Alumni Association Fundraising Ideas

by Amy Sterling Casil

Alumni associations raise funds for their colleges and universities, as well as other charitable purposes. With more than 160,000 dues-paying members, for example, the Penn State Alumni Association raised approximately $12 million in 2012 for its programs. The university's weekend-long THON dance marathon brings students and alumni together to raise millions for children with cancer.

Get Creative

Think beyond traditional events like golf tournaments, wine-tasting events and scholarship dinners. Create events incorporating volunteer projects, local restaurants, or favorite outdoor and seasonal activities. The alumni association and students from Pennsylvania's Juniata College have held successful events including serving breakfast in bed and setting up kilometers of donated coins. Organize gourmet cooking classes, hold a karaoke night, or sponsor a brewery tour. Use online crowdsourcing platforms to incorporate social media into fundraising campaigns.

Traditional Events

Traditional alumni association fundraising events include scholarship dinners, tribute dinners, golf tournaments and "meet and greet" events. Build successful traditional alumni fundraising events through strong organization and clear timelines that support sponsorship, planning and a positive cash flow. Access information and guidelines from other successful alumni associations to learn how traditional events can grow from year to year. Set clear goals for sponsorships, ticket sales, and additional event income from silent auctions and event program advertising.

Direct Fundraising

Participate in annual campaigns for scholarships and general college support, as well as one-time capital campaigns for buildings or the college endowment. Use a regional focus to reach out to alumni in your area. Work with college advancement staff to determine giving levels. Include current students as volunteers in direct fundraising efforts, increasing alumni motivation to give. Set fundraising goals by class year, and tie major goals to important reunion dates of 10, 25 or more years after graduation.

Increase Donation Value

Most major companies and many investment funds will match alumni donations to colleges and universities. Contact the college development office for matching fund forms. Provide alumni with lists of employers and investment firms, enabling them to request matching donations. Contact the student body association to request a liaison who can identify joint projects for fundraising, such as support for student publications, clubs and campus events. Contact philanthropic foundations and request grant funding to match alumni donations.

About the Author

Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.

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