Alumni are an essential part of your college or university’s story. They’ve studied at your institution, left their mark through innovative research and club participation, and cultivated long-lasting connections with professors, advisors, and peers. That story doesn’t end once they’ve graduated—it’s simply the start of a new chapter!
Alumni play many roles in advocating for and supporting their university. Most notably, they contribute millions of dollars each year, which make up 23% of annual funds raised by universities in the United States.
When it comes to motivating alumni to donate, text-to-give is among the top-performing fundraising channels.
Text-to-give is the best way to reach alumni with donation appeals and information on upcoming giving days, Homecoming and alumni events, and more. Text messages have the highest open and read rate out of any marketing channel, so you can be confident that alumni will see your messages and feel inspired to give back to their alma mater.
To succeed with text message fundraising and marketing, you’ll need to adopt the right tech and best practices. This guide will get you started. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The value of higher education texting
- Types of higher education texting campaigns
- Higher education texting best practices
- Higher education texting providers
With the right strategies, your school can effectively leverage text message marketing to drive donations and form lasting relationships with alumni. Let’s dive in!
The Value of Higher Education Texting
The fundraising landscape has grown significantly in the last few years. Between social media, email, direct mail, and phone calls, your institution has likely tapped into several different ways to conduct outreach to alumni. While these methods can lead to promising results, text message marketing is unique in its convenience, easy automation, and ability to drive a high ROI with little effort on your end.
Text message marketing is the most viable communication channel, with 93% of people who have a college degree or higher owning a cell phone. This greatly expands the number of alumni you can successfully reach with donation requests, school updates, and more to strengthen your college or university’s ties to its former students.
With text message marketing, not only will you reach more people, but you can also feel confident that they’ll see your messages. Text messages have a 99% open rate and a 90% read rate within just three minutes of sending. These metrics are markedly better than other popular communication modes like email, which only has a 20% open rate. People spend more time than ever on their cell phones, and with text messaging campaigns, you can meet them where they are.
Types of Higher Education Texting Campaigns
There are several ways colleges or universities can integrate higher education texting into their communication and fundraising efforts. While you can and should use text messaging to solicit donations, it’s equally important to engage alumni with more than donation appeals by providing information on the school’s events and happenings.
Let’s take a closer look at various ways to engage alumni with higher education texting:
- Send event reminders. Your institution likely hosts multiple on-campus events to encourage alumni to return to their alma mater, such as the Homecoming football game and alumni weekend. If your alumni aren’t actively keeping up with your event calendar, they may not know when these events are happening. Use text messaging to reach alumni directly with important event reminders and registration links so they can join in on the fun.
- Share regional alumni meetups. Many alumni move to different cities across the country after graduation. To reengage them with your college or university’s community, share information about regional alumni meetups so they can reconnect and network with their peers.
- Advertise university giving days. Giving days are fundamental to alumni fundraising and can significantly impact your university’s budget. For instance, James Madison University raised over one million dollars in a single day to support fundraising priorities across campus. Text messaging is a great way to reach donors quickly and create a sense of urgency when you only have 24 hours to raise as much money as possible.
- Create a year-round donation pipeline. Your school can use text-to-give as a fundraising channel to encourage giving throughout the year. Send alumni inspiring messages highlighting your institution’s needs along with a link to your donation page. This reliable revenue stream will support your college or university’s priorities, like providing an enriching student experience, and help your alumni feel like they’re still connected to your school, even if it’s been decades since they’ve attended.
With its flexibility and easy customization, texting empowers your institution to connect with alumni in meaningful ways. As a result, you’ll be able to deepen relationships and encourage your former students to play an impactful role in current students’ experiences.
Higher Education Texting Best Practices
Now that you understand the value texting can bring to your institution, your higher education texting strategies can start to take shape.
It’s not enough to send generic messages and hope they’ll inspire alumni to give and immerse themselves in university life. It’s best to craft specific and engaging texts tailored to your audience. Leverage the following best practices to effectively connect with alumni and build a reliable donation pipeline.
1. Invest In Text Messaging Software
Before sending text messages, ensure that you’re working with a solid tech foundation. The ideal text messaging provider will support your fundraising and communication efforts with comprehensive, university-specific features.
To support your institution’s goals, choose text messaging software with the following key features:
Custom, Automated Messaging
Each school has different needs and a unique alumni audience, so your text messages should reflect this.
