Alumni events seen as crucial part of university’s fundraising efforts

The annual Baldwin Wallace Florida alumni event took place February 5-7 in Fort Lauderdale, Naples and Sarasota.

This three-day, tri-city event brings together alumni that reside in the surrounding areas to socialize with other alumni, hear from President Helmer and members from the Office of Advancement & Alumni Relations, get information about what is going on at BW, as well as feature student performers and speakers.

Events like these are crucial when it comes to fundraising for the university.

“An ideal event not only gets people together,” said Deborah Miller, CFRE, senior advisor for The Center for Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement, “but some people kind of bubble up that might have potential to do something more for BW. And that’s where we come in.”

Miller along with Michael Walczak, director of Trusts and Estates, use these events to connect with their current donors and seek potential donors for the future.

“Sometimes when you’re meeting someone at an event, it’s the first time that you’re meeting them. Our goal is to then try and get an appointment, like a one-on-one visit to get to know them and see if helping BW is something they would be interested in,” said Miller.

This first meeting is one of the “most crucial parts” of the fundraising process as well as the most “challenging” part of fundraising. Some alumni make getting in touch with them complicated rather than being straightforward.

“If they don’t want to see you, they just avoid you,” said Miller. “They don’t like saying no; we get no and I’m okay with no. That’s okay, but they usually just don’t get back to you.”

Though it is challenging, Miller said that it is “really about being consistent and persistent.”

“Some really do just say no, and that is that. Some just mean not right now but ask me another time and some say no but really just need some other options,” said Miller.

There are times an alumn wants to give but might be a little hesitant about making a large donation. Walczak uses some non-traditional methods, called plan-giving, when it comes to fundraising for BW that appeals to alumni that appreciate an incentive to their donation.

“There are some ways you can make gifts to the school that pay the donor, things like charitable trusts or a gift annuity,” said Walczak. “These are payment plans that we set up to pay them for as long as they live.”

These specific gifts are used mainly by senior citizens and give the donors a sense of income security.  BW, to many alumni, is a place “that is safe and secure and happy,” and putting their income in the hands of someone they trust can be reassuring, said Walczak.

Many donors that participate in plan giving can be seen at annual alumni events like the Florida event.

“They trust you and they want to see you,” said Miller. “They want to talk to you and tell you about their families. We create these lasting relationships with our alumni that are about so much more than donations. They enjoy talking to us and we enjoy talking to them.”