When it comes to alumni fundraising, US universities still lead the way compared to those in the UK. Exhibit A: just before Christmas, the University of Michigan received a single gift of $50 million from two former students. Wow. So what can UK universities do to encourage their alumni to give something back, and what part does video have to play?
That Michigan donation came courtesy of Ronald Weiser, the former US ambassador to Slovakia, and his wife Eileen, both of whom are graduates of the university.
The donation is part of the ‘Victors for Michigan’ fundraising campaign, launched in 2013 with the aim of raising $4 billion. The Weisers are vice-chairs on the leadership board of that campaign, and they’ve certainly set a sterling example in terms of digging deep to reach that lofty target.
But while the culture of alumni philanthropy in the US might be older and more established, the trajectory for UK universities seems to be an upward one.
Figures for the academic year 2012-13 show gifts to UK universities increased 23%, hitting a record high of £659.8 million in cash donations. In that same period, 174,000 former students donated to their old alma maters, representing a 60% rise in alumni giving.
It would certainly seem then that universities on this side of the pond are devoting more time and resource to the business of alumni fundraising. But what role can video play in that process?
Well, for one thing, it’s often the case that those alumni with the most to give are also often the most time-poor.
That means it’s often easy for the potential donor to put off or ignore reading materials sent to them through the post. On the other hand, a video delivered within a personalised email, putting the case for support across in just a few minutes, can be a much more immediate, more effective way of getting the message across.
In addition, video can be emotional and inspiring in encouraging support. And that’s an area we have experience with here at Spectrecom Films – perhaps most notably not for a university but for one of the country’s best-loved charities, the National Trust.
We were asked to produce a short film on behalf of the Trust’s high value Quercus donor programme. It needed to show the range of programmes the Trust is involved with – not just in terms of conservation, but also in terms of helping shape young futures through its apprenticeship schemes.
The film we produced can be seen at the top of this blogpost, and the result was the near-instant recruit of a wealthy young donor, who wanted to support the Trust’s work with apprentices.