The title of this content on the left side of a graphic depicting two nonprofit employees managing their store’s inventory.

4 Tips for Managing Your Nonprofit Store’s Inventory

Although stores are generally associated with businesses and corporations rather than nonprofits, various mission-driven organizations run stores to generate sustainable funding. Just think of the gift shops in art museums or bookstores run by schools or colleges.

However, running a nonprofit store presents unique obstacles that your organization may not have experience handling. Key among them is inventory management. Much like with product fundraisers, it’s crucial to keep the items you’re selling well-stocked to meet customer demands.

If you’re feeling out of your depth, don’t worry — this guide will cover four tips for managing your store’s inventory. Let’s get started!

1. Set up an inventory organization system.

When you’re first starting your store, most or all of your inventory may be on the floor. In that case, it’s less about storage and more about creating visually appealing displays that draw customers in and entice them to make a purchase. Once your store grows and begins to store more inventory, that’s when it becomes complex.

Effective inventory management begins with an organized storage system. Start by purchasing physical storage solutions for your backrooms, including:

  • Shelving units
  • Storage cabinets
  • Storage bins
  • Wire shelving

Additionally, purchase a label maker and label your storage systems accordingly. This will help you locate items in the future, making restocking more efficient. Since you’ll be selling and acquiring inventory constantly, don’t be afraid to invest time into organizing your storage well. This is especially important for nonprofits that accept in-kind donations (think food pantries or thrift stores, for example), as you may acquire stock at unpredictable times.

As you continue running your nonprofit’s store, feel free to rearrange your storage until it makes the most sense for your unique needs. For example, if you have any particularly popular products or items, it might make sense to move them into a storage compartment nearer to the front of your back room. By doing so, you’ll make it easier for you and other employees to restock this particular item.

2. Monitor inventory regularly.

To ensure your store is never significantly under- or over-stocked, stay apprised of your needs by regularly monitoring your business’s inventory. We recommend implementing a dedicated inventory management method to help you stay on top of your stock levels, such as one of the following:

  • First-in first-out (FIFO). This is a common inventory management method wherein stores sell items in the order they are acquired. It’s most beneficial for stores that sell perishable goods, such as flower shops or bakeries, but it can be useful for other stores as well.
  • Just-in-time (JIT). With the JIT technique, your nonprofit will only order enough stock to meet current customer demand. This is a great technique if your store has limited storage space and can’t afford to hold excess items for long periods. However, it requires you to have a good understanding of customer needs at all times.
  • Economic order quantity (EOQ). EOQ refers to a formula companies use to calculate the ideal quantity of items they should purchase to meet customer demand while minimizing inventory costs. However, it assumes that demand and holding costs remain constant, making it an inventory management technique best suited for stores that expect steady and consistent customer behavior.
  • ABC analysis. In ABC inventory management, you’ll determine the value of your inventory based on the items’ importance, ranking items based on demand, costs, and risks. “A” items are high-value, high demand, and high cost, whereas “C” items are low-value, low demand, and low cost, with “B” items falling in the middle. Based on this system, you’ll know which items to prioritize purchasing and restocking.

Ideally, you want your store to implement the perpetual inventory tracking technique on top of the aforementioned methods. This requires inventory management software (more on this later) that provides real-time information on your inventory levels, so you always have accurate data to back up your decision to order new products.

3. Analyze inventory trends.

As some of the techniques in the previous section alluded to, another crucial aspect of inventory management is analyzing trends in your products and sales. Track key metrics such as days sales in inventory (DSI), gross margin, and inventory turnover to obtain an informed perspective of your inventory.

In particular, you want to determine your:

  • Most popular items. Stay informed about your popular items to ensure your store always stays stocked to meet demand. You may also conduct surveys and research into why these items are so attractive to help you offer similar items that will also sell well.
  • Least popular items. Similarly, knowing which items don’t sell well will help you keep your inventory moving. You can stock a smaller number of these items or even choose to discontinue them if your audience shows especially low interest.
  • High sales periods. This could refer to a time of day, day of the week, or a specific period in the month or year where sales are the highest. Knowing these periods allows you to strategically time your marketing efforts, ensuring that you offer discounts and promotions when customers are likely to buy.

After your nonprofit becomes more comfortable with analyzing this information, you may consider tracking other inventory trends for further insights. For example, you can calculate your inventory turnover ratio, track overstock incidents, assess supplier performance, and consider inventory aging and obsolescence.

4. Purchase inventory management software.

Usually, inventory management comes packaged as one of many features within larger point of sale (POS) systems. According to ThriftCart, POS systems usually have these core inventory management capabilities:

  • Real-time inventory tracking. With barcode scanning and an inventory database, nonprofits that use POS systems can track their stock levels in real time so that they always know when they’re running low on merchandise.
  • Inventory syncing for physical and online stores. A common challenge for organizations that run both brick-and-mortar and online stores is ensuring that they don’t accidentally sell products they don’t have. A robust POS system will include inventory syncing features, ensuring that you only sell items you have in stock.
  • Discounting and promotions. If you need to move products that haven’t sold, discounting and promotions are the way to do it. With this feature, you can easily mark down items that you want to sell while providing customers with an excellent buying experience.
  • Receipts. While not directly related to inventory management, receipts are important for your customers’ records. Plus, if a customer makes a donation on top of their purchase at your nonprofit’s store, eCardWidget recommends sending them a tax-compliant donation receipt within 48 hours. A POS system not only makes receipting possible but also extremely convenient.

Once you purchase software, be sure to train your staff on how to use it. Schedule an onboarding session with the software provider, asking questions about areas you need clarification. Then, put together a guidebook to ensure everyone knows how to operate the system and use it for accurate inventory management. You can also use it as a helpful resource for future team members during their onboarding.

Nonprofit fundraising takes many forms, and stores are a great way for nonprofits to generate a sustainable stream of income. With proper inventory management, you’ll ensure your store runs smoothly, raising an increased amount of funds to further your mission and aid your beneficiaries.

How to procure charity auction items

From Wishlist to Winning Bids: How to Procure Auction Items

Imagine this—you’ve just kicked off your nonprofit’s exciting auction event. Bidding starts and the event rolls along. You’re busy mingling with guests, discussing your mission, and handling logistics. After the auction ends, you take a look at your fundraising results.

The numbers are disappointing, and something clearly went wrong with the event. Why?

There are all kinds of reasons why this might happen, and many of the most common have to do with the auction items up for grabs. Maybe there weren’t enough items, or the items that were available weren’t appealing enough to everyone to spur competitive bids. Maybe some lower-price items were highly appealing to large groups of donors, but your big-ticket items got little attention, causing your revenue strategy to fall apart.

Now imagine an auction that strikes the perfect balance between types, numbers, and values of items for its unique audience—this one will naturally do a better job at reaching its revenue goal.

Your auction item ideas and final catalog inherently play critical roles in your event’s success. Let’s walk through the essential steps and tips you’ll need to succeed with procurement.

Step 1: Lay out a procurement plan and timeline.

Start by laying out some guidelines for your procurement process. Collaborate with your event planning team to answer these questions:

  • When will the auction happen?
  • What is the auction’s revenue goal?
  • Does the auction have other goals related to the number or average value of bids?
  • Are we hosting a live auction, silent auction, or both?
  • What format will the auction be: in-person, virtual, or hybrid?
  • Do we have a specific target audience in mind, or is this event targeting a broad audience of our organization’s supporters?

Lay out a rough timeline for procurement, including specific deadlines for completing procurement, finalizing the catalog, and beginning to promote the items to attendees before event day. The time you’ll need might vary based on the scale of your event, but, generally speaking, you need a lot of time for effective procurement. Try to get started on this process as early as possible.

Next, recruit a procurement team. A mix of event staff, volunteers, and a board member or two will be helpful. Each individual will need to be comfortable reaching out to potential item donors, sponsors, and consignment companies, with one team member overseeing the effort to keep it on track and lead the catalog creation and pricing processes.

