It’s likely that you won’t answer your phone when it rings, but if your phone buzzes from an incoming text, it has your full attention. Despite the fact that texting is the preferred form of communication these days, the medium is underutilized in advancement. Texting alumni and donors can be a game-changer if done correctly.
Here are six smart uses of texting for advancement professionals:
1. Start early with current students.
They'll soon be alumni. So, whether students already have a texting relationship with your institution or not, it is a good first step to send out end-of-semester and graduation information. This communication can lay the groundwork for lasting conversations.
Congrats <FIRST NAME>! Welcome to the <School Name> alumni family. Want to stay connected by joining our alumni network? Let us know and we'll set you up for updates that matter to you!
Interested students and soon-to-be grads can indicate their texting preferences (i.e. updates from athletics, alumni/ chapter events, or fundraiser initiatives). Because they'll only be receiving texts about things that interest them, they'll welcome any information. You can keep track and let alumni know exactly how you intend to text them so they won’t view your correspondence as spam.
2. Stay connected with recent graduates (1 to 2 years out)
A graduate will feel closest to their college immediately after achieving the goal of graduation. Take advantage of those good vibes by establishing a texting relationship immediately. Send a welcome text message that extols the benefits of being an alumnus. Again, let your contacts indicate their texting preferences so they are only receiving messages they value. By drawing upon their unique interests, you can create a personalized experience and ensure they don't opt out.
Hi <FIRST NAME>, this is <Alum Name>, President of the <School Name> Alumni Association. We are here to help you stay connected to <School Name>. Do you prefer to get texts about events, career information, giving opportunities, and campus happenings? Text us at this number any time.
Double-up your efforts with other mediums to increase reach. For instance, send an email in addition to your text to ensure that you contact the grads you don't have a mobile number for.
Sometimes less is more
When they have control of incoming messages, alumni feel more involved. Allow alumni to indicate their communication preferences at a granular level - this way they're getting the info they want, how they want it.
3. Update your list of alumni
You may start by asking those who pledge during a phonathon or online if they would like to receive pledge reminders and other notifications via text. Include the option on all event registration forms, donation pages, and other communication like email and social media posts.
But how else will you decide who to text?
Of course, avoid texting contacts who are already coded as “do not phone,” "do not contact," “do not email,” etc., as they are not likely to want texts.
Perhaps, decide to focus on alumni who graduated no earlier than a certain graduation year. No matter what you do, make sure the text you send is relevant to each and every recipient. You don't want to send a Denver Chapter event notification to those in Detroit.
At Mongoose, we are happy to help our clients define their strategy for alumni outreach. Most schools have found it effective to send an introductory message and politely let them know they have the option to not receive more text messages. Ideally, you should send a link to a form where alumni can customize the types of messages they would like to receive.
Hi <FIRST NAME> this is <Alum Name> from <School Name> Alumni Relations. As a Theatre major, I wanted to let you know about an alumni event coming up at our local theatre. Would you be interested in learning more? Please let me know if you prefer not to receive texts.
4. Don't wait for Giving Day to reach out
You wouldn't only text your friends when you need help, so why do that to alumni? We recommend sending at least 3-6 non-fundraising messages to your contacts over a significant period of time before asking for their support.
Once you’ve engaged alumni via text, prepare for your Giving Day! Be sure to craft messages that are conversational and engaging, not overly formal and robotic.
For example, here is a text you should NOT send:
Help students fulfill their dreams of changing the world by supporting the <Scholarship Name>. Give now to <School Name>. Text 12345 to donate today!
Decrease opt-outs and increase donations with something personal and relevant like this:
Hi <FIRST NAME> this is <Alum Name> '08 from <School Name>. I volunteered to help with this year’s Giving Day because of the impact scholarships had on my life as a student and I want to give others the same opportunity. If we get 10 more donors by 3pm, <Donor Name> has pledged to contribute another $1,000! Will you join me with a gift to the scholarship fund today? No gift is too small!
5. Use texting for highly personalized stewardship
As effective as texting can be for fundraising and event promotion, it’s important not to overlook how powerful texting can be for timely and personalized stewardship.
Hi <FIRST NAME>, <Alum Name> from <School Name> here! As a supporter of the Physical Therapy Study Abroad Scholarship we couldn't wait to share this with you! Becca Smith '22 just returned from the D.R. with her classmates. She says without significant scholarship support she would not have been able to participate in this life and career-changing experience. Read more about her trip and your impact here <URL>.
Hi <FIRST NAME>, <Staff Name>, from Dean Brown's office here at <School Name>! I'll be meeting with alumni in <City> next Thursday and Friday and I was hoping to take you to lunch to say thank you for your ongoing support. Are you free either day?
6. Raise efficiencies with pledge fulfillment
Time and time again, you receive a pledge for a donation, only to see that pledge unfulfilled. If your institution is having a phonathon and a potential pledge asks you to send something via mail or email, there’s potential for them to forget that conversation. Sending an immediate text to someone who makes a pledge has a positive effect on fulfillment.
Ruffalo Noel Levitz followed four schools that used texting for pledge fulfillment for just two weeks, and found institutions were able to increase their pledge fulfillment by nearly 3%, on average!
Hi <FIRST NAME>, thank you for taking the time to speak with <Student Caller’s Name> today – and for considering supporting <Name of Initiative>. You may make a gift or read more about how your gift would help students here: <URL>
Hi <FIRST NAME>, thank you for taking the time to speak with <Student Caller’s Name> today, and for your pledge of support for <Name of Initiative>. Please follow this link to complete your pledge: <URL>
Texting alumni can be just as exciting and rewarding as welcoming new students to your school. Just make sure you're sending messages that interest everyone on your list.
- Make opting in (and out) easy and respect their preferences
- Be sure to clearly explain the benefits of texting
- Keep each text reflective of the recipient’s interests
A texting platform makes it easier to organize, schedule, and send texts to large groups of alumni. Plus, the recipients perceive these texts as any other message in their inbox. Be sure the texting platform, as well as your CRM, are integrated so opt-ins and opt-outs can be recorded and respected with ease.
Also, as stated above, always support your text messages with other communication channels, like social media, phone calls, and emails. Texting is a powerful tool, but shouldn’t be treated as an “all-in-one” tool. Mix it in with other methods that have proved effective for reaching alumni.