Use a text messaging provider with advanced functionality to customize your messages for various purposes, from donation appeals to marketing your upcoming alumni event. Once you’ve drafted your messages, you should be able to send them immediately or schedule them for a specific date and time. A scheduling feature can be especially helpful if you plan to send several reminders before an event.
With so many alumni contacts, monitoring individual text-to-give donations and sending thank-you responses on your own is impossible. Instead, use your text messaging software to automatically send personalized responses to alumni, saving you time and resources.
No matter the size of your higher education institution, you’ll need to reliably reach thousands of alumni at a time. Your text messaging software should empower you to easily upload your message content and send it to alumni all over the country with the click of a button.
To use mass texting efficiently and comply with the law, work with a provider who will help your college or university adhere to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) enforced by the Federal Communications Committee (FCC).
The TCPA protects consumers against unwanted mass text messages. All alumni must opt-in and consent to be contacted, and they must be given a clear option to opt-out. To avoid hefty fines (calculated per recipient and per message), partnering with a text messaging provider that prioritizes compliance is essential.
Your alumni can be divided into audience subsets based on their location or behaviors such as donation frequency, recency, and amount. Sending targeted text messages to specific segments of your audience makes it more likely that alumni will read your texts and take the intended next actions.
Plus, subscriber segmentation empowers your school to easily tap into your alumni’s unique motivations for giving to your institution while creating a texting experience that feels tailored to each individual. This level of personalization will help you build an engaged alumni base eager to play an active role in your college or university. Invest in text messaging software with robust segmentation features that allow you to categorize your audience based on various factors depending on your school’s needs.
To assess the progress and effectiveness of your text messaging campaigns, you’ll need access to real-time analytics. Partner with a text messaging provider that provides important metrics such as open rate, read rate, subscriber growth, and conversion rate. This much-needed insight will help you better understand what motivates alumni to donate.
An ideal text messaging software will also automatically create a report for each text message sent. This report should tell you how many people donated after reading your text, the average donation amount, and how many total donations you collected from that text. You can then easily fine-tune your strategies as needed to achieve a higher ROI.
2. Choose a Relevant Keyword
To opt-in to your college or university’s texts, alumni will send a word or short phrase to your designated shortcode, such as 12345, or 10-digit long code assigned by your text messaging provider. When choosing a keyword, keep the following qualities in mind:
- Make it relevant to your university. Feature your institution’s name, mascot, or other distinctive quality in your keyword so donors can remember it and associate it with your alumni program. For example, an institution called Dingo State University could choose a keyword like “DOLLARS4DINGOES” or “DONATETODSU” for its fundraising text messaging campaign. The keyword for a campaign focusing on general alumni communications could be “LETSGODINGOES.”
- Keep it brief. Your keyword should be as simple as possible so donors can easily text the right word or phrase on their first try. Avoid overly complex keywords that include spaces, special characters, or words that are difficult to spell. Simple keywords will help streamline the opt-in process so alumni can join your text messaging campaign without issues.
- Avoid duplicating keywords across campaigns. If your school plans to run multiple text messaging campaigns for different purposes, create a distinct keyword for each campaign to ensure alumni sign up for the campaign they want to receive messages from.
Your keyword is the entry point to signing up for your text messaging campaign, so it’s essential that you choose a word or phrase that’s memorable and easy to market. Once alumni opt-in to your texts, you’re free to begin sending them university updates, event reminders, donation appeals, and more.
3. Share Your Keyword and Code
To reach as many alumni as possible with your text messaging campaigns, develop a strong marketing strategy to share your keyword and code. A robust contacts list will help your school grow alumni connections and boost its overall ROI. While your college or university will know the best ways to reach its alumni, a few platforms are guaranteed to bring attention to your text messaging campaigns. Share your keyword and code widely through the following channels:
- Alumni website. Your alumni website is likely the marketing outlet with the most alumni traffic. Many alumni are actively scanning your website for university updates and different ways they can reengage with your community, so use this opportunity to highlight your text messaging campaign. Consider advertising your text-to-give option directly on your donation page so donors can become familiar with this option.
- Alumni social media groups. Many alumni are members of a social media group, dedicated to regional meetups, general university communications, or networking opportunities within different majors and disciplines. For example, many universities create LinkedIn alumni groups dedicated to posting job opportunities. Use these social media groups to provide clear directions on how to sign up for your text messaging campaign.
