Case Study

Fairfield University

Creating authentic relationships with next generation donors using P2P texting


In an ever-changing fundraising and alumni engagement landscape, many annual giving teams are asking: how do we build real, lasting relationships with our constituents? The team at Fairfield University knows that it begins early, and have built a robust young alumni and student giving program to meet the challenge.

Making Real Connections

When it comes to meeting students and young alumni where they are, Fairfield shared that texting makes it possible to reach those who are overloaded with email, or are unsubscribed from the channel. Texting has become more of the preferred communication channel over the last two years.

Marissa Fitzgerald, Assistant Director, Young Alumni & Student Philanthropy, shared that when texting young alumni and students, a relaxed, conversational tone is a must-have. Her team often doesn’t write highly formal introductions—oftentimes, a friendly “Hey, Stags!” does the trick. Additionally, the team tends to keep it short and to the point.

The Fairfield team shared that texting has enabled them to build relationships at scale, especially with students and young alumni. And there’s an additional benefit: when students and alumni have feedback, texting can provide a channel through which they can feel comfortable sharing what’s on their minds. Marissa said that this can, of course, lead to both positive and tricky conversations—but the ability to have a real conversation means that you can create real relationships.

From P2P to IRL

The team at Fairfield uses ThruText to collect RSVPs for events and have found that it is a critical addition to their event toolkit and for driving attendance, especially in their newest alumni pools. At a recent reception, one attendee shared that they’d gotten an invite via text, which made them realize they weren’t receiving emails, showing that texting provides an additional, direct channel for universities to stay connected to their alumni.

Another powerful anecdote: a recent young alumni event was close to being canceled because of low registration numbers. The team sent out a text invitation hoping to yield 50 registrants, and ended up with 80—most of whom RSVP’d last minute and via text message.

young alumni texted
response rate
first time donors
young alumni registrants
young alumni attendees
young alumni donors who hadn’t yet given in that fiscal year


A Thoughtful Approach to Texting for Fundraising

Recently, for STAGiving Day, Fairfield phonathon callers texted LYBUNT, SYBUNT and previous giving day donors. Students were able to have real conversations with alumni, with many alumni writing back to ask questions about what student callers are studying and how they spend their time on campus. Beyond helping alumni stay connected to their alma mater, interactions like these help show current students the power of building relationships with their university.

STAGiving Day: Past Donor Texting

alumni texted
response rate
Giving Links shared


STAGiving Day: Past Donor Texting

While the Fairfield team makes it sound easy, thoughtful messaging is key when reaching out to alumni generally, but especially young alumni and soon-to-be-alumni. We asked Marissa and her team how they think about factoring this into their messaging and how they respond to feedback around student loans when they send out solicitations.

Marissa shared that the key is always to keep it positive and to try to offer support. If an alum might be seeking a new career path, they can be directed to resources like the campus career center. Her team also tries to share information about what Fairfield does to alleviate student debt—for example, about 95% of Fairfield students receive some financial aid. And it’s not always the easiest conversation to have via text, so the team at Fairfield will offer to change the channel by saying something like, “I totally understand—I’d love to have a conversation about this. Can we jump on a call sometime?”

ThruText is crucial in helping us learn best practices: don’t send blasts, always ask a question that requires a response, and make it easy to say yes.

Marissa Fitzgerald, Assistant Director, Young Alumni and Student Philanthropy

Looking Towards the Future

The team at Fairfield plans to continue using texting as an unique way to build relationships with both students and alumni – where they are. This will include solicitations like STAGiving Day, but will also heavily feature engagement and events outreach. The team plans to further develop their texting program by getting creative with list segmentation, and tracking giving and event registration outcomes on texting so that they can do even more targeted outreach.

The biggest lesson learned from our conversation with Fairfield? Investing in communications tools like texting early and often with students and young alumni where they are (in this case, on their phones!) makes a real difference and lays the groundwork for authentic, lifelong connections.

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