Vassar uses ThruText to connect with alumni and boost first-time donations
Like most colleges, Vassar is facing a new fundraising environment, with participation rates dropping and fewer people responding to phone calls, email, and letters. In order to meet fundraising goals–and plant the seeds for long-term relationships with donors–the school needed to find new communication tools to connect with students and alumni.
Millennials are not going to open a letter from their alma mater. All young people do is text. Why wouldn’t we try to connect with them that way?
- Jennifer Castellani, Director of The Vassar Fund
As part of Vassar’s evolving strategy, in 2018 they made it a priority to expand the overall number of donors, regardless of how much each one gave. A big opportunity to test that approach came in May, when the college traditionally celebrates its Founder’s Day with live music, carnival rides, and alumni parties in cities across the country.
Vassar decided to launch a fundraiser in conjunction with the event. They used ThruText to reach out to Vassar seniors as well as recent alumni, and saw excellent results. Six percent of text recipients donated, for a total of $4,230. Most importantly, 90 percent of the young alumni who made a gift were first-time donors.
One of the most effective ways Vassar used ThruText was to connect with alumni who had given in the past, but were unresponsive in recent years. Email open rates with this group were at basement levels, but when they received ThruText messages, 18 percent responded.
More importantly, texts were more likely to result in a gift—the conversion rate with ThruText was twice that of email. One thing that stood out about texting, according to Jennifer Castellani, Director of the Vassar Fund, was its low optout rate—which leaves the door open for future asks.
“Our results have been tremendous. Texting has a much better positive response rate than email or phone calls—more people commit to donating,” Castellani says. ”ThruText is helping us cultivate new donors and begin to build lifelong relationships with our recent graduates. It helped us increase our alumni participation rate by 5.8 percent in 2018. In the annual giving world, that’s fantastic.”