We recently posted about Blackstone Group’s CEO Steve Schwarzman donating $25 million to the public high school from which he graduated in 1965-it is said to be the largest donation of its kind to date. More than 90% of America’s 56 million K-12 students attend public schools, and 3.3 million of them are expected to graduate this year from high school. Yet, almost none of them are ever asked for donations, despite the need for funds to improve academic proficiency and an increased reliance on student fees to fund extracurricular activities.
According to the Council for Aid to Education, alumni giving to colleges and universities in the United States amounted to $11.37 billion in 2017. Historically, private K-12 schools actively solicit alumni donations, but public schools haven’t leveraged this group of high potential donors.
Certainly younger alumni may not have much in the way of income, but even if they donate a small amount, they’ll continue to feel connected to a team, club or school that they loved. Alumni give because they have fond memories of their activities and recall the value they derived from their experience. Having a solid avenue to give back makes it easier to onboard alumni immediately—all it takes is a couple of people to give to create a snowball effect that can lead to more alumni giving.
Remember, the longer alumni are working, the more they’ll earn and will be able to give. Unlike other potential donors, they have a firsthand understanding of how financial support was helpful to their team/club/school. They can recall all the pizza boxes in the band room ahead of a Friday night football game, the many hotel rooms the debate team needed for the national championship, or all the parts they needed to make a robot for a competition.
Although some K-12 schools have alumni pages and an alumni association, they are few and far between. In line with the idea of getting recent grads to start giving are senior gifts. A senior gift is a way for seniors to donate to their high school before they become alumni. It demonstrates the importance of alumni giving early on. One example we found was St. Joseph’s High School in Connecticut
When someone donates $19.62 and above, they become part of the 1962 Club. This an exclusive giving club for Alumni who have graduated within the last 5 years. As a member of the 1962 Club, you will receive the following benefits:
- FREE admission to all athletic Home games (each year you support)
- FREE Senior Class alumni t-shirt (designed by the Senior Class Committee)
- Receive updates on what’s happening at St Joe’s and stay connected with classmates
- Name listed in the Annual Report
Schools that have programs like this will not only instill good fundraising habits with their soon-to-be alumni, but they will also benefit from building donor lead lists early on.
Beyond JUST setting up an alumni association, public schools should consider the following to be successful with their engagement.
- The right messaging to attract new alumni
- An alumni strategy that includes a consistent outreach
- An internal system to collect donor information
- Relevant content to help them understand the importance of giving (blogs, whitepapers, articles, success stories, etc.)
- Keeping parents of alumni on fundraising lists
For more information on successful fundraising, visit ed.co—we power the K-12 fundraising community.