Engaging the Next Generation of Donors in the Digital Age

As Western New England University embarks on its second century, the Advancement Division is focused on how to best strengthen ties with alumni and cultivate the next generation of volunteer leaders and donors. National trends in giving are shifting in the digital age. The University is adapting to a new sense of personal responsibility and desire for transparency voiced by donors.

Need to Program Alt text
Vice President for Advancement Beverly Dwight
Vice President for Advancement Beverly Dwight leads the University’s fundraising and engagement activities. “Traditional tried-and-true methods such as phone-a-thons, direct mail, and email still remain part of our outreach and fundraising strategy. However, we are also leveraging new technology to reach a broader audience,” says Dwight.
Younger alumni especially want to know where their money is going and how it will benefit the University. Recent technology investