A Look at Campus Fundraising

This week’s blog explores a slightly different perspective in the fundraising world: the college campus. While students may not be your #1 donors today, they will be your future donors. A look at their approach and the problems of college fundraising also provide insights that translate into the nonprofit, faith-based, and political fundraising worlds.

Today, we’ll talk about how colleges and universities can raise money through:

Not only will be give you some of the common reasons that stop potential supporters from giving, but we’ll also provide ways you can increase your student and alumni fundraising efforts. Let’s get started!

Student Fundraising

There are so many different clubs and organizations at every college across the country and each year, campuses buzz with fundraising efforts to raise money for different causes. This includes everything from blood drives, sports, service trips, and various off-campus causes such as, an after school program focused on tutoring elementary school students.

Fundraising plays a pivotal role, as the majority of the activities students participate in are only possible through the money they are able to raise themselves.

Whether it be a bake sale, musical concert, walk-a-thon, raffle, or charity ball, students get creative in offering a fun and appealing way to get their peers involved socially on campus, while also raising money for a good cause.

The cause—whatever it may be—is always a good one, and most students are willing to support each other (especially when doing so involves an incentive to attend a fun activity with friends at a reasonable cost). However, there are 3 main factors that often stand in a person’s way of giving (in this example, we look at the factors that apply to students’ lives, but the principles can be universally applied to adult donors everywhere, young and old!):

  • People are busy. The average student can usually be caught rushing off to class, a club meeting, or a meeting with friends for lunch. Consequently, she does not stop to buy a cupcake or purchase a raffle ticket.
  • People get distracted. A student may be too engrossed in sending a text to a friend or checking an email from a professor to even notice his surroundings and see the bake sale stand. The things that keep people busy also distract them from other tasks they intend to do (a.k.a donate). Even it they saw the bake sale stand, they might not have cash to buy a cookie (the next key point). While they intend to come back later, it rarely happens.
  • People don’t always carry cash. Students simply are not equipped with cash at all times of the day. And even if they do have money, it may not be in the exact amount that they would be willing to donate.

When it comes to transactions in college, students rely on credit and debit cards. When they need to pay a friend back, they transfer the money electronically using apps like Venmo or Google Wallet. With the emergence of such technologies, why would they need cash? And I haven’t seen many hi-tech bake sales willing to accept cards anywhere.

Student fundraising itself might be a difficult area to directly implement the use of technology, but the principles behind the need for it are the same as they would be for a nonprofit. And not to mention, they give us a great source of creative inspiration, but also great insight into common problems in reaching any donor, not just students.

The students have spoken—technology is the solution!

Whether people like it or not, technological innovation is inevitable in the fundraising world. It provides a solution to the 3 factors that stand in the way of giving:

  1. Since people are busy, they want a way to donate that takes the least amount of time out of their day, right? As we saw with the students, intentions are often good—it’s the process and life that get in the way. What if a student could pay for a charity ball ticket by simply texting the amount? Then he would simply pick up the ticket (or better yet be emailed a copy of it to his phone, with barcode ready to be scanned) right before the event. Similarly, if an adult could donate from a text message or email off her smartphone while standing in line to pick up food during her lunch break, don’t you think she would?
  2. How do you keep a donor’s attention? The biggest distractions are more inconveniences or things that make the donor think, “There are better uses of my time.” These include web pages that take way too long to load, having to enter credit card information countless times, or struggling to find a donation page. Again, the solution comes in the form of speed. Offer an express payment option for mobile donations. With only two clicks to give, the process will be completed in a matter of seconds, and it’ll be difficult even for a college student to become distracted during that time. Express payments also facilitate repeat donations. Even if you managed to keep a donor’s attention for one gift, if he had to repeat the same tedious process again, chances are, he wouldn’t. Entering credit card information once is quite enough.
  3. Students aren’t the only ones who are often caught without cash. Let’s face it: there’s more of a risk if you lose a wallet full of cash versus a wallet with cards that can be cancelled (yes, it’s still tedious but cash cannot be recovered at all). Technology solves this problem too. If you offer mobile donation or online donation options (such as text-to-give or an express donation option), you save them time, keep their attention, and allow them to give in their preferred method.

Technology provides instant access, and it’s all about convenience. And I know we can all agree that college students aren’t the only ones who enjoy convenience.

Alumni Fundraising

Students aren’t the only demographic that can help your university raise money. Your recent (or not-so-recent) alumni are the perfect group to target for fundraising asks.

Here are a few ways you can ask for donations from your college or university’s alumni.

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money from your alumni. Since this type of fundraiser is powered by social sharing, alumni can pass along your campaign to their friends and family and spread the word.

Moreover, setting up a crowdfunding page is relatively inexpensive so your college or university can create multiple campaigns for different projects. 

The key to creating a viral crowdfunding campaign is to upload images and videos on your page, write a detailed crowdfunding description, and post updates frequently. As an added incentive to encourage donations, you can provide different perks depending on how much supporters contribute.

T-Shirts

T-shirts are one of the easiest ways to raise money from your alumni. Many graduates want to display their school pride in an easy (and comfortable!) way.

T-shirts are the perfect fundraising solution. You can sell them in your school’s online store, or create custom shirts for alumni events and reunions.

Additionally, if you host a peer-to-peer fundraising event, your alumni can buy t-shirts to show their support.

Engraved Bricks

Engraved bricks are a great way for alumni to leave their mark (literally!) on your college.

For a fee, alumni can choose to have a line or two engraved on a brick that is placed either in a walkway, on a set of stairs, or in the wall of a prominent building on campus.

You can have different price ranges for different numbers of lines ($50 for 1 line, $80 for 2, or $100 for 3).

There are several engraved brick companies that make the whole process easy as pie. Advertise engraved bricks to your recently graduated alumni and mention them at reunions for other classes.

Mini School Mascots

Whether your alumni identify as Mountain Lions, Eagles, or Bulldogs, you can sell mini stuffed mascots to remind them of their time at your college.

All you have to do is find a wholesale stuffed animal company, preferably one that allows you to customize orders.

Then, simply advertise your mini school mascots online and at events. Alumni young and old will be more than willing to spend a few dollars on a cute and cuddly mini mascot!

As you can see there are plenty of ways you can raise money from alumni. At the end of the day, your alumni are where colleges and universities will collect the majority of their donations. Much like how other nonprofits will gain the most fund from major donors. Therefore, it’s important to create fundraisers that tailor to these specific donors and appeal to their interests.


Alumni fundraising really isn’t any different from college student fundraising. Just remember to thank your alumni for their continued love and support of your university!

Additional Resources:

  • Nonprofit E-Newsletters: Schools, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits can use newsletters for more than just keeping supporters updated. They’re also a great way to encourage your supporters to give. Learn how you optimize your e-newsletters so that you can raise more money.
  • Email Fundraising: What You Can Do to Prevent Lost Donations: Email outreach is a great way to raise money for your organization. The trick is to make the process as quick and easy as possible. Learn how you can prevent lost donations using Snowball’s three-step process.
  • School Fundraising Ideas: For even more ways you can raise money, check out this list of 30 fundraising ideas. You’re bound to find a fundraiser that is perfect your college or university.
Check out our essential tips and tricks to finding software that fits your organization.

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