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3 strategies advancement teams should prioritize this summer

May 21, 2024, By Jenny Jones, Principal, Advancement Marketing Services

The end of the academic year is an exciting time for advancement teams to celebrate recent graduates and welcome them into the alumni community. For me, I’ll be enjoying some quality time with my family on vacation before sending my son back to college for his sophomore year in the fall. I’m also looking forward to connecting with advancement colleagues from across the country at the CASE Summit in New York this July.

But beyond these cherished traditions, summer is a crucial time to audit your program and make adjustments for the year ahead. Amidst the challenges and unrest facing many campuses right now, advancement teams must get back to the basics, revisit their core values, and ensure that interactions with alumni and donors are as meaningful as ever.

Here are three ways you can make the most of these important summer months.

Join us at our CASE Summit Reception

Headed to CASE this summer? Reserve your spot at our reception on July 22 from 6-8 pm at La Grande Boucherie, a stunning atrium in a historic Art Nouveau-style building. Join us for drinks, light snacks, and a chance to unwind from the busy conference schedule. Register here.

1. Welcome your next class of alumni

Commencement is an exciting milestone for all college students. Their years of hard work and dedication are finally paying off as they walk across the stage to get their degree. It marks a pivotal moment for them as they transition from students to alumni and embark on their careers. Spending these next few summer months welcoming recent graduates into your advancement program is important. Alongside alumni affairs, advancement offices are now the primary point of contact for most recent graduates. You want to ensure they feel recognized, supported, and still a part of your campus community.

Avoid rushing to make asks this summer or in the fall. Instead, focus on nurturing relationships with these new alumni through engagement, support, and celebration. You can send them fun and exclusive swag – things like digital badges for social media, car magnets or stickers, free tickets to upcoming events on campus, etc. You could also host virtual or in-person networking events to celebrate their achievements and officially welcome them into the alumni network. By focusing on strong engagement early on, you build a foundation for their lifelong relationship with your institution as alumni.

 

2. Realign with institutional values

It’s a challenging time on many campuses right now. With emotions running high, varying opinions on higher education, and an uncertain economy, reconnecting your program with your institution’s core values is more necessary than ever. This summer gives you an opportunity to reflect on what your institution truly believes in and realign your program accordingly.

Whether through strategic planning sessions, staff retreats, or community discussions, take the time to revisit your mission, vision, and guiding principles. By aligning your strategies with your institution’s values, you ensure that every fundraising initiative and donor interaction is genuine and purposeful.

As you move through this work, integrate these values into your program’s messages and content for the upcoming fundraising cycles. Avoid fluff and complex marketing jargon; instead, focus on what really matters to your institution and where your donors can make a meaningful impact.

For example, if your institution serves predominantly first-generation and low-income students, you should create core fundraising messages centered around supporting these students in their pursuit of education. Or if you are a research university, center your core messages around the current faculty-led initiatives and programs. By staying true to your institution’s values, you will inspire greater confidence and community among your alumni and donors.

 

3. Find areas to support student success

With many students facing delays in FAFSA and financial aid support last year, there is a great need for advancement teams to bring in more revenue and student funding support for their institutions. This summer is an ideal time to collaborate with different departments at your institution (student affairs, financial aid, academic units, etc.) to identify areas where advancement can create impactful financial support funds for students.

Your team can directly influence student success by prioritizing fundraising for things like scholarships, mentorship programs, or student emergency funds. This helps you provide more immediate assistance to students facing financial hardships, while also fostering their long-term academic and personal growth.

It’s bound to be a busy summer for advancement teams everywhere as we wrap up another fundraising year and gear up for the next. Despite the challenges facing higher education right now, there’s an abundance of opportunity to make a real impact in the lives of students and foster growth for your program. But amidst the hard work and strategic planning, don’t forget to carve out time to rest and celebrate with your advancement team. Before you know it, another academic year will be upon us.

Lean on a strategic partner

There’s more competition and noise to navigate than ever to engage your alumni and donors. Partner with EAB’s Advancement Marketing Services for strategy support, analytics, and marketing campaigns to propel your advancement program to new heights. Email us at [email protected].

Jenny Jones

Jenny Jones

Principal, Advancement Marketing Services

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