Step 2: Review your donor data.

Before you start brainstorming actual items to procure, it’s important to review your data. Insights about your target audience will be invaluable for guiding what can otherwise become an overwhelming or too open-ended process.

Review your nonprofit’s CRM or donor database to look more closely at your event’s target audience as a group. Note any trends or highlights related to information like:

  • Past event attendance—specifically auction events if possible
  • Average giving levels and/or lifetime value
  • Duration of relationship with your organization
  • Marital and parental status
  • Location, if hosting an in-person auction

If you’ve hosted auctions in the past, be sure to review event-specific data like:

  • Past auction performance and revenue KPIs
  • Items which received the most/least bids
  • Items which generated the most/least revenue compared to their market values
  • The donors or sponsors that provided items
  • The target audiences of past auctions

Look for connections between these points of data. Think through what they might mean for your current auction—what types of items have either a proven track record with your audience or would likely appeal to them based on their interests and budgets?

Step 3: Create an item wishlist.

Now comes the fun part! Sit down with your procurement team, review your data findings, and start brainstorming items and experiences that you think would make for a winning auction.

Don’t limit yourself too much here, but do try to identify items that span a range of price points. Most silent auctions lead with one or two big-ticket, ultra-desirable items or packages, then a spread of mid-level items, and a smaller set of more accessible items and packages to ensure that all bidders can feel involved. Live auctions typically feature 12-15 higher-quality items to drive maximum engagement from a target audience.

The goal is to create a robust list of “nice-to-have” items that you think would fit well with your audience and goals. You can put a few “must-haves” on your list, but keep in mind that during the actual procurement process, you most likely won’t be able to secure everything.

Once procurement is underway, you’ll get a better sense of how your catalog is shaping up and can direct more intense focus to specific items or price ranges as needed.

Step 4: Create an auction item procurement packet.

To prepare for the procurement process, create helpful resources for your team. Winspire’s auction item procurement guide recommends creating “item procurement packets” of go-to- resources that your team will need out in the field. These resources include:

  • Item procurement letters that clearly detail information about your nonprofit, its mission, the auction, the in-kind donation process, and tax deduction instructions.
  • In-kind donation forms to standardize the collection of donor/sponsor names, addresses, contact information, items, estimated values, descriptions, and other details. Copies of these forms can easily double as receipts or gift substantiations if needed.
  • A copy of your wishlist for team members to easily discuss other potential donations should a prospect say no to the first ask or express interest in helping further.

These resources should cover your bases for procurement team members to hit the ground running but don’t forget backend logistics, too. Create a central spreadsheet to input prospect information, associated items, and data collected from the donation forms as in-kind gifts are secured. This sheet should be accessible to everyone to avoid inadvertently double-asking a prospect or forgetting to procure “must-have” items.

Step 5: Review your donor, sponsor, and community contacts.

Take a look back at your list of previous auction item donors. Screen your nonprofit’s list of contacts—including individuals, large companies, local companies, and other nonprofits.

Review this list of prospects against your item wishlist and make some connections. Try answering these questions:

  • Which donors or organizations would likely want or be able to donate which items?
  • Do we have any close but informal relationships with companies that we could tap into? For instance, do we receive many matching gifts from a local company that hasn’t yet sponsored an event?
  • For items that we can’t easily procure all in one go (like themed baskets), would any prospects be willing to donate money for us to purchase those bundled items instead?
  • Do other nonprofits in the community (like zoos, theaters, or museums) have unique experiences or packages to offer?
  • If there are big-ticket item ideas or experiences on our wishlist that we aren’t likely to receive as donations, do auction item consignment companies offer them?

From here, you may wish to divide your prospect among different team members to take a more organized approach. If anyone has an existing personal or business connection with a prospect, make sure that they own the procurement process for that prospect.

Step 6: Stay organized as you solicit items.

Start working down your list of auction items and prospects. With their item procurement packets in hand, your team should be well-equipped, but make sure to provide some guidance for non-fundraisers and volunteers if needed.

Stay organized by asking all team members to immediately report the results of their conversations with prospects and the information from their in-kind donation forms. Your central procurement spreadsheet should be the source of truth for the process, and this info will be essential for:

  • Completing your procurement process and well-rounded catalog
  • Donation collection logistics
  • Item pricing
  • Donor stewardship and gift substantiation

Remember, when it comes to item procurement, time is your friend. Try to begin the outreach process as early as possible before your auction so that you have plenty of breathing room to contact prospects multiple times, find new prospects, or come up with alternate item ideas if needed.

Step 7: Begin the item pricing process.

As the auction items begin arriving, dedicate a member of your procurement team to get a headstart on the pricing process.

Striking the right mix of starting bids is a delicate process but extremely important for the ultimate engagement and revenue that your auction will generate.

Item pricing is complex and warrants its own in-depth explanation. To recap the fundamentals you’ll need to understand, take a look at this graphic:

A diagram that explains auction item pricing best practices, detailed in the text below

For each item, start by determining its fair market value (FMV), or what a person would reasonably expect to pay for it on the open market. For bundled items and experiences, roughly estimate and add up the FMVs of the component parts. For consignment travel packages, the vendor will likely provide pricing guidance, but most of the time, any amount you raise over the item’s list price goes back to your nonprofit.

Next, determine which items will have buy-now options. For many auctions, this option is ideal for your most valuable items to maximize earnings, but be careful not to discourage engagement by using it on too many items. It’s recommended to set these options at 150-200% of the item’s FMV so that the barrier is high enough to be profitable for your organization but not so high as to completely discourage bidding.

All items should receive a starting bid amount, which should be 30-50% of their FMVs. You can play around with this range based on each item’s rarity and desirability, aiming higher for high-competition items and a bit lower for common or lower-price items. For consignment packages, set this starting bid at 100-120% of its list price to ensure your nonprofit will generate revenue.

From here, set a minimum bid increase for each item. This should be high enough to ensure new bids are substantial, but not so high that it deflates the total number of bids the item receives. This requires careful strategy—another reason why it’s a good idea to get started on procurement early! A reliable rule of thumb is to set the minimum increase at roughly 10% of each item’s FMV.

Item procurement is certainly a high-stakes process, but it’s completely learnable. Its best practices are likely already familiar to you as an event planner or fundraiser, so lean into that experience to ensure your approach is organized and strategic. In no time, you’ll be promoting your items and preparing for your most successful auction yet. Best of luck!

The title of the article next to an illustration of two hands holding coins representing cryptocurrency

How to Empower Your Donors to Give Stocks & Cryptocurrency

The fundraising landscape is constantly changing and evolving, responding to new technologies, giving trends, and global developments. For your nonprofit to keep up and tap into the future of fundraising, you need to stay open to new opportunities. 

While much of the world’s attention is on artificial intelligence (AI), we’d like to bring your attention to another growing trend: the fundraising potential of appreciated assets

More and more donors want to give non-cash appreciated assets like stocks and cryptocurrency, and your nonprofit can boost its fundraising revenue by empowering them to do so. Let’s explore four steps you can take to start taking advantage of this impactful giving method.

Make it easy for them to give non-cash donations.

Donating stocks and cryptocurrency isn’t as straightforward as giving with cash or a debit card, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! You can simplify the non-cash giving process by using a tool that allows you to accept these gifts right from your online donation page, with no transaction fees required.

With an intuitive crypto or stock donation platform, donors can give non-cash gifts in just a few steps:

  1. On your donation page, the donor scans your crypto wallet QR code or clicks a button to donate stocks.
  2. The donor sends cryptocurrency to your account or inputs their stock and brokerage firm information to initiate a stock transfer.
  3. Once the transfer is complete, the platform automatically converts the non-cash gift into cash and deposits it in your nonprofit’s bank account.

