achievements on your website. Highlight current students and their achievements as well as those of recent alumni. Have a dedicated space on your website to market how your university has made an impact. Make sure you emphasize how important donors are to students’ successes!

  • Send genuine thank-you letters. Follow up with donors to thank them for their contribution. This is especially important because you want to maintain a long term relationship with those who support your university.

Communicating effectively is the key to putting on a successful university fundraiser. Explain the impact your university has made on its students and even the rest of the world after they graduate. Then, show donors the impact they can make by giving to your fundraiser. Provide a compelling reason to continue giving and be sure to show gratitude toward those who do.

Part of planning a university fundraiser means making sure you reach out to the right people and make appropriate asks.

3. Who should we reach out to?

Part of planning a university fundraiser means making sure you reach out to the right people and make appropriate asks. A lot of this can be done by further segmenting your donor groups into more specific categories.

Try incorporating these two categories of alumni into your fundraising strategy:

  1. Recent alumni. When inviting recent alumni (who have graduated within the last five years or so) to your fundraiser, try not to focus too much on making higher donation asks. Instead, focus on cultivating your relationship with them so that they become long-term donors later on.

  2. Older alumni. Just as you would reach out for reunions and specific alumni events, extend invitations to older alumni to invite them back to the campus. Encourage them to attend so they can see how the campus has changed and inspire them to support the current programs going on.

For all categories of alumni, you can also host alumni-only events like a luncheon with a guest speaker, a night out on the town, or even a private dinner. Use these events to cultivate them as potential donors while making them feel valued and still involved with the university’s community at the same time.

There are many ways to maximize your fundraising potential while you handle the more time-consuming tasks.

4. How can we make the most of the fundraiser?

Planning your fundraiser will take time and effort. You’ll be sifting through contact information (which can be streamlined through your CRM!) and planning the actual event or sequence of events. There are many ways to maximize your fundraising potential while you handle the more time-consuming tasks.

For example, you can:

  • Offer to let donors contribute to specific projects or campaigns. Provide donors with an option to designate where their contribution will go. This could include scholarships that they previously received or certain departments within the university that they were part of or impacted by.

  • Create an alumni association website. One of the most effective ways to get alumni involved, especially with your fundraising, is to create an alumni association website. Launching a website will create one place where alumni can receive regular updates, whether those are updates on reunions, fundraisers, or other events on campus. It will also offer a sense of community and a place where alumni can stay in contact with each other.

  • Market the highlights. Be sure to engage your website visitors with enticing marketing material. While these marketing campaigns are mainly targeted toward attracting students, it’s still important to show potential donors the value and impact your university has made, and is still making, on its students.

  • Offer many ways to donate. Similar to offering text fundraising, a great strategy to incorporate into your fundraiser planning is offering multiple ways to give. This can include general online donation pages, mobile giving, and more. When you offer several options for giving, you’ll meet the needs of your donors who might not be able to easily contribute a certain way. For more information on donation software you can take advantage of, check out this guide.

Make the most of your fundraiser by offering many ways to get involved and contribute. Market your efforts with an alumni association website and be sure you highlight the reasons your university deserves contributions. If you can successfully incorporate these strategies into your campaign, you'll be on your way to putting on a successful fundraiser!

When planning your fundraiser, there will be a lot to keep track of. However, if you approach it from the right direction and consider all the potential ways you can engage your alumni and other donors, you’ll set your university up for success! Be sure to segment your donors in your CRM and track the way you’re communicating with each and every one.

Ask yourself these key questions and you’ll be ready to start planning!


About the Blogger

Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Abby Jarvis

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