My alma mater has a lot of information about me in their database. They have my current address, my age, my interests (like that class I took in underwater basket weaving). They also have quite a bit of unusual information about me, if they would connect the dots.
If they connected the dots, they would see that I am a legacy alumnae. In fact, a member of my family from each generation has attended the university since 1794. A relative in fact founded the school. I am the second woman in my family to carry on this legacy.
In my quarterly phone call from their annual fund phone bank, I keep waiting for them to connect these dots. Tell me what is new in the School of the Arts (I majored in art history). Ask me to give a gift in honor of my cousin who is currently enrolled as an undergraduate. Show me you are using the data you have. Treat me like an individual rather than part of the direct mail herd.
My grandfather – the pater familias of this university legacy – passed away a few months ago. Multiple generations (and therefore multiple alumni of this university) were gathered as my grandmother received a very touching and elegantly timed sympathy letter from the university. My grandparents have been generous donors over the years. But I couldn’t help but feel like the university had missed the mark again.
I admit I’m savvier about fundraising and charitable giving than most of my relatives since it is my chosen profession. But wouldn’t a targeted appeal to each of us, to contribute to an endowment in his name, be the perfect end note to their quick stewardship of my grandmother (who is not an alum)? I shouldn’t be surprised. If they can’t see the big picture in appealing to me for a few dollars on the phone, how can I expect them to connect the dots for a much larger gift from the family? Maybe in the end, they really don’t know us at all.
Kate Breck is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach her at email@example.com.