With all due respect to the talents of the late Carrie Fisher, actress and author of numerous books, including “Postcards from the Edge” (which you really should read) we tackle today one of the leading pain points for alumni officers and the advancement teams working with them. I know. They call me all the time filled to the brim with agita (heartburn, indigestion, agitation, anxiety, very common among MGOs). Their issue? Finding some sort of tangible recognition for alumni donors attending their annual legacy luncheon.
Yes, these are valuable donors. First, they’re loyal alumni donors. Second, they’ve included either the Alumni Association or the university (or nonprofit) in their estate plans.
So, what do we do to thank them? We give them gifts. Every year. These can range from the mundane (a printed calendar) to the ridiculous (a bobble-head doll), to the more expensive-and-mundane (an engraved glass mug or paperweight.)
Tell me: how many glass paperweights can one person have? One may be plenty, or more than enough in today’s digital world.
The amount of handwringing, pain and, yes, agita, stemming from this tradition is the stuff migraines are made of.
Time for Novel Ideas for Your Amazing Alumni Donors
Novel Idea #1—Stop Having In-Person Luncheons (for Now)
What?! you may cry out. During the early days of the pandemic, smart development folks pivoted to virtual events. Some are finding them so much easier and inexpensive, that they’re keeping them that way. Plus, with the viral variants constantly evolving, who knows when the next one will show up that might be worse than any we’ve seen? It’s really a crapshoot. This is our new normal—time to get used to it.
Novel Idea #2
Reward your faithful alumni donors with something they will actually use, not put on a shelf to collect dust or be sold at a garage sale. (Sorry, not sorry.)
How about a box of reproductions of vintage post cards they can correspond with? Imagine: a legacy donor at the U.S. Air Force Academy or West Point could receive five or six cool reproductions of some World War II-era recruitment ads on a ready-to-use postcard. An alum from a college in Vermont could perhaps receive reproductions of vintage skiing postcards. An alum from a university in Southern California could get reproductions of vintage postcards from beach towns. Can you see it? “Welcome to Laguna”. “Wish You Were Here Santa Monica”. Etc.
We’ll be exploring this idea further in a future blog post. Until then, please take a deep breath and realize that the money you’re expending on legacy luncheon gifts could go to something your best alumni donors will appreciate—not another paperweight.
I can vouch for that. I throw out two paperweights a year. They just make my trash can heavier.