- Email. If your alumni email database is up to date, send a mass email notifying them of your text messaging campaign and its various benefits. Explain how it makes giving more convenient and ensures alumni receive important communications directly on their phones. You can also segment emails to target major, mid-level, and new donors and make your text-to-give requests more personalized to the recipient.
To grow your contacts list even quicker, you can offer alumni an extra incentive to opt-in. For example, encourage alumni to opt-in to receive coupons for your school’s merchandise or discounted sports tickets. Determine what will motivate your alumni to sign up and market this incentive widely to maximize opt-ins.
4. Optimize Your Donation Page for Mobile Users
Your donation page must be mobile-friendly so text-to-give is as accessible as possible. When alumni receive your donation appeal texts with a link to your giving page, they should be able to open it from your text message. This capability streamlines the entire donation process and makes it more likely that alumni will give—and give more frequently. A mobile-friendly donation page should include the following features:
- Ability to adjust to any screen size. Your alumni should be able to pull up your donation page and complete it on their cell phones with little or no pinching or scrolling.
- Fast page speed. Slow loading time can easily frustrate mobile users and lead to donor abandonment. Ensure that your images and other on-page elements are optimized for mobile devices so alumni can fill out your donation page without waiting.
- Limited prompts. Avoid asking your alumni for too much information beyond their contact information, donation amount, and billing information. Keep your prompts brief. A lengthy donation page that takes too long to complete could deter people from donating.
- Ample space. Your donation page should be organized, with ample space between each element, so donors can easily read the prompts.
Before you begin your text-to-give appeals, test how your donation page performs on mobile devices by navigating to it on your phone or using free reporting tools like Google Lighthouse. Testing will help your school determine which elements it needs to optimize to enhance the mobile giving experience.
5. Create Inspiring Messages with a Call to Action
When asking alumni to donate, you’ll need to create a strong case for giving to your school. Your text messages should be engaging to read and highlight the value of donating. However, because texts are so short, you only have a few sentences to sway your alumni, so make your appeal as concise and impactful as possible. To craft a moving donation request, use the following tips:
- Clearly state what the funds will support. Explain to alumni why your college or university is fundraising and how these funds will be used. For example, your school may be fundraising for scholarships, research opportunities, public service initiatives, or its endowment. These details will help alumni understand how their donations will support future generations of students.
- Appeal to your alumni’s emotions. Use storytelling elements to inspire alumni to donate to your institution’s various causes. For example, highlight a recent research project or learning experience made possible by alumni contributions. Emphasize how donors can help enrich students’ experiences and make future projects like this possible through giving.
- Emphasize your alumni’s connection to your institution. Your alumni were once students that had access to your research opportunities, multidisciplinary learning experiences, extracurricular activities, and other offerings. Emphasize your alumni’s connection to your institution and how they can stay involved by providing future students access to the same opportunities they had.
- Create a sense of urgency and offer next steps. Your texts should end with a strong call to action to give. Give donors clear next steps on how they can donate by sharing a link to your school’s donation page. You can also make donation appeals specific, for example, by requesting $25 for your college or university’s giving day campaign.
Your alumni are forever tied to your school even after they’ve graduated. Use this connection to create a strong sense of community that motivates alumni to generate opportunities for the next generation.
6. Diversify Your Texts Beyond Donation Appeals
To keep your alumni engaged and steward strong relationships, avoid solely focusing your texts on donation appeals. Sending donation requests repeatedly with no other messages in between can cause alumni to feel underappreciated and, therefore, less likely to give again to your school or support it in other impactful ways.
Remember, your alumni can provide great value to your institution beyond donations, including facilitating admissions interviews, opening up internship and career opportunities to current students, and providing invaluable mentorship experiences. Alumni are powerful ambassadors for your college or university’s brand and can help promote your school so it retains its stellar academic reputation.
To keep alumni in the loop, update them on different aspects of student life such as:
- Admissions profile of the incoming class
- New clubs on campus
- Research advancements
- New disciplines
- Proposed construction projects
Not only will these updates help them feel more connected to your institution, but they could also incentivize your alumni to support these initiatives to improve the student experience.
You can also send text messages reminding alumni of upcoming events that welcome them back to campus. These messages tap into their nostalgia and can help alumni reconnect with their alma mater. Include a link to a mobile-friendly registration form in your texts so alumni can easily sign up for events directly from your message.
