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As Alpha Chi Omega prepared for its first major campaign since 2014, it knew that engaging more alumnae with the organization at the local and national levels was critically important to expanding its base of donors at all levels.
The importance of engagement
The Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity’s Lifetime Engagement team, in collaboration with the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation team, had been focused on expanding opportunities for its more than 200,000 living alumnae to connect with each other and the organization in new and accessible ways.
Like many organizations, however, they faced unique challenges to engaging alumnae:
Lifetime membership doesn’t always equate to lifetime connection
Changes in life circumstances and age for alumnae means their connection to Alpha Chi Omega may ebb and flow year to year.
Different chapters mean different experiences
The experience of an alumna at one campus chapter may vary widely to the experience of another alumna at a chapter on a different campus. This can make alumnae feel disconnected to other members in different chapters or to the national organization.
Cost of alumnae engagement
A large percentage of the alumnae programming may not be fundable by the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, making costs difficult to overcome.
The path forward
To overcome these challenges, Alpha Chi Omega turned to creative solutions to engaging alumnae and fostering long-term relationships. They leveraged email newsletters to reach the masses, social media to target different generations of alumnae, and virtual events like webinars to communicate with other alumnae and share common experiences.
They also tapped into the power of connection through video messaging to check in with alumnae regularly and personally, keeping the organization top of mind and building deeper relationships.
“Our satisfaction ratings soared because we were present for them in a way that didn’t always ask them for money, but showed them that we were there to build a relationship with them.” – Marsha Grady, Chief Development Officer, Alpha Chi Omega Foundation
Another initiative is in-person professional development events hosted by the Fraternity where they target alumnae in specific geographic areas, hosting the event in collaboration with the Foundation’s staff.
Network of opportunity
Since its inception, Alpha Chi Omega’s Women & Wisdom program has provided opportunities for alumnae and collegiate members to connect in networking and mentoring relationships.
Beyond alumnae engagement through email, social media, and video, Alpha Chi Omega leveraged Gravyty’s alumni and community engagement platform to power the Women & Wisdom program.
One of the most successful strategies they rolled out through the platform was a short-term mentorship program to celebrate National Mentoring Month, which drove over 900 new registered users in the first three months of the year. Other mentoring opportunities through Women & Wisdom include:
- Structured mentoring experiences
- “Flash” or “anytime” mentoring
- Virtual “speed networking” events
- “Thank a mentor” day
- In-person mentoring and networking opportunities at convention
Turning engagement into donations
This increased engagement provided increased ways the Foundation can engage current donors and turn engaged alumnae into new donors.
“When we are looking at the data that we get from the Gravyty platform and through our other engagement opportunities, that really raises people who want to be engaged with Alpha Chi Omega to the top. Capacity to give is one thing, but their affinity to give is far more important.” – Marsha Grady
Alpha Chi Omega fundraisers turned to the data to track and measure engagement, and leaned on technology integrations to make smart decisions on donor portfolios and outreach. They also implemented Gravyty’s AI-powered fundraising enablement solution to streamline and prioritize donor outreach, saving hours of administrative work.
“We have found it to be an incredible tool for us in donor qualification.” – Marsha Grady
Reaching out to prospective donors in the beginning of the relationship can be challenging. It’s too early for making an ask, and it’s critical to build an authentic connection. Alpha Chi Omega leverages AI to get prompted when it’s time to reach out to a donor based on affinity, interests, milestones, birthdays, past giving, and other factors. This practice lends itself to building meaningful relationships at scale.
Gravyty’s AI-powered platform allowed Alpha Chi Omega to add a mid-level “annual giving officer” position, which is managing a portfolio of more than 800 donors with 3-4 touches per year, with proven success. For example, they upgraded 18 donors who had never given more than $100 a year to their Leadership Circle which is donors that give $1,000+ per year.
Another tool AXΩ uses to steward donors is video messaging through the Gravyty platform. A prompt arrives in fundraisers’ inboxes when a follow-up or touchpoint is needed with a donor based on pre-established rules, and lets them easily record and send a video message with the click of a button. For Alpha Chi Omega, this makes managing thousands of donor relationships more manageable.
Making an impact
All of these factors resulted in proven success for AXΩ’s campaign. Going public in 2022 with “Common Bond. Uncommon Impact.”, the Alpha Chi Omega team had already raised a staggering $24 million in the silent phase and set annual giving records in 2021 and 2022. They also raised gifts of $100,000 or more from 50 individual donors, and locked in $4.2 million in planned gifts, well exceeding their yearly goals. By the time the campaign concludes in July 2024, it is expected to well exceed its revised $30 million goal.
Marsha Grady, Chief Development Officer of the Alpha Chi Omega Foundation, credits much of this success with leveraging effective engagement to identify new donors with affinity and capacity to give. An effective, omnichannel engagement strategy lets them reach prospects and donors in meaningful and personal ways, building relationships along the way. These long-term bonds with their community result in a proven impact for years to come.
Donor engagement isn’t one-size-fits-all for each organization. And in a digital world that’s facing economic uncertainty, fundraisers are learning to adapt their donor engagement strategies in order to meet ambitious goals.
We surveyed education and nonprofit fundraising leaders to gauge the current state of donor engagement and pipeline building activities. Download the benchmark report here.