Emphasize how easy this process is on both your donation page and your nonprofit’s Ways to Give page to encourage donors to consider non-cash giving. Also, add information about how much additional impact donors can make with these types of donations. For instance, take a look at how the Hoffman Institute discusses stocks and cryptocurrency on its Ways to Give page:

Screenshot of The Hoffman Institute’s Ways to Give page, which discusses cryptocurrency donations

Once you have the process set up and multiple pages on your website that promote non-cash giving, you can incorporate stock and crypto giving into all of your fundraising campaigns and easily accept non-cash gifts at any time.

Understand the benefits and potential concerns.

Next, make sure your team has a thorough understanding of both the benefits of non-cash giving and any concerns your donors may have. You’ll be able to promote these giving methods much more successfully if you can put yourself in the donor’s shoes and speak directly to their motivations, preferences, and fears.

Beyond the benefits to your nonprofit (such as earning larger donations and more sustainable funding), crypto and stock donations offer plenty of exciting benefits for your donors. These include:

  • Tax benefits: Infinite Giving’s crypto donation page explains that in addition to receiving charitable tax deductions, cryptocurrency donors don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on their gifts. While individuals normally have to pay a tax on their crypto and stocks’ appreciation, they are not required to pay it if they donate the asset.
  • Ability to give in larger amounts: If a donor’s cryptocurrency or stock appreciates in value after they buy it, they can end up donating more money to your nonprofit than they originally spent on the asset. Plus, since they bought the asset previously, the money won’t come directly out of their pocket and impact their day-to-day finances.

These are enticing benefits for donors, but be mindful that they may have concerns, too. For instance, donors might worry about their crypto gift losing value after they donate it, or they may think that the stock donation process is too lengthy to make a timely impact on your work.

If you run into these concerns, reassure donors that your organization will convert their gifts to cash immediately to preserve their value. Let them know that your non-cash giving platform streamlines the giving process for both stock and cryptocurrency donations, allowing your organization to receive donations as quickly as possible.

Launch a strategic marketing campaign.

With benefits and concerns for donors in mind, develop a multi-channel marketing campaign to promote non-cash giving. Plan to create content for all the channels your audience prefers, including email, social media, text messages, or direct mail. 

Design promotional materials that explain:

  • What cryptocurrency and stock donations are
  • The tax benefits of crypto and stock giving
  • How to donate stocks and cryptocurrency on your donation page
  • Reasons to give non-cash gifts instead of (or in addition to) traditional donations
  • How fast and secure your nonprofit’s donation process is

Vary the format of your marketing content and don’t be afraid to get creative. You might design how-to infographics, write a blog post about the impact of crypto donations, or record a video walkthrough of the non-cash giving process. 

Then, use the data in your nonprofit’s CRM to identify individual donors who may be interested in non-cash giving and send them personalized fundraising appeals. This might include mid-level and major donors, those who’ve expressed interest in non-traditional forms of giving, or supporters with high financial capacities. Consider donor demographics, too—57% of crypto owners are Millennials while only 20% are members of Gen Z.

Recognize donors who give stocks and crypto.

One of the best ways to encourage more donors to give non-cash donations is to recognize and appreciate the donors who already do. 

Public donor recognition can inspire others to learn more about non-cash giving and donate their own assets. At the same time, these efforts help you steward relationships with existing non-cash donors, boosting donor retention and encouraging them to give stocks or cryptocurrency again in the future.

Start with basic donation acknowledgment emails (which the best non-cash donation platforms can automatically send for you!), then think about additional ways to recognize those who give non-cash gifts. For instance, Kwala recommends sending gifts of branded merchandise, creating thank-you videos, or spotlighting donors in your newsletter or social media. 

When you recognize these donors publicly, whether with a social media shoutout or a page on your website, make sure to highlight their giving method and explain the gift’s impact. You might say, “Deborah donated $10,000 worth of stocks, enabling us to provide brand-new technology for our community center that serves hundreds of families in need.

Once you have experience with non-cash fundraising and accepting stock donations, consider tapping into other opportunities like investing your organization’s reserve funds to give them the potential to grow. While the process can seem daunting, a nonprofit investing advisor can help you through every step to make your organization more financially sustainable in the long term.

The title of the text next to an illustration of people putting money in a jar, representing sustainable fundraising.

Sustainable Fundraising: Strategies for Long-Term Viability

Your mission statement is the ultimate declaration of what your organization stands for and hopes to accomplish in the long run. For instance, the American Heart Association’s mission is to “be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. As we move into the second century of our work, we are advancing health and hope for everyone, everywhere.”

This statement demonstrates that this organization is not just trying to help people fight heart disease and stroke in the present moment but is instead committed to helping people stay in better health for the long term.

When your goals are focused on the future, you need sustainable fundraising strategies that help you consistently progress toward these objectives. We’ll provide fundraising tips for how your nonprofit can achieve long-term viability.

1. Create a fundraising plan.

Before you start a fundraiser, you need a clear plan to guide you. This plan should align your entire fundraising team so everyone’s aware of your top priorities and their individual responsibilities for achieving your goals. By making your campaigns more manageable and providing a framework for future fundraising initiatives, your fundraising plan will help you achieve long-term viability.

Follow these steps to create a fundraising plan that will set you up for continued success:

  1. Identify SMART goals. Provide focus to your campaigns with both short-term and long-term objectives that follow the SMART goal framework, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, a cheerleading team may aim to raise $1500 with its three-month peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to supplement national competition fees based on its earnings of $1200 the previous year.
  2. Establish a timeline. Break down each stage of your campaign into manageable tasks with deadlines. At a minimum, include steps for planning your fundraiser, soliciting donations, and following up with donors.
  3. Develop a budget. Identify how much you expect to raise and spend on your campaign based on past fundraising data. These figures will allow you to determine your expected net revenue and better project your fundraising results.
  4. Delegate tasks. Distribute tasks needed to make your fundraiser a success to different members of your fundraising team. Responsibilities may include preparing fundraising and marketing materials, securing a venue for your fundraising event, or securing sponsors.

To ensure your plan includes all necessary information, use a dedicated fundraising plan template to keep everything organized. Once you find a template that works for your team, you can reuse it for all future fundraising initiatives to build consistency.

2. Diversify your revenue streams.

When you have multiple revenue streams, you can be more confident in your organization’s ability to reach its fundraising goals and provide for its beneficiaries, even if one funding source dries up. Examples of potential revenue streams include:

  • Individual donations, whether those come from peer-to-peer fundraising, online campaigns, product fundraisers, or regular submissions on your donation page
  • Grants from foundations, businesses, or government agencies to fund specific projects or programs
  • Corporate partnerships that result in corporate giving revenue and sponsorship opportunities
  • Events, such as walkathons, galas, and auctions
  • Earned income from merchandise sales, program fees, and membership fees

Maximize these revenue opportunities by combining them as your organization sees fit. For example, you may host your annual spring festival fundraiser where you also sell flower bulbs to earn extra funds.

3. Focus on donor retention.

According to Double the Donation’s donor retention guide, the average donor retention rate for nonprofits is 45%, meaning that the majority of donors don’t make repeat donations. The cost of acquiring donors who only give once makes it significantly more cost-effective to keep current donors around instead.

Plus, the more donors you retain, the better you’ll facilitate a community around your cause instead of a group of disparate one-time givers. Some ways you might increase donor retention include:

  • Providing multiple ways to give. Encourage donors to continue contributing to your cause by giving them a choice in the way they give. Select a payment processor that accepts a variety of payment methods, such as credit, debit, ACH check, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Venmo.
  • Offering recurring gifts. One of the easiest ways to secure steady revenue is to automate the giving process for repeat donors. When you offer recurring giving, you make it simple for those who are passionate about your cause to contribute on a monthly basis after filling out your donation form just once.
  • Showing appreciation. Thanking donors for their support goes a long way in showing them that they’re valued and entices them to continue giving back. Test a variety of donor recognition strategies, including eCards, thank-you notes, social media shoutouts, and appreciation events.

