Higher Ed Series: How Online Forms Can Help Increase Alumni Donations

Written by Formstack on April 20, 2012

Posted in Education

This blog post is a part of an ongoing Formstack blog series for Higher Education. These posts provide tips and tricks for higher education professionals that use online forms to collect and manage data. From enrollment management to alumni relations, Formstack has a solution that will simplify your process and save your sanity. 

I may not be an expert in higher education and alumni relations, however, I do know a little bit about data management tools and integrated web applications – two things that, when combined, can make a big impact on alumni relations and collecting donations.

Alumni relations is a large part of continuing the brand recognition for your university. It’s great to get recent graduates engaged in your alumni program as early as possible. But once graduated, former students often have a very limited disposable income, so encouraging donations could be quite the challenge. However, with the right system in place, you can maintain a connection as your graduates advance in their lives.

Here are a few tips that can help with that process:

1. Gather information while they are still enrolled.
Students are constantly meeting with their advisors, especially when graduation is nearing. A great way to make sure you stay in touch with students after they leave is to create a form where they can insert a personal email address and other important contact information. You can even have them submit their plans after graduation, degree or program, etc. so that you have relevant content to feed back to them.

Within your Formstack account, you can review that data, manipulate it to create varied graphs and charts, export it to use in external database systems, or share links with others outside of your account to review it. This is a great feature if you need to send this data to other university departments.

2. Destroy the barriers of inconvenience.
As with any other type of data collection, you need to eliminate any barriers that would discourage your end user from completing the process. With features like conditional logic, users can automatically skip over areas in a form that are not relevant to them, allowing for faster form completion. At alumni events or within your alumni magazines, include a QR code (which we provide upon publishing) so alumni can quickly scan, fill and donate via your Formstack donation form. Again, make it easy for them. Even the smallest inconveniences can deter someone from giving.

3. Don’t become irrelevant.
Maintaining relevancy with your alumni groups is key to capturing their attention, their information, and eventually, their donations. The worst thing you can do is fall off the radar and come back asking for money. You need to uphold a presence. Be proactive. Participate in the conversation. The two main tactics would be to collect information consistently and produce content they want.

Social media is a great way to do this. At any touch point with your alumni, ask for their twitter handle, their email address, or any other information that helps you stay engaged. Always capitalize on opportunities for them to share their thoughts and feedback. Collect a database of social contacts, and communicate with them consistently. You can also use our Twitter integration to auto-post a tweet any time someone submits a form. This is a great way to share with your followers when someone has donated. You can even include their Twitter handle, which may encourage them to share the message.

Our new social share buttons also allow for you and your users to spread online donation forms via Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This is a great way to build evangelists for your efforts. You can create a custom message that will be sent out with a few clicks. Allow those that donate to campaign for you with ease.

4. Content is key.
Relevancy can only be achieved when you provide your alumni with content they want. Formstack has several email marketing system integrations that will allow you to collect alumni information and auto-populate it into your email lists. With this feature, you can easily continue the cycle of ongoing communication.

If you are using our Constant Contact integration, you can easily allow your users to choose what list they’d like to be a part of. Even with “graduates” or “alumni,” there are more ways of breaking down that segmentation. Do what you can to categorize these groups. Or in this case, let them choose the frequency or list category, that way you know for sure what content they want.

4. Collect payments automatically.
Now that we’ve mastered the ongoing communication strategies, let’s get down to business with collecting payment.

Formstack integrates with a number of secure third-party payment processors that will allow you to easily collect payment through your online donation forms. Don’t redirect your users to another site. Don’t make them fill out multiple pages of verification. Remember? Keep it simple and eliminate barriers.

Formstack is constantly making improvements to our app, which will allow for more features and more ways you can collect and manage your data and donation payments. Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming Higher Ed Series posts.

Have questions? Comment below!