The current NCAA Tourney had an unusual “Cinderella” story this year with the team from Florida Gulf Coast University. The Eagles were a 15th seed, which means they barely made the field of 68 teams. However, they were the first 15th seeded team to make it to the second full week of play, affectionately referred to as the “Sweet Sixteen.”

The entire story of their run in the tourney would make a superb post, but when the play by play announcer mentioned FGCU has only been in existence for 12 years and the oldest alumni are around 35 years of age, my mind started racing.

FGCUDoes Publicity Equate to Engagement?

Just think for a moment what this immense amount of publicity could mean to the school’s fundraising activities. For every other school where this happens, they have a field day connecting to old alumni, who may have been long lost in their fundraising database records.

Those established schools have proven donor communication methods honed on each generation of alumni. They know to send a direct mail letter or to call the home telephone number of those over 65 years of age. For the next group from 45 -65 years of age, it probably is an email or perhaps a call to the cell phone. We start stepping into a bit more unchartered communication area with those under 45. Do we approach them by which of the following:

  • Cell phone call
  • An email
  • A text message
  • Via social media
  • By announcing a meet-up
  • Via a special event
  • Only through friends and classmates

Florida Gulf Coast University is in quite a position for grand experiment in donor/prospect communications since most of the alumni under the age of 35, but will be anxious and proud to associate closer with their school due to the immense amount of NCAA Tourney publicity.

Two scenarios come to mind:

Previous Alumni/Donor Communications is Strong

If the Fundraising/Alumni office has been actively communicating with most of the alumni is this the prime time to:

  • Increase communications
  • Invite alumni to various events deigned to increase involvement
  • Ask the alumni to share their thoughts and experiences during the time period of the NCAA Tourney in social media
  • Increase solicitations both directly and peer to peer

Hopefully, they can monitor and measure the results to share with other fundraising professionals

Previous Alumni/Donor Communications is Weak

Conversely, if the Fundraising/Alumni office has not been in regular contact with the alumni, then the opportunity to experiment with all the ways to reconnect we mentioned above should be pushed to the point of strong focus.

What works best for those alumni from their early 20’s to their mid-30’s? Could this be the breakthrough for social media that so many pundits have been touting?

Total Solar Eclipse in Alumni Fundraising

My fingers are crossed in hopes that such insights can and will be shared as this unique situation unfolds. Scientists often use such unique situations such as a total solar eclipse to conduct certain experiments.

Perhaps fundraisers have their version of a total solar eclipse in front of them here. This unique situation might shed some real light on what generational differences in engagement factors should be considered. Best of luck FGCU in maneuvering through a truly unique situation!


Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.