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Best practices for texting in advancement

4 min read

The same communications platform that has proven successful for recruiting and retaining students can be utilized beyond graduation. More institutions are using texting to reach alumni and increase awareness, involvement, and gifts.

Text messaging can be a game-changer for your institution

Working with over 400 institutions, Mongoose has learned text response rates range between 40% - 60% while responses to email hover around 20%.

Texting is the top method of communicating with alumni and donors. Best practices have evolved and new opportunities for your institution are being uncovered.

Start the conversation early

You should begin texting students before graduation so they’ll be more likely to continue the conversation, post-graduation. Perhaps send texts related to career services or relay a call to action to complete a destination survey. Whether a graduate asks about alumni chapters, or someone seeks ways to get more involved, you should be ready to give them as much information as possible.

Because staff resources are limited, you need to be as efficient as possibleOnce the conversation has started, you can begin to craft messages that will keep alumni engaged and connected. Choose topics based on the alums experience on campus and their unique interests. For example, if they participated in athletics, Greek life, or specific student activities, you should send updates relative to these areas.

Cultivate new donors

Of course, it would be ideal to acquire new donors via text. It is possible, and requires planning and some finesse.

Provide alumni with valuable and interesting content (via multiple channels) and a cause they can identify with. But first, you have to know what matters to them. Just ask them through a poll via text. It could be a great first touchpoint to build a conversation.

Allow alumni to customize their communication preferences. Include a link in one of the first messages you send that allows alumni to indicate what types of messages they would like to receive and what causes they most identify with on campus.

Once you have this information, It’s important to send at least 3-6 non-fundraising messages that go out over a significant period of time before asking for support.

Love the ones you’re with

Stewardship! What better way to send timely, highly personalized touch points and love on current donors than with a text?  You’re able to target donors to specific initiatives with very specific content en masse very quickly.  Send a photo of students participating in study abroad to the very donors who helped fund the trip. Better yet- ask them if they’d like a link to a live stream of students participating in the experience as it happens. You can make that happen!

Send a photo of a single student representing the masses, holding a thank you sign.

Perhaps you’ll choose to send a genuinely written thank you text (not to replace formal acknowledgment, of course) from your President or a student or a board member.

Have your Major Gift staff use texting to schedule alumni meetings in the cities they’re visiting to thank them for their support in person.

As you know, when stewarding donors, the whole idea is to follow up and show them all they were able to make possible. Just thank them without asking for another gift (yet).

Getting more on Giving Day

Text messages get results on Giving Day. Best practice, not unlike social and email strategy, is to promote challenge gifts and a bit of healthy competition.

This could be engaging alumni of Greek organizations to compete for the most number of contributions in a specific timeframe. Or challenge your alumni to help drive donations from all 50 states.

You might send a text on behalf of an alumni volunteer to entice their affinity group. Some schools will even allow trusted alumni volunteers or current students to sit in the office and respond to texts. Get creative!

Be sure your team is sending conversational messages and not robotic texts that would be perceived as impersonal or spam. And if you get funny responses, play along. Most often, people just want to know they are texting with real human being.

As with all fundraising, remember, the most effective approach is multichannel. Texting should be used in conjunction with other mediums like emails, phone calls and social media.   Give your alumni a heads up a few days before giving day and tell them what to expect- which includes a text message!

Create an effective volunteer program

It’s not always easy to recruit volunteers, but they’re a powerful force in advancement. Volunteers increase levels of participation and form genuine bonds with fellow alumni of all ages. When grads are actively involved with their schools, they’re more likely to provide financial support.

Bad data is a drain 

They can’t answer a call they never receive. Every day, schools waste time and resources trying to connect with alumni with incorrect data. Taking the time to update contacts and validate phone numbers is well worth the effort. Improving efficiency is the easiest way to make your job easier and more effective.   

Don’t let them leave without saying goodbye

Too many schools are letting graduates leave campus without building a bridge of communication. A recent grad, fresh off a memorable school experience, would often be in favor of staying connected with their alma mater. In the long run, failing to stay in touch will drastically reduce your ability to raise funds.

Once you have that connection, it’s lasting. In the years following graduation, people might change their last name, address, and place of employment, but they do not often change their mobile number.

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