Every fraternity believes that their alumni have deep pockets and will help the chapter out financially. However, most fraternities do not receive much financial support from their alumni. The reason for this is simple – fraternities don’t know how to ask.
My fraternity is a classic example. Our chapter is fairly young, but our founding fathers started to graduate in the mid-90s. That means we have almost fifteen years of alumni in our fraternity. However, in those fifteen years, I cannot remember one time the fraternity ever asked for money. The stunning thing is that many brothers including myself send the fraternity a check every now and again just because the chapter means so much to us.
At a recent reunion many of the alumni commented that they give money to the university, athletics program and other organizations. However, the fraternity means much more to them than any of those entities, and they would eagerly give if the chapter needed help. All the chapter has to do is ask.
For optimal success the chapter has to ask the right way and make it as easy on the alumni as possible. First, the chapter needs a reason to ask for money. Maybe the chapter needs repairs on the house or maybe they want to buy a big screen TV for the chapter room. Regardless, there needs to be a reason.
Then, the fraternity has to write a letter to their alumni asking for money and explaining why it is needed and how much is needed. This has to be a letter. A letter is much more personal and will get a better response.
Included in the letter should be a self addressed, stamped envelope for the alumni to send their check in. Remember, you need to make this as easy on the alum as possible. If you make them fish out an envelope and find a stamp they are more likely to put the request aside and forget about it.
Fraternities might complain that they don’t have an updated address list. This is a very easy problem to solve. Make it a pledge requirement each semester to get in touch with each alumnus and get their updated contact info. That way no one ever falls out of touch and there is forced interaction between the pledges and every graduated brother.
Also, it would be a good marketing ploy to create a giving level that you hope each alum would attain. For example, create the XXX giving level at $100. The XXX needs to be a clever name from your chapter. Each alum that reaches that level for the academic year should be posted on the fraternity website and in fraternity newsletters. Obviously, the goal is to get as many brothers to that level as possible. This will create an incentive for them to get there.
Finally, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, the chapter must thank the alum for their donation by letter. This needs to be the #1 priority when the check is received. The thank you letter should be personalized and sent the very day the donation arrives. If this isn’t done quickly and properly, the fraternity runs the risk of alienating their alumni base which will eliminate all future donations.