Get a sense of how successful your donor retention efforts are by asking supporters directly. Consider surveying them once a quarter to see whether they feel inclined to keep contributing to your organization, and question if there is anything else your nonprofit could do to provide them with a better experience.

4. Involve a variety of stakeholders.

When you engage a variety of stakeholders in the fundraising process, you take the pressure off your staff to facilitate all fundraising activities, making it easier to run campaigns efficiently. For instance, you may train board members and volunteers to lead donor cultivation and solicitation activities so you can better distribute your fundraising team’s work.

Reaching out to local businesses can also alleviate concerns about reaching your fundraising goals or hitting your targets in a timely manner. Many companies are willing to sponsor events, contribute in-kind donations, or promote your organization online. Look for businesses with similar values to your organization so the partnership is mutually beneficial. For example, an environmental conservation organization may work with an upcycled clothing brand.

Lastly, if your fundraiser involves kids, teach them how to fundraise on behalf of your organization. Not only can schools and student groups raise more for their causes with more helping hands, but they can also teach kids the importance of giving back. As ABC Fundraising’s fundraising ideas for kids guide states, 80% of parents who model philanthropic behavior see it reflected in their children. Set a good example for the kids in your organization, and reach your fundraising goals more quickly at the same time.

Continue supporting your beneficiaries and upholding your mission for the long haul with sustainable fundraising ideas and practices. That way, you can rest assured you’ll see a regular inflow of donations to your organization that enable you to carry out your important work for years to come.

The title of the article next to an illustration of a graduate with his parents

5 Ways You Can Streamline College Admissions with Texts

These days, a significant portion of college life happens on students’ phones. On average, students spend almost 95 minutes a day texting—meaning that if you want their attention, you need to meet them there. This is true for both current and prospective university students.

Fortunately, the applications and uses for higher education SMS are limitless. From recruitment all the way to graduation and beyond, text messages can help you deliver a better and more engaging student experience.

In this guide, we’ll focus on where text messages fit into the admissions process. We’ll discuss how the right strategies and technology can boost efficiency and help you build relationships with prospective and admitted students. Let’s dive into five ways you can leverage SMS for admissions.

1. Connect with prospective students.

Text messages are the perfect communication channel for getting prospective students’ attention and building genuine relationships that make them interested in learning more about your school.

But why should you opt for texts instead of traditional channels like email or direct mail? Mogli’s SMS marketing guide explains that texts are the best choice because they’re easy for recipients to read and easy for your team to send with an intuitive text marketing app. Plus, SMS messages have an impressive 98% open rate, meaning recipients are much more likely to open your text messages than emails. 

To leverage this channel to connect with prospective students, you might use texts to:

  • Send a survey asking recipients how interested they are in your school and how likely they are to apply.
  • Send an automated text to everyone who attended an admissions event expressing how glad you are they attended.
  • Share links to student testimonials or blog posts on your college website that give prospects a positive impression of your school.
  • Respond to text messages from prospects to answer their questions and further engage them.

Ideally, you should build out a strategic SMS campaign cadence for prospects so you don’t overwhelm them with too many messages in a short time. For instance, you might use a content calendar to space out messages across the fall semester or use automation tools to set up certain prospect actions that trigger relevant messages.

2. Send application reminders.

Most applicants aren’t just applying to your school—they’re likely deep into their college search and may feel overwhelmed with all the applications and details they need to keep track of. Help out prospective students and encourage them to apply by sending simple text reminders about upcoming deadlines, the status of their applications, and other important announcements. 

Plus, using the best SMS marketing apps, you can easily automate messages for certain groups to streamline these reminders. For example, you might segment prospective students in your database based on their:

  • Application status: Create groups of prospects who have submitted applications, those who started them but have not finished, and those who sent in applications with missing information. You can send requests for missing application data and remind those in the “started” category to finish by the deadline.
  • Level of interest: Consider sending out a text survey that asks about prospects’ interest levels, then grouping them based on their answers. Those who are the most interested will want more frequent application reminders, while students who aren’t sure will need a more strategic approach.
  • Potential field of study: If you have multiple applications for different colleges or programs within your university, applicants will need to remember to fill them out before the deadline along with their main application. Send targeted reminders for those with an interest in specific schools so they don’t forget.

Setting up automated reminders saves your staff time, keeps prospective students in the loop, and delivers a better overall admissions experience. Even if they apply to five other colleges, these messages will give them a positive impression of your school that they’ll remember when it comes time to make their decision.

3. Respond to questions quickly.

One-to-one text messages open the door for impactful two-way communication, empowering prospects and admitted students to ask questions and bring up concerns directly to your admissions team. Instead of leaving applicants and students in the dark or losing their questions in mountains of emails, you can answer with a quick text.

When you receive a question via text, any of your team members can respond quickly to get students the information they need to navigate the admissions process with ease. With a unified SMS app that integrates with your CRM, all relevant team members can see and respond to text conversations at any time. Follow-up questions will stay organized in the same text thread so no data gets lost in the shuffle.

Get a question you can’t answer? Pass their text message along to the financial aid team or the appropriate counselor. You can even direct prospects to pages on your website with more information by sending them a link directly. 

4. Provide real-time application updates.

As every admissions counselor knows, applicants have a lot on their plates. Their future often feels unclear until they know if they’ve been admitted to their top school and made their decision, and they feel this pressure acutely. Anything you can do to ease their minds during the application process and keep them as up-to-date as possible will help.

One easy way to do so is to send real-time updates about general admission, financial aid, and scholarship applications via text. Applicants can read all the details in their emails, but they’ll greatly appreciate an immediate text alert when their application status changes. 

For example, you might send the following texts to update applicants:

  • Andrew, we just received your application for the Singh College of Business. We’ll let you know if we need any more information. Otherwise, you’re all set!
  • Hi Andrew, it looks like we’re missing your FAFSA information. Could you please edit your application in our portal here to complete it? Thank you!
  • Congratulations, Andrew! Your application for Singh College has been accepted! Please check your email for more information. We’re so excited to have you!

The easiest way to send these texts is to integrate your text automation tools with your CRM or application management software. If you go this route, Acceptd’s application management software guide suggests finding a solution with intuitive progress tracking features. This way, you can set up automated messages based on application progress and status changes.

5. Support new students in their transition into college life.

With the right SMS strategies, you can engage students with text messages throughout their entire journey with your university, from prospect to full-time student to alum

Don’t stop texting students once they’re admitted! Use SMS to help them prepare for the transition to college life during the summer and throughout their first semester. For example, you might send the following message to students admitted to your liberal arts program in July:

Langston, are you getting excited about coming to campus yet? We can’t wait! 🎉 Check out our blog post about the most important dorm supplies to pack here.

You can use messages like this to send reminders about room assignments, blog posts to ramp up excitement, and more. Put yourself in the shoes of incoming freshmen and write messages that speak to their needs, emotions, and concerns about coming to college.

All of these tips will help you connect with prospective and admitted students in the format that they’re most comfortable with—texts. Best of all, the power of texts extends beyond the admissions process. You can use SMS to improve your university’s fundraising, alumni engagement, student communications, and so much more.

The title of the text next to an illustration of a man and a woman with tools and a light bulb rocket ship between them, representing handling unexpected event challenges.

4 Tips for Handling Unexpected Challenges During Events

When planning an event for your nonprofit or association, you’re probably focused on securing a venue, soliciting sponsor support, and encouraging people to register for your event online. Likely, you’re not anticipating things that could go awry at your event. However, all event organizers know there’s a chance that something will go wrong, such as the internet going out, your check-in software malfunctioning, or attendees getting lost.

While you can’t always prevent these issues from popping up, you can prepare yourself to tackle them head-on and ensure your event remains a success. In this guide, we’ll cover tips for handling unexpected event challenges so you can remain calm, cool, and collected if and when disaster strikes.

