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To understand the value of your fraternity, you have to understand the value of your alumni. They truly are your most valuable asset — not the house, what most now think it is. Despite years of bad press, some deserved and some exaggerated, most fraternities were established on noble principles that produced (and still produce) great leaders and men of principle and true gentlemen. But your fraternity could be shut down by your host school or National or the local town. Therefore, (1) we must admit we have a problem and (2) we must be willing to change!

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April is National Volunteer Month, and many alumni groups are taking advantage of the spring weather to encourage their members to get out and get active in the volunteer opportunities they offer. How can you inspire your own donors to volunteer not only their funds, but also their time?

For many, the thought of volunteering seems overwhelming and a bothersome chore, but it’s important to stress the positive aspects of the experience, while making opportunities with small time commitments available. In return for your volunteers’ efforts, they’re receiving an enjoyable way to stay connected with old friends, new alumni and the fraternity chapter as a whole.

You may want to take a page from Neil Anand’s book; he’s been a faithful alum of the Beta Rho Chapter of Sigma Nu, University of Pennsylvania, since 2004, managing the alumni relations component of the alumni association for more than 10 years. While some may find the prospect of volunteering a stressful task, Neil finds joy in giving back, as does his fellow alum, Pete Burgum '65, who’s been at it for 35 years.

“I’ve always had a connection to Beta Rho,” Pete says, explaining why he’s committed so many years. “I was very involved as an undergrad. I even ran for commander and lost by one vote. I have a lot of love for the fraternity.”

At 73 years old, Pete jokes that he’s become the old guard. He’s dedicated a lot of time to property management over the years and has had the pleasure of working with many alumni who he says have been the heart and soul of Beta Rho.

While volunteering certainly takes time and commitment, both Neil and Pete say they wouldn’t trade it for anything. They say it’s just one more way they can stay connected and carry on the legacy of Beta Rho.

“I was president for two terms,” Neil explains. “I didn’t want to just fade away. Volunteering for the property company has allowed me to continue many of my friendships and stay connected.”

Can Your Alumni Do the Same?

A good place to start encouraging your alumni to get involved on a volunteer basis is by connecting with those who are already connected and attending events. As Neil states, it’s all about continuing those friendships and maintaining connections.

Even those who no longer live near your fraternity can make an impact. For example, Neil lives in Connecticut and only returns to UPenn for key events, but still has made an incredible impact by making himself available. No matter where alumni are located, there are ways to get involved.

At the end of the day, once you get an alum to take the first step, if you offer a rewarding volunteer experience, you’ll easily win a long-term volunteer, as they find it worth the often minimal time and effort it takes to have fun, help out and relive some great memories.

Need more help getting your alumni engaged and showing up for your events and volunteer opportunities? Ask your Affinity Connection managing editor how you can create a strategy that works,
or call (814) 237-0481.

Building lifelong loyalty within alumni groups is nothing new for Affinity Connection.

When it comes down to it, fundraising is simple, and a complicated, difficult-to-understand process only confuses both your board and your volunteers. All it takes is your organization using the proper data and story-telling — through marketing, content, social media and media relations — to reach the hearts of your target audience. This non-fail process creates results!

There are two crucial components to earning your dollars and loyalty from your donors – data and storytelling. And they work together. Even the cleanest, most robust database can’t advance your cause without a compelling narrative. Likewise even the greatest story ever won’t raise money unless you know and understand the audience listening to it… and make them part of it.

Donors are ready to give, they just need to see themselves in your story.

Catholic Charities learned how a little research can go a long way in discovering the stories that move donors. Through a stakeholder survey, the non-profit learned that local Catholic parishioners didn’t really know about Catholic Charities’ work in the local community. They indicated they were interested in helping – but they needed to know more.

Catholic Charities invested in a communications program that spoke directly to local parishioners by adding a quarterly newsletter insert to the local Catholic diocese magazine. By adding direct solicitations to those same individuals, they helped connect the organization’s work to the opportunity for parishioners to make an impact. Using real narratives about local lives that are impacted by the Catholic Charities mission showed how donations directly help neighbors in need, from providing families with heat in the winter to helping homeless individuals get on the path to self-sufficiency.

Consistent, Compelling Communication with the Donor at the Center

Compelling, relatable stories paired with consistent calls for giving was exactly what Catholic Charities needed to help donors visualize themselves making a difference. When donors were educated and asked, they gave. In just three short years, Catholic Charities grew its donor base from 200 unique donors to more than 1,300—most of them parishioners at local parishes.

