For a long time I thought my University must not be soliciting their Alumni, because I never once had an appeal letter. I knew they had my details as I still received the newsletter and Alumni email, I was just never asked for money. And then I turned 25, and suddenly my mailbox was full of direct mail appeals! Genius.
How many donations would a University be getting from the under 25’s? Probably not enough to cover the postage. Not that the age-group isn’t philanthropic, it’s just more likely that support will come in the form of volunteering, campaigning, fundraising or smaller donations. These are all hugely valuable contributions for many organisations, but probably less so for a major University. Still, there’s a lesson here that I think applies to many in the sector.
What the University knows is this: whilst my linkage and interest are high, under the age of 25 my ability is (most likely) low. But these factors will change over time, as my circumstances change. The University clearly has a stewarding plan in place for graduates through their life stages, one which develops into bigger and bigger asks as they get older and richer. In the meantime, they’re keeping their Alumni close, connected and interested.
Ability isn’t just about age, but whatever the factors they are generally out of our control as fundraisers. What we can influence are the feelings of connectedness and interest that our supporters have in the cause and the organisation. Don’t let those that care about you most slip out of sight just because they don’t have the capacity to give large amounts of money right now. Nurture the relationship. Even if they never come into the big money, they’ll be your greatest champions and promoters.