1. Create a crisis response plan.

Before your event, create a plan for addressing specific protocols and procedures your staff should follow in the case of an unexpected challenge or emergency. While you can’t anticipate every potential issue, list risks and scenarios that could arise and how your team would handle them.

For example, let’s say you’re hosting a panel as part of your virtual event, and the featured panelist loses internet connection, causing them to miss the session. In this scenario, you’d want to have answers to the following questions ready to go:

  • Is there anyone else who can step in to fill the panelist’s place?
  • Does the panelist have any materials or resources that attendees can reference to make up for the information they missed?
  • Will you need to make changes to the event schedule to accommodate the issue?

Additionally, delegate roles for your event staff, volunteers, and other key stakeholders in a possible crisis. That way, everyone knows their responsibilities and can prepare themselves to take action instead of overwhelming the event organizers with questions and concerns.

2. Familiarize yourself with your event tech in advance.

When you’re hosting an event, many of the potential issues you’re anticipating likely have to do with the event technology you’re using. Make sure all staff and stakeholders know how to use the software they’re responsible for—whether that’s your event management platform, app, video conferencing software, text-to-give tool, or something else entirely.

To get all team members on board with your event technology, follow these steps:

  • Assess your training needs. Start by determining who needs to learn how to use which features of your software. For example, volunteers may only need to learn how to check people in with your event management software while staff members must be familiar with how to set up gamification challenges and communicate with attendees.
  • Gather or create training materials. Next, provide your team with the resources they need to familiarize themselves with the software. These may include user manuals, online tutorials, help guides, and training videos. Additionally, you may compile a list of tips you’ve come up with after testing out the software yourself.
  • Offer hands-on training sessions. Lastly, allow team members to experiment with the software in a training session. Consider demonstrating how to use the tool and walking through key features so people can immediately start testing the software and ask questions.

Additionally, EventMobi’s event management software guide recommends looking into the customer support options for your event tools. Will you be able to contact them during the event just in case of an emergency? Some providers will even send a representative of their team on-site, which can help ensure everything runs smoothly and that your team can quickly resolve any issues with the software.

3. Communicate effectively with stakeholders.

If things don’t go as planned, being open and transparent with your stakeholders is essential. Keep everyone informed about the situation—including event staff, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, and attendees—by:

  • Notifying everyone as soon as possible. Once you’ve assessed the issue and formed a solid plan to tackle it, let your stakeholders know what’s going on. That way, you promote honesty with your stakeholders, even when everything isn’t going according to plan.
  • Providing regular updates. Keep everyone updated on the status of the issue through announcements or push notifications on your event or conference app. For instance, attendees and speakers will appreciate knowing if there are any changes to your event schedule so they can plan accordingly.
  • Explaining your efforts to resolve the issue. Assure stakeholders that you’re working hard to resolve the issue by explaining how you’re fixing things. For example, if your internet connection goes out during event check-in, explain to incoming attendees that you’re currently working with the internet company to get the connection back up and running and will check them in manually in the meantime.

While you may be nervous about disclosing any problems or shortcomings during your event, your stakeholders will prefer your honesty over attempts to cover up the issue and hide it from those involved with your event.

4. Learn from your experience.

Mistakes happen, but it’s how you handle them that matters. After your event, debrief and evaluate how your team handled any challenges. Compare your original crisis plan to what actually occurred, and make updates as needed.

Then, document any lessons learned, best practices, and key takeaways to inform your future event planning and management efforts. For instance, if your conference venue was difficult for attendees to find and didn’t have adequate on-site parking, you may note to seek out another venue for your next event.

Lastly, ask stakeholders for their input. According to 360MatchPro, 66% of people volunteer to improve their community, and 83% volunteer to contribute to a cause they care about. These statistics demonstrate that your volunteers—and other stakeholders—are invested in your success, and they may be able to offer insight into what worked well and what didn’t from a different perspective.

With a plan (and the right mindset) for mitigating challenges, your team will be better prepared to handle any unexpected issues, hopefully alleviating some stress for your organization. After the event, be sure to thank attendees for their patience and positivity despite any challenges that may have occurred, and follow up with additional event or engagement opportunities.

This guide shares insights into the motivations behind why companies donate to nonprofits.

How and Why Do Today’s Companies Donate to Nonprofits?

Companies gave $29.48 billion to nonprofits last year, representing an incredible 3.4% increase. Nonprofits Source shared these impressive numbers in its corporate giving trends article, indicating that companies proactively seek causes like yours to support.

The benefits of corporate support for nonprofits are clear: more revenue, extra volunteer power, and greater brand exposure. But what’s in it for the businesses? It turns out quite a bit!

It’s about more than just looking good or getting a tax write-off. A lot is happening behind the scenes, and we’re excited to share a peek. First, we’ll explore common ways companies give back before diving into the corporate motivations behind these programs. That way, you can find the best opportunities for your cause and confidently interact with companies.

5 Ways Companies Donate to Nonprofits

From employee giving programs to direct donations, corporate giving looks different at every business, yet some programs are more popular than others. Let’s start with the most impactful one.

1. Matching Gifts

Corporate matching gifts help companies give back year-round. When a business offers this program, it promises to match employees’ donations to eligible nonprofits. The approach is straightforward:

  1. A donor gives to your nonprofit.
  2. The individual researches their employer’s program using a company search tool.
  3. If eligible, they submit a matching gift request via paper form or their company’s employee giving portal.
  4. After confirming the gift, the company donates to your nonprofit.

These programs empower your nonprofit to boost donations. When someone is on the fence, being match-eligible may be the push they need to give. In fact, 84% of donors are more likely to donate if they know their gift is match-eligible. In some cases, donors will actually give more — 1 in every 3 donors to be exact.

Knowing a match is on the line even gamifies the giving experience, especially when an employer sets an annual donation goal. There’s just one problem: a lack of awareness. 

You need to educate donors about these programs. Our favorite option is to embed a search tool into your donation page:

An illustration of a matching gift search tool embedded in the Cat Rescue Club’s online donation form

This catches donors’ attention during the height of their engagement. Using the matching gift database, they can research their companies’ guidelines. Matching gift automation software can also follow up with donors based on eligibility. While a match-eligible donor may receive an email linking to their employer’s match-request form, a donor with unknown match eligibility may be prompted to research their eligibility.

Go further than that by featuring matching gifts on your Ways to Give page, a dedicated matching gifts page, fundraising appeals, and social media. Share testimonials from beneficiaries about how an increased donation helped them, and ask your corporate partners to promote the opportunity to employees.

2. Volunteer Grants

Corporate volunteers already lend a helping hand, but did you know some employers will donate to further volunteers’ impact?

Volunteer grants are financial donations companies make to nonprofits where their employees volunteer regularly. This monetizes the volunteer hours their workforce contributes. For example, a company might donate $25 per volunteer hour, with a minimum of 5 hours required.

This encourages employees to engage in community service, knowing additional financial backing will amplify their efforts. Your matching gift database may even house information on companies’ volunteer grant programs, helping you pinpoint these opportunities.

3. Direct Donations

Other common ways companies give back are direct donations, grants, and sponsorships. For instance, AP News reports that Yield Giving, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s foundation, announced it would give $640 million to 361 small nonprofits that responded to an open call for applications. The open call asked for community-led nonprofits with missions “to advance the voices and opportunities of individuals and families of meager or modest means.” Eligibility was limited to nonprofits with annual budgets between $1-$5 million.

According to Renee Karibi-Whyte, the senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, open grant opportunities empower organizations without connections to specific funders. These opportunities surface organizations that wouldn’t otherwise have access to those offering major funding. Her company advises funders who run competitive grants and philanthropic prize competitions.

Companies often offer grants through their foundations. For example, 360MatchPro’s list of corporate philanthropy examples shares that the Coca-Cola Foundation awarded $94.8 million in grants to over 300 organizations in 2022.

