Focus on Alumni – Not Events – to Move Your Foundation

Focus on Alumni – Not Events – to Move Your Foundation

By Dave Sternberg

National Schools Foundation Association

If your foundation believes that fundraising events can financially carry your organization, you’d better think again. That’s the message that fundraising professional Dave Sternberg sends to directors and board members who want to rely solely on events to financially support their foundation.

Rather, focus on alumni to help take your mission to the next level, says Sternberg. By successfully engaging a school district’s graduates, a foundation’s chances for long-term success are increased.

“Alumni are a valuable resource for financially supporting your foundation,” said Sternberg. There are several ways to accomplish this, according to Sternberg. Through established events, newsletters and advertising, personal visits and social networking, graduates can be easily located. They can also be found through alumni directories, district staff and parents, news publications and social media such as Facebook. “You have to let them know you exist,” says Sternberg. Then, he said, you have to let them know the reason you exist, whether it’s to fund innovative programs or provide educational equity for all students.” Therefore, he says, it’s important to make your case and raise awareness about your foundation. Even though foundations may exist to improve public education, bring money to the classroom, support academics or reward teachers, they primarily offer donors the chance to be part of the solution. “You need to develop a compelling answer to the question ‘What is your education foundation?'” said Sternberg.

One suggestion Sternberg offered was to assemble a communications task force to address how to engage the graduates and the community. However, he cautioned that how a foundation engages graduates from the 1950s is different from how a foundation connects with graduates from the 1990s. There are some similarities, though:

  • Donors are connected in some way to your district
  • They should be familiar with your mission
  • They are seeking fulfillment
  • They believe in the organization
  • They share your values

Above all, remember to use the Golden Rule when dealing with donors:   “Treat people as you want to be treated.”