Building Connections Between Students and Donors

Posted on 02/15/2019

One of the most common challenges for educational institutions is helping donors understand the impact of their support. Unlike some other nonprofit organizations where “need” may appear more urgent or severe, many schools struggle to convey to donors how modest gifts will make a difference as high tuition rates and big endowments overshadow their fundraising appeals. Even proud alumni and parents—full of positive feelings and a strong affinity toward their school—can often end up feeling like the institution is worthy of their support, but just not needy enough.

One of the best ways to overcome this sentiment is to build meaningful connections between donors and those who benefit from their support. In the case of educational institutions, it’s often students who are most directly impacted by giving. Yet with geographic and generational barriers making it difficult to bring these two groups together, it’s crucial for advancement shops to find new and innovative ways to create connections.

The Charles River School in Massachusetts recently engaged students in a fun activity designed to show a special group of alumni and donors some love and appreciation around Valentine’s Day. The advancement team partnered with faculty members to have students make handmade alumni valentine cards as class projects. Every student at the K-8 school created a valentine with an element tied to their classroom curriculum. Younger students decorated their valentines with cut-out hearts, glitter, and poems, while the middle school students wrote letters to the alumni in their cards. The valentines were then sent to a targeted group of older alumni who enjoy receiving mail, as well as to recent campaign donors.

There is no doubt the handmade cards were a big success. A number of the donors who received the cards responded by writing letters back to the students and—even though the initiative was designed to steward—one even made a gift. With a small alumni community, the team believes that personal touches like these are vital for the school’s continued success.

Nearly all institutions struggle to find unique ways to connect with donors, to ensure they understand that their gifts are very much needed. By involving students in these stewardship efforts, you can demonstrate this impact in a meaningful, interactive wayand, in turn, cultivate loyal donors who see firsthand that they are appreciated.


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