When you send donation appeals and alumni act on them, follow up with personalized thank you messages that illustrate the impact of their donation. If you’re running a limited fundraising campaign, send a text at the end that explains how much money was raised, expresses heartfelt appreciation, and reiterates how these funds will be used.
7. Determine the Frequency of Your Messages
Your institution should text alumni regularly to build meaningful relationships. However, texting too frequently can cause them to unsubscribe from your text messaging campaign and refrain from donating.
The frequency of your text messages will depend on your audience’s reactions and the context of your fundraising campaigns. For example, sending a text message advertising your annual fundraising campaign once a week can lead to a high unsubscribe rate. However, if you’re running a giving day fundraiser with only 24 hours to raise as much money as possible, it would be appropriate to send a few texts leading up to the event, several texts on the day of the event, and one text recapping the event.
Carefully monitor your metrics during your text messaging campaigns for vital insight into how often your alumni want to hear from your college or university. Prioritize quality over quantity. After all, sending one solid text message that persuades alumni to give is much more effective than ten text messages that garner little engagement and cause them to unsubscribe.
8. Connect with Current Students
The relationships you cultivate with alumni don’t start after they graduate. Rather, they begin on students’ first day of class. To build a strong foundation for alumni relationships, connect with students while they’re actively enrolled in your institution.
Create text messaging campaigns for current students, so they feel ingrained in your college or university’s community and knowledgeable about its different events. For example, use text messaging campaigns to send the following communications:
- Event updates about Homecoming, sports games, club fairs, networking opportunities, and other activities.
- Campus life reminders about financial aid, dorm housing, and important deadlines.
- Emergency alerts about the weather or emergencies so students are aware of changes in their class schedule and can stay safe.
By incorporating text messaging into your current student communications, students will be used to receiving texts from your college or university and therefore more inclined to continue this communication once they graduate. You can also encourage graduating seniors to opt-in to your alumni text messaging campaign before they leave so they’re already set up.
Higher Education Texting Providers
To get the most out of your institution’s text messaging campaigns, you need to work with a texting provider you can trust. An ideal higher education texting platform should provide robust messaging and analytics features and comply with FCC regulations. With so many texting providers, researching the best platform for your institution can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at top providers to help you find the best match for your college or university’s fundraising and marketing needs.
Since 2007, Tatango has established itself as the leading expert in the text messaging space.
Tatango’s easy-to-use text messaging software has generated millions of fundraising dollars for its clients, empowering them to achieve and surpass their goals within short time frames. With its comprehensive functionality, Tatango helps you to reach millions of people and segment your audiences to send personalized messages guaranteed to inspire action.
As a higher education institution, you’ll need a text provider you can rely on to grow alumni connections and drive record-breaking fundraising to set your trajectory for the future. Tatango has a proven track record of helping organizations earn a significant return on their investment. Tatango clients report an average return of 500% on their SMS marketing investment, with 20% of all their donations now coming directly from SMS marketing.
Contact us and let our experts help you create a text messaging campaign that maximizes alumni fundraising and nurtures long-lasting relationships.
TrueDialog offers mass texting capabilities with automation so you can send messages to your alumni at any scheduled time. This software provider prides itself on creating one-on-one conversations for more personalized engagement. As an all-in-one solution for texting needs, TrueDialog can accommodate organizations of any size to create a seamless texting experience.
Trumpia includes a built-in set of SMS features to simplify mass texting. With its automated campaigns, real-time targeting, and behavior tracking, Trumpia empowers organizations to create highly customized campaigns tailored to various audiences. Its automated workflow builder makes planning text messages simple so you can launch campaigns quickly.
SlickText helps organizations build their contacts list with subscriber growth tools like social opt-in links and custom QR codes. With its automated workflows, organizations can create welcome series and respond to subscriber behavior to optimize text messaging campaigns. SlickText prioritizes mobile engagement through one-on-one conversations.
Signal Vine can integrate with an organization’s existing databases to create messages tailored to its recipients. Its automation tools combat message fatigue by allowing organizations to monitor audience metrics and strategize new text content as needed. Signal Vine’s Virtual Advisor automates responses to frequently asked questions to facilitate a helpful texting experience.
Start Your Higher Education Texting Today
Every higher education institution should be using text message marketing to raise donations and develop an engaged alumni network. With Tatango by your side, your college or university can lead successful text messaging campaigns bound to inspire your alumni. To get started with higher education texting today, contact the team of experts at Tatango.