4. In-Kind Gifts

Companies give in-kind donations of goods or services, enabling them to leverage their unique assets to support charity. Here are common examples of in-kind donations:

  • Pro bono services like designing nonprofit websites or offering legal advice
  • Products, such as how Chobani donates its food products to food banks, schools, and other organizations
  • Free equipment or technology, such as how Google offers Workspace to nonprofits and free advertising credits via the Google Ad Grant program

In-kind gifts can directly fulfill your nonprofit’s specific operational needs or project requirements, reducing expenses and allowing you to allocate your budget directly toward your programs.

5. Cause Marketing

When a company donates a percentage of its sales, it’s known as cause marketing. This approach supports and advertises your nonprofit while also increasing consumer loyalty by aligning the company’s products and services with social causes.

For example, Bombas is a popular retailer. For every item a customer buys, the company donates a pair of socks, a t-shirt, or underwear to a shelter, transitional living facility, or other relevant organization. Through its network of over 3,500 Giving Partners, Bombas has donated over 100 million items.

A summary of Bombas’ impact via in-kind donations, detailed above

4 Reasons Companies Donate to Nonprofits

If you’re a corporate partnerships manager at your nonprofit, understanding how companies give back is important, but you also need to understand why businesses engage in philanthropy. Then, you can align your communication strategy with each company’s goals and interests to secure financial support.

1. Communicate their values

Donating to nonprofits demonstrates a company’s commitment to specific social, environmental, or ethical issues, reinforcing its core values to consumers, employees, and stakeholders.

It’s about strengthening brand reputation, aligning the company’s image with stakeholders’ values, and using resources to influence the causes it supports.

To do this, companies often donate to causes aligned with their products and services. For example, The John Deere Foundation recently announced a three-year $3.9 million grant to the National FFA Organization. For context, John Deere manufactures agricultural machinery, lawn care equipment, and similar products. The unrestricted grant will enable the FFA to provide resources and educational programs to students interested in agricultural career pathways.

“This support truly helps us work toward our mission of preparing members for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success,” said FFA President Molly Ball.

As you can imagine, that grant will go a long way in supporting one of John Deere’s core values: a love for agriculture. Consider how your mission aligns with different companies’ values.

2. Boost employee satisfaction

Employees seek companies that give back to charity. Our employee giving research found that 86% of employees want to participate in corporate giving. CSR programs are linked to increased employee engagement, improved productivity, and reduced turnover by up to 50%.

Corporate philanthropy gives employees a sense of purpose beyond daily business operations. In particular, workplace giving involves employees in philanthropy.

Matching gifts make employees actively involved in corporate philanthropy. Meanwhile, volunteer grants turn employees’ hands-on involvement into financial support that amplifies their impact. Then, in-kind gifts allow employees to leverage their professional skills or contribute goods to nonprofits.

Knowing this, your nonprofit can target corporate employees to direct their workplace giving contributions to your cause. You can also communicate this benefit to corporate partners to increase their likelihood of launching these programs.

3. Tax Deductions

While companies genuinely want to give back, charitable spending is also tax-deductible. This financial incentive makes philanthropy more economically feasible for businesses and encourages them to allocate more resources toward social causes.

Use this compelling point in fundraising pitches. By highlighting donations’ altruistic and fiscal advantages, your nonprofit can strengthen its case for support and show businesses how contributing can be financially prudent.

4. Market Expansion

When a company donates to your nonprofit, it can connect with your donors, volunteers, and other corporate sponsors. That means it can introduce its brand to new markets and demographics. Plus, these new audience members will already know that the company has a philanthropic mindset, positioning the brand favorably in their eyes.

The best part is that this benefit goes both ways! Your nonprofit can access new donors and volunteers from the business’s loyal customers and employees. Corporate giving isn’t limited to industry giants either; local businesses can also boost your reach, connecting you with community members invested in making a difference.

In conversations with businesses, propose marketing their brand as a trade-off for financial support. For instance, if companies sponsor your upcoming 5K, promise to display their logos on promotional materials and event signage, offering them valuable visibility in return for their backing.

Getting Started

Companies donate in various ways for various reasons. There’s a growing commitment among businesses to contribute beyond mere profit-making, but the main point is companies are more philanthropic than ever. 

Your nonprofit needs to tap into these opportunities. When navigating this evolving terrain, understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of corporate giving is crucial for fostering beneficial partnerships. 

Start by searching your CRM for matching gift and volunteer grant opportunities. Contact eligible supporters and explain the grant application process. When your nonprofit joins forces with philanthropic businesses like this, the potential for positive change is boundless.

The article's title, "A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Event Management Software," beside an illustration of a woman using a laptop at a desk.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Event Management Software

For event planners at an association, nonprofit, or other organization, investing in the right event management software can streamline many of your tasks, making your job easier.

From large trade shows to fundraising events, having an event platform that facilitates planning, alleviates common bottlenecks, and enhances the attendee experience can ensure success every time. It also ensures your organization has ongoing access to data that you can use to guide your future decision-making.

However, there are a lot of options on the market and not all of them provide the same level of support or effectiveness. Here’s how to make the best decision before you invest. 

What is Event Management Software?

Event management software is a tool that supports the entire planning process for your event. This typically includes online registration, attendee badging and check-in, and gathering reporting data. 

Well-selected event management software is capable of:

  • Ensuring team productivity and successful working relationships
  • Enhancing attendee satisfaction
  • Improving return on investment (ROI)
  • Gathering strategic insights for decision-making
  • Reducing event planning costs and time drains

The best event management software helps you plan and execute events from start to finish. 

Types of Event Management Software

Every organization’s event needs are different, which is why there are so many different platforms to choose from. There are primarily two types of event management software:

Specialized Single-Purpose Tools

Some software products are single-purpose tools, meaning they are very good at doing one thing or one event. These tools can typically handle tasks like:

  • Registration and ticketing
  • Event marketing and promotion
  • Mobile app design and management
  • Floor planning
  • Badging
  • Sponsor management

If one single, specialized platform meets your specific end goal, it may be more cost-effective to consider this option.

All-in-One Event Management Software

All-in-one event software aims to address all of your event needs in a single platform. This typically includes all event planning tasks, including those listed above.

While these platforms have a higher cost, they can streamline event planning by keeping the entire project within a single application. This often includes everything from registration, event marketing, and event reporting. Their more robust features make them ideal when you’re not just planning a single event but likely will host multiple over time. 

What are the Common Features of Event Management Software?

Depending on your event needs, your software should include the tools and features necessary to plan an effective event and manage it from start to finish. There are numerous areas to consider, such as:

Sponsor Management

Managing sponsors is critical for all event planning teams. Event sponsorship management features can include:

  • Sponsorship categories to organize sponsors based on commitment or sponsorship levels
  • Digital asset management for sponsor logos and graphics
  • Sponsor portals that provide sponsors with relevant information
  • Custom sponsor branding options
  • Sponsor advertising options through an event app

These features streamline the sponsorship process, enhance sponsor engagement, and maximize the value for both event organizers and sponsors.

Registration Technology

Most event management solutions support establishing and managing your event registration process. Though tools are different, expect to find features like:

  • Badge creation and printing
  • Various types of registration, timelines, restrictions, and other customization options
  • Automated registration emails to provide reminders and detailed information for attendees
  • Group registration options
  • Secure payment gateways

These features are designed to make the registration process as smooth and efficient as possible, improving the experience for attendees and providing event organizers with essential data and insights for future event planning and marketing.

