Anyone in the business of evaluating fundraising performance grows accustomed to seeing the same phenomenon across numerous institutions. We expect to see “dollars up, donors down” for at least the past five years and a steady decline in annual alumni participation (the annual fund) for at least the past ten years.
Presidents, advancement officers & development staff would be wise to assess their fundraising potential before charging ahead. In high-functioning environments, alumni do not experience a fall from grace upon graduating. They are able to access the faculty through real and virtual means-reconnecting to the campus community. They must know advancement officers not merely as “hired guns” in pursuit of hollow, short term fundraising objectives, but as “culture-carriers” who help alumni stay engaged.
In most cases passionate advancement teams exist, who not only love the university, but their alumni as well. The premise of their dedication is to do great and hard work. Indicators for advancement include the:
– Percentage of alumni who have given to their institution.
– Percentage of those who have given annually.
– Quality of the student experience.
– Residual goodwill felt well after leaving the institution.
– Analysis of the lapse rate.
In the long run, the institution leaders need to develop a plan of community with the recognition that an active, supportive alumnus is made or lost in the first semester of the freshman year. If first-year students feel isolated, unsupported or, even worse, bruised or traumatized, they are not likely to want to return as alumni. Conversely, the most supportive alumni over time, invariably point to a small number of faculty or staff, who not only showed a personal interest in them but believed in them, encouraged them to see and pursue their greater potential.