Are your potential donors just waiting for the right story to inspire them to give? If you think your storytelling skills could use a boost, let us help. Give Andy Scheldrup a call, at 763-557-9008, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


According to Giving USA, over 80% of all fundraising dollars are still received in response to direct mail.  It has a unique ability to get your message into the hands of your prospects, whether asking for a contribution or “friend-raising.” By those terms, you’d probably agree that direct mail marketing isn’t dead, and is still as powerful as it has ever been.

Direct Mail Simply Works

Many recipients are more receptive to direct mail than email or social media. According to a recent Direct Marketing Association Survey, people will spend more time reading a letter or even a post card than they will an email. The key is in the design and the message. Putting a well-designed post card or envelope into the recipient’s hands can be a powerful tool. Make your piece stand out from the rest, and chances are good that your audience will read your message.

Costs are higher with direct mail than with email, so it is vital that you are targeting the correct audience with the correct message in an attractive and well-designed package.

Balancing Your Communications Program

That said, in the age of electronic media, direct mail is no longer the complete and exclusive answer to effective communications. Email can be a great adjunct to direct mail, as it is relatively inexpensive, easy to produce and thus can be used more frequently to cover timely topics and call readers to action.

Email-driven web giving is a growing segment of philanthropy, so it should be a part of any balanced non-profit communication program, though direct mail will work better for some of your prospects and current customers. It is important to decide which mix of methods will work the best for your organization. The reality of the situation is that direct mail and email marketing are a perfect match for each other. Each method makes up for the shortcomings of the other. Used together they create a powerful tool for your marketing plan.


You know you have great stories to share with your donors, but there are so many options as to how you deliver. Should you use a newsletter, an eletter, a quarterly magazine, social media?

A mixture of several different mediums is often what’s needed to reach all your potential donors effectively. Just like different individuals like to receive their daily news in different ways, similarly some will respond best to your messaging in different formats. It’s best to cover all your bases.

However, there’s one important thing to keep in mind regardless of what form your story takes.

When telling any nonprofit narrative, your donors are likely not going to sit down and read a newsletter, magazine or even eletter cover to cover, end to end. Though Americans increasingly continue to read magazines, for example, most spend less than 20 minutes on them on an average day, which isn’t a lot of time to get your point across. Likewise, the majority spend under an hour browsing through all of their received eletters throughout the week.

So how do you ensure your great story gets across? If donors genuinely want to receive your correspondence, but they’re spending little time on the actual content, how do you make sure you retain a powerful impact?

It’s all in the skim-able content – headlines, photos, photo captions, text boxes filled with stats and facts. All of these together should be able to give your reader a good idea of the story, so they can choose to read further, and spend their 20 minutes with you, or go on to the next thing.

If even one article out of an entire eletter, newsletter or magazine tugs on a heartstring and inspires a donation, you’ve done your job. One photo, one headline, touching the right person, is all it takes. While, yes, your donors want that beautiful, meticulously-created newsletter showing up in their mailboxes, it’s not the quantity of the stories that they read that inspires them to give, but rather the quality of those stories.

Want to learn more? Ask for a sample of an attention-grabbing newsletter and get inspired! Current Affinity Connection clients can reach out to their managing editor, or, contact Andy Scheldrup, at 763-557-9008, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When Bishop Carroll staff and board realized that the school lacked the alumni and community support it needed to thrive for its next 50 years, they chose a marketing audit to discover how they could better serve their stakeholders. In many ways, such an audit is simply a large-scale survey, helping organizations learn their audiences’ priorities and opinions. It didn’t take long before the audit revealed the goal they needed to strive toward – more properly aligned communication with donors, alumni, parents, families, business sponsors, grade schools families, local parishes and priests and the overall community. 

Impressive Results

Because of these audit insights, they were able to develop an annual fund program that worked for them, sending out frequent, segmented and personal communications to each of their target audiences. The result? Donations to the annual fund and from business sponsors more than quadrupled! 

The Value of an Audit

Audits help non-profits better understand the points of view of their audiences, and learn which messages will move them to action. At the same time, they reveal areas of misalignment among your leadership and your audience on vision and goals, and identify specific and measurable outcomes and expectations for marketing and fundraising. Audits don’t have to be a giant undertaking; even small surveys among a selection of donors and non-donors can be extremely valuable in helping your organizing focus outward, rather than inward.

Want to learn more? You can reach Jodie Dello Stritto at (814) 237-0481 x145, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Affinity Connection provides strategic, data-driven fundraising, branding and marketing programs that grow donors for nonprofit and membership-based organizations and inbound leads and revenue for for-profit organizations and businesses.  Integrated platforms for data, direct marketing and financial transactions streamline the donor and customer experiences, making every interaction personal and meaningful.

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