Event Marketing

Many platforms offer marketing tools that will assist in growing your total registration and attendance. Some of the most common features of event marketing are:

  • Email tools for sending various messages like event invitations, registration confirmations, and newsletters
  • Customizable event website, including registration forms, speaker profiles, agendas, and payment tools
  • Social media integration, which streamlines access to various social media platforms to share updates and engage with attendees before, during, and after events
  • Marketing analytics and reporting

Having a strong marketing plan is vital to ensuring your event produces the ROI needed to make the whole event worth it.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Event Management Software

Before deciding on any platform, it’s crucial to know what you need the tool to do based on the way you run your event. Effective event management software must meet your specific needs, and while these may change, consider what key factors matter most or how adaptable your prospective platform is. Here are several essential factors to keep in mind: 

Event Goals and Objectives

When selecting event management software, consider how the solution aligns with your event’s objectives and the overarching goals of your organization.

The software you choose should not only resonate with these goals but should also amplify your ability to achieve them with finesse and precision. It’s about finding a tool that transforms your vision into reality, fostering an environment where every aspect of your event is seamlessly orchestrated to meet, and even exceed, your attendees’ expectations.

Attendee and Staff Experience

The software you select should specifically address the types of experiences you hope to create for both attendees and event staff. Giving your attendees an impactful experience is key to building relationships. Always look for:

  • User-friendly experience for attendees
  • Ease of use for your staff
  • Available onboarding support

Keep an eye out for solutions with an easy-to-use but intuitive interface and supportive tools. You don’t want to make more work for your team or make it complicated for attendees to get the support they need.

Event Planning Frequency

How often do you plan to host events? For occasional or one-time events, you need solutions that align just with that type. However, if you’re hosting events on a regular schedule, it’s more important to ensure the planning and execution of multiple events at one time can work well together. 

Necessary Features

While event software with a plethora of features might seem attractive, focus on those that are essential for your specific requirements. Identify the features that are critical to your event’s success. This could range from registration and ticketing systems to attendee engagement tools or analytics.

Software bloated with features you’ll never use can lead to unnecessary complexity and costs. It’s important to differentiate between ‘nice-to-have’ and ‘must-have’ features. Use cost-effective decision-making and keep your budget in mind as you conduct research into potential options.


Many organizations use a variety of digital tools in their daily operations. The right integrations with an event management system can keep everything smooth and organized. Consider tools that align with your CRM, for example.

Steps to Choosing the Best Event Management Software

Navigating the event management software landscape can be intimidating, with an array of options each boasting unique features and capabilities. However, selecting the right software is crucial for your event’s success. Simplify your decision-making by following these steps:

1. Understand your event management needs.

Using your event goals, figure out what specific needs you want your event management software to address. For instance, consider:

  • Event types 
  • Team skills or in-house supportive tools
  • Target audience and attendees 
  • Growth rate over time
  • Analytics insights
  • Regulatory or compliance concerns

Note these down and use these as a reference as you begin exploring potential event solutions for your organization.

2. Identify your event management software non-negotiables.

Every event management solution should support the way you plan to operate your events over time. Outline factors you consider non-negotiable or the specific features and tools you want your product to offer. This may include:

  • Functional aspects like ticketing, event registration, attendee engagement, and agenda management
  • Integration requirements, including marketing and CRM tools
  • Training and support
  • Security features

For example, if you’re planning to host a hybrid or virtual event, you might want to prioritize solutions that make it easy for you to engage attendees online.

3. Research and compare software providers.

Once you have these lists, it’s time to check out the products on the market. During your research, consider the following information:

  • Market research and case use studies
  • Vendor evaluation, including references and reviews
  • Pricing comparison among products

Compare each solution based on your requirements and needs to start compiling the top options for your team to consider.

4. Request demos or sign up for free trials.

With your shortlist created, ask for demos or sign up for trial periods that allow you to test-drive prospective platforms. Take the time to read through and understand the often unseen aspects of new software like:

  • Pricing
  • Contract terms
  • Limitations and restrictions
  • Service level agreements
  • Legal and compliance requirements 

Once you’ve asked any specific questions and gotten a clearer understanding of how the platforms work, re-assemble your team and make your decision.

Choosing the right event management software tailored to your specific needs can transform how you orchestrate your events. By thoroughly evaluating and comparing available options, you can make a strategic decision that will yield long-term benefits, enhancing the way you manage and execute your events for years to come.

Higher ed professionals looking for new ways to use their technology to engage university alumni

4 Ways to Leverage Your CRM to Connect with Alumni

Your university’s alumni don’t just give back by donating to fundraising campaigns. They also help current students, represent your school in the community, and so much more. Because of all they do for their alma maters, engaging and connecting with alumni regularly is a priority for most universities.

But to engage thousands or tens of thousands of alumni—all with different interests and relationships with your university—you need the right tool. 

Your constituent relationship management (CRM) system houses all the data you need to successfully communicate with alumni. We’ll cover four strategies for leveraging this impactful tool to improve alumni relationships. Let’s dive in!

1. Identify opportunities to improve alumni offerings.

According to Redpath Consulting Group, one of the biggest benefits of a robust CRM is that it gives you a holistic, 360-degree view of every constituent in your database. By centralizing data in alumni profiles, your staff can get a better understanding of your alumni and the ways they want to engage with your university, allowing you to improve your offerings based on their preferences.

For instance, say that you track survey results in your CRM and recently sent out a survey about your Young Alum Mentoring program. You can analyze survey results both:

  • Individually in alumni profiles. For example, maybe Jane wants to see more STEM mentors available and Javier didn’t hear about the program enough to form an interest.
  • Across entire groups of alumni. You might learn that the class of 2021 expressed the most interest in the program or that liberal arts graduates as a whole feel underrepresented.

To engage alumni based on the feedback above, you might put extra effort into recruiting more STEM and liberal arts mentors. Or, if you discover that the most highly requested change to the Young Alum program is the age cutoff, you can extend the program to anyone who graduated in the last 10 years. 

2. Personalize alumni outreach.

In addition to using the information in your CRM to improve your offerings, you can use information about your alumni’s interests, habits, and preferences to personalize your communications. The more tailored and relevant your alumni outreach is, the more likely each recipient is to read and engage with your messages.

A robust higher education CRM can help you enhance your alumni communications with the following features:

  • Automated personalization: By creating email or text message templates, you can set up your CRM to automatically populate messages with individual alumni names, event attendance, past donation amounts, etc. 
  • Alumni segments: Organize alumni by shared characteristics and send messages that appeal directly to certain groups. For instance, you might segment alumni by class, field of study, career, demographics, and charitable interests to send more relevant messages.
  • Action-triggered email series: With integrated email automation tools, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can use your CRM to set up entire email series that are triggered by alumni actions. When someone first joins your email list, for example, they might trigger a series of welcome emails.

To see these tactics in action, take a look at this example email message that recognizes recent alumni donors who graduated from a university’s business school:

Felicia, thank you so much for your generous $200 donation to the Randolph School of Business. Your gift will go towards scholarships for BIPOC students with dreams of earning their MBAs just like you did. Our current and incoming students appreciate your passion for excellence and inclusivity—thank you again!

3. Manage events.

Events are one of the most common ways that universities engage their alumni, whether they take the form of class reunions, volunteering events, or virtual public lectures. Your CRM can help you manage all of your alumni events by centralizing event data and automating reports and outreach.

A comprehensive CRM solution will allow you to:

  • House information about event logistics, plans, and invitations.
  • Send personalized invitations to relevant alumni.
  • Track event registrations and attendance.
  • Manage relationships with event sponsors.
  • Identify, recruit, and communicate with volunteers.
  • Report on the success of event marketing messages.
  • Send personalized thank-you messages and post-event surveys.
  • Track event-related donations and fundraising goals.

Plus, you can analyze data about your event’s success after the fact, helping you improve future event marketing and management. For instance, Double the Donation explains that tools like Google Analytics can help you report on user behaviors on your alumni website. By tracking website engagement data in your CRM, you can discover how engaging your event landing pages are and identify ways to improve them.

4. Engage alumni in fundraising.

Higher education CRMs include a variety of features designed to help institutions track and boost fundraising. You can record donations, monitor fundraising metrics, send personalized donation appeals, and more. 

