Why Your Next Transformative Gift will be a Non-Alumni

Top of Mind for 2018 CASE Attendees: How to Engage Non-Alumni Transformative Donors

As the 2018 CASE Summit in NYC approaches, there will be many topics and trends discussed and covered. One specific topic that many cutting edge institutions will be working through is how they will more effectively raise transformative gifts but not just through the traditional approach from their wealthiest alumni — these industry leaders will be seeking advice and sharing their thinking around how to successfully engage transformative donors who never attended their institution which marks a growing trend in Higher Ed philanthropy.

Several years ago I was checking into a large non-profit conference and one of the volunteers was a fundraiser for a prominent liberal arts school. She was sharing that they were having particular success with new transformative donors. I assumed it was alumni or parents of students and commented as much. I was surprised when she said that many of their largest donations were coming from non-alumni and from donors who had no traditional association with the institution.

Most institutions of higher education are dealing with the reality that their next major transformative gift will very likely come from an ultra wealthy individual who did not attend their institution but is connected to them through their relational networks and has an affinity or passion for a project, research topic or initiative that the school is undertaking.

Against that backdrop, a major challenge that most institutions will have to navigate is that most of their existing research, data, infrastructure and processes were built and designed around the assumption that principal and leadership gifts will come from alumni.

Wealth Screens Are Helpful in the Right Strategic Context but Useless When There is No Connection Through An Existing Relationship or Passion, Hobby or Interest

These alumni have been identified to have much greater financial capacity than their existing donation history to date and/or might have been further surfaced in a “wealth screen”. Despite the institution being rebuffed by previous attempts to engage them, most institutions fall into the trap of continuing to use resources and time to reach this “wealth screen” donor. The hurdle here is that in many cases the institution has no real relationship with these prospects. As can be the case with so many wealth screens, the fundraiser is left trying to figure out how to actually get in front of the prospects that have been identified. This is the true challenge of engaging the ultra wealthy and the hurdle faced by both fundraising and sales professionals across industry lines. This process can cause frustration between the research teams who are trying to do their job and development officers who have no strategic context or plan for leveraging the information from the wealth screen.

Paradigm Shift: Building Processes, Tools and Approaches for Engaging Non-Alumni

These realities are driving a paradigm shift among the development teams of the leading academic institutions to develop strategies for not only more deeply engaging their alumni base but further expanding into the sphere of non-alumni. This approach can often create gaps as most of the existing skills, processes and infrastructure were designed and built around analyzing and engaging their existing alumni.

However, with the right processes, tools and methodology, the existing infrastructure can be successfully pivoted towards engaging the future transformative non-alumni donor.

WealthQuotient is Equipping Cutting Edge Institutions to Pivot to Engaging Transformative Non-Alumni

WealthQuotient is helping leading institutions of higher education understand how they can leverage and coordinate their existing research and fundraising infrastructure toward engaging the future ultra affluent donor who is outside their alumni database but is connected through the institution’s network of relationships and has a passion for something the institution is doing. Our approach and methodology certainly helps our clients engage their wealthiest alumni but it is also helping to challenge our clients assumptions and build concrete roadmaps to transforming organizational strategies resulting in concrete pipelines of ultra affluent and high net worth non-alumni donors.

If you want to learn and discuss this further, come visit us during the CASE Summit at Booth 41.