I just learnt from research undertaken by CASE that universities are investing 8% less in alumni magazinesAnd a leading Melbourne School is moving from a printed magazine to a digital version (with only limited numbers of the magazine to be printed in hard copy)The digital version will come with video links and it will cost (I imagine) so much less. Printing and posting fewer magazines and using the digital capacity more will be good for the environment, and good for reducing expenditure, but perhaps not so good for your school or university’s major gifts pipeline. 

I wonder whether a magazine can EVER be as effective in a digital format. When I open an email, I want to deal with it within a minute and I will never go back to it. A magazine, on the other hand, puts your university or school (or organisation) on the coffee table. It helps to communicate your story to major donors, annual givers, and to those considering a gift to your institution in their will. It is an important element of your overall communications strategy. It becomes a record of your university or schools’ history – and of your legacy.  

There are people who prefer to get their information frequentlyspeedily, digitally, and in bite size pieces, but many of us are drowning in digital communications. From emails to tweets, from Facebook to Instagram, it all just keeps coming. And it is my opinion that few alumni are going to open and read a 50page magazine on-line. It is much more likely that they will open the PDF, spend a few minutes scanning for interesting content before moving on – before deleting. 

If you want to raise more money, make sure you are communicating with your donors in the ways they want you to communicate with them. Before you stop printing your magazine: 

  • Undertake research – ask your readers if they would prefer your magazine in print or digitally
  • Especially ask all your donors if they want their magazine in print or digitally
  • Don’t take away the printed magazine from those who want it
  • If you need to save money, consider reducing the number of pages, or the number of magazines per year, or send your magazine to fewer people 

The evidence is that there is a direct link between how long someone spends reading your alumni magazine and how encouraged they feel to financially support your university or school. 12% of readers who read for 1-9 minutes feel encouraged to support financially – 49% who read for 60 minutes or more feel encouraged to support financially. In reality 9% of readers who read for 1-9 minutes report making a donation, and it climbs to 44% of readers who read for 60 minutes plus making a donation. (CASE Alumni Readers Survey Results 2013). In the same survey, of the readers who donated (and 31% had done so), 73% preferred print, 19% preferred print and digital, and 8% preferred digital.  

It would be good to see more recent dataand country-specific data (the survey above was world-wide) but I suspect that while social media will have made a real impactespecially amongst those under 50, printed magazines read for a decent length of time will still largely correlate with your major gift pipeline. Or – do you have evidence to the contrary? Have you surveyed your major donors and asked how many read your magazine, how long they read it for, and whether many of them would prefer a digital magazine instead of a printed version? If you have or if you do, I would be very interested to know what you find out, and please – let me know.