The Potential Rise of Alumni Engagement Thanks to Venmo

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

If your higher ed institution hasn't heard of Venmo yet, you could be missing out on imperative engagement from your alumni. According to a VAESE Alumni Relations Benchmarking Study, 87 percent of alumni organizations admit that they need to do more to attract and engage alumni, in particular, millennial alumni.

The college-alumni relationship can be a complicated one. On one hand, past students sometimes feel that they’ve paid their dues and aren’t interested in giving more. They also have financial obligations that come before donations. On the other hand, alums are a school’s best asset. They are brand ambassadors and should be included in marketing efforts.

The key to having a successful relationship with your alumni is to engage them through content, invitations to special events, etc. while granting them an easy way to contribute if they would like. This is where Venmo can be extremely helpful.

Let’s take a closer look at what Venmo is and how it can increase engagement for your higher institution.

What is Venmo?

Venmo is a mobile wallet app that allows users to send money and make purchases, similar to PayPal. It was created with millennial users in mind, and all that is needed to get started is a smartphone and bank account. The app is entirely secure, and most money transfers are free.

Though Venmo can be used for all types of purposes, it works beautifully for nonprofits. Users can instantly transfer money from their bank account to your institution without having to mail a check or visit a donation page.

Are Mobile Donations the New Thing?

More colleges and universities are thinking in terms of mobile because they know that this is the best way to reach their audience. Millennials, in particular, are more comfortable engaging with colleges and universities online, and they might be more inclined to make a donation with a mobile payment app in place.

According to a recent npENGAGE report, there was a 45 percent increase from 2014 and 2015 in school donations completed on mobile devices. Donors prefer this method because it’s a user-friendly experience, and it’s something they can do in a convenient manner. Millennials are much more likely to be tied to their phones during the day rather than a desktop.

Although gift giving on mobile devices is increasing, a Gifting on the Go report from Corporate Insight showed that only a few select schools are utilizing mobile donation systems. Is yours one of them? If not, what is standing in your way?

Which Schools are Using the App?

Wellesley College is one of the first schools to use Venmo for alumni donations. Alums are happy to donate this way, as they don’t have to worry about stuffing envelopes, paying for stamps, visiting the post office, waiting for checks to clear or entering in their credit card information.

Another element that donors enjoy is the social aspect of the app where everything is shared with others - except for the dollar amount of the donation. The activity feed facilitates a sense of community and encourages others to give without making anyone feel bad about what they can or cannot donate.

Venmo is slow to accept new nonprofit accounts, so you can’t create an account on a whim. But we imagine that this will become easier and more commonplace in time, especially as colleges and universities see the increased engagement that can result.

What About Text Donations?

As your higher institution considers mobile donations in the future, also consider accepting text donations. For example, Temple University launched a mobile donation channel just last year where alums can text the university with the handle @temple with the amount and recipient that they want to donate to (i.e., #student council, $25.00).

Once the donation is made, the donor receives a text message, prompting them to set up an account and complete an online gift form. When everything is complete, the donor gets a confirmation text and receipt. No maximum or minimum amounts are required, and the donor can select how often they would like to continue giving. This donation method has allowed alumni to send a donation without having to log into anything - and it can be just a few dollars - enough to stay engaged and in support of the school.

Whether your higher institution chooses to launch an app or an SMS donation program, the point is to have a range of digital giving options that make it easy for people to donate. This could increase engagement and overall donation totals, especially among your millennial alumni.

About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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