By leveraging these features with alumni engagement in mind, you can increase the number of alumni who participate in your fundraisers and improve their experiences. Features like donor segmentation, marketing automation, and donation histories allow you to streamline alumni fundraising and track your results.

For example, say that you’re promoting a capital campaign to renovate a beloved dormitory and give students living there a better experience. You might use your CRM to take the following steps to engage more alumni in fundraising:

  1. Search alumni profiles for financial capacity markers that indicate which alumni might be good candidates for major giving.
  2. Create a segment of all the alumni who lived in that building while on campus.
  3. Reach out personally to alumni in that segment to ask for donations.
  4. Design and automate an email series about the capital campaign’s purpose, progress, fundraising needs, and expected impact.
  5. Track donations from alumni and send personalized thank-you messages that include their names and donation amounts.

Once the campaign is over, you can easily use your CRM to follow up with all the alumni who participated in or engaged with the capital campaign. Then, you might add them to a new segment of capital campaign donors and tailor future appeals based on their interest in this campaign.

If you need help taking full advantage of your CRM or feel that your current system isn’t meeting your university’s needs, connect with a higher education technology consultant. These experts can analyze your tech stack, recommend new solutions or integrations to fill gaps, and even implement a new CRM for you. When you have a robust CRM you can leverage strategically, you’ll be able to engage alumni more effectively and efficiently.

The article's title, "Ways to Use Learning Management Software to Engage Members," beside an illustration of someone using a laptop.

5 Ways to Use Learning Management Software to Engage Members

In today’s dynamic landscape, associations play a key role in facilitating networking opportunities, promoting professional development, and providing resources for their members. However, with increasing demands and expectations, simply offering membership benefits is no longer sufficient.

To build a thriving membership program, your association must evolve and find innovative ways to engage members continuously. Learning management software (LMS) emerges as a powerful tool that not only streamlines administrative tasks but also enhances member experiences through personalized learning opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll discuss five impactful ways to leverage this technology. First, let’s take a closer look at what an LMS is.

What is learning management software?

Learning management software is a digital platform designed to streamline the creation, delivery, and management of educational content and training programs. An LMS provides a central hub where organizations can host, track, and organize various learning activities, such as webinars, courses, and assessments.

For associations, an LMS simplifies the process of offering high-value learning opportunities to members in several ways:

  • Centralization: An LMS serves as a centralized repository for all learning materials, making it easy for associations to organize and manage educational content.
  • Accessibility: Members can access learning resources anytime, anywhere, providing flexibility and convenience in their learning journey.
  • Customization: LMS platforms often offer customization options, allowing you to tailor learning experiences to meet specific member needs and preferences.
  • Tracking and reporting: An LMS provides tracking and reporting features, enabling you to monitor member engagement, track progress, and assess the effectiveness of your learning initiatives.
  • Integration: Many LMS platforms integrate seamlessly with other association management software and content creation tools, streamlining administrative tasks and ensuring a cohesive member experience.

An LMS empowers you to deliver high-value learning opportunities that are accessible, engaging, and tailored to the needs of members. Ultimately, it allows you to drive member satisfaction, retention, and organizational success.

How to Leverage Learning Management Software

Equipped with an LMS, your association can deepen member engagement in the following ways:

1. Host a variety of educational events.

Chances are, your association already uses event software to organize events catering to members’ interests. Many LMS solutions have event capabilities so you can organize all sorts of educational opportunities for members.

Some popular types of events your association can virtually host using an LMS include:

  • Webinars: These online seminars involve presentations, workshops, or panel discussions on various topics of interest. Webinars provide flexibility for members to participate from anywhere, fostering accessibility and engagement.
  • Q&A sessions: Interactive question-and-answer sessions provide members with the chance to engage directly with subject matter experts or industry leaders. These sessions promote dialogue, knowledge sharing, and networking among participants.
  • Training workshops: Virtual training sessions offer members the opportunity to develop specific skills or knowledge in a structured environment. Workshops can cover a range of subjects, from technical skills to leadership development.
  • Networking sessions: Virtual networking events facilitated by an LMS create opportunities for members to connect, collaborate, and build relationships within your association community. Whether through breakout rooms, discussion forums, or virtual meet-and-greets, networking sessions foster camaraderie and professional connections.

When deciding which types of events to prioritize, it’s essential to consider members’ specific interests, preferences, and learning needs. By understanding their goals and aspirations, you can tailor your event offerings to deliver maximum value and engagement.

2. Offer certification programs.

Certification programs offer significant value for association members, providing tangible credentials and recognition of expertise within their respective fields. With an LMS, your association can:

  • Process payments for courses
  • Deliver and score assessments
  • Award downloadable and printable certificates

Additionally, certification programs not only serve as catalysts for individual professional growth but also elevate the reputation and credibility of your association. As members pursue and achieve certifications, they become advocates and ambassadors, further strengthening your community and influence.

3. Provide an exclusive resource library.

A comprehensive resource library is a cornerstone of member engagement, offering a wealth of valuable content that fosters continuous learning and professional development. Your association can use an LMS to build a website with gated, members-only resources tailored to their unique needs and interests.

For example, you might share content such as:

  • Industry reports
  • Case studies
  • Expert interviews
  • Templates

Take a strategic approach to content development and curation, ensuring that the library stays up-to-date, relevant, and aligned with industry trends and challenges. Regular updates keep members engaged and interested in exploring new resources.

Furthermore, your association can explore creative ways to monetize the resource library by offering access to non-members for a fee. This not only generates additional revenue but also extends your influence and provides valuable learning opportunities to a broader audience.

As members engage with your resource library, they gain valuable knowledge, insights, and practical tools that enrich their professional journey. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing, strengthening the bond between your association and its members and promoting long-term engagement and satisfaction.

4. Nurture a learning community.

Building a vibrant and supportive community lies at the core of every successful association. Leveraging an LMS, you can cultivate a dynamic learning community that fosters collaboration, connection, and shared growth among members.

Several ways to promote a sense of community with an LMS include:

  • Building leaderboards. Leaderboards showcase members’ achievements and progress, fostering healthy competition and motivating participation in learning activities. 
  • Awarding digital badges. Digital badges serve as tangible recognition of accomplishments, encouraging members to strive for excellence and engage actively in your association’s educational offerings.
  • Creating discussion forums. Discussion forums provide a space for members to interact, share insights, seek advice, and collaborate on projects. This facilitates peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange.

As members engage with one another and actively participate in your association’s learning opportunities, they not only acquire knowledge and skills but also forge meaningful connections and relationships. This sense of belonging and camaraderie enhances the overall member experience, driving loyalty, satisfaction, and long-term engagement. 

5. Create tailored learning opportunities.

Remember that one size does not fit all, which means your association should embrace personalized learning approaches to cater to diverse member needs and preferences. By integrating your LMS with your membership management software and leveraging data analytics, you can gain valuable insights into member behaviors, preferences, and learning objectives. 

Through targeted surveys, solicit feedback and input from members to create more tailored learning opportunities. Consider including questions such as:

  • What format or type of learning do you prefer most?
  • How relevant are our current learning opportunities to your needs?
  • Which topics or areas would you like us to cover more?
  • What improvements, if any, would you like us to make to our learning program?

By adopting a learner-centric approach and adapting offerings according to member interests, you can maximize engagement and satisfaction with your educational benefits.

Learning management software represents a game-changing technology for associations seeking to enhance member engagement and deliver high-value learning experiences. By leveraging an LMS to host diverse educational events, offer certification programs, curate an exclusive resource library, foster a vibrant learning community, and create personalized learning opportunities, you can empower members to achieve their goals and aspirations. 

Moreover, by harnessing data-driven insights and member feedback, your association can iteratively refine and optimize its offerings, ensuring relevance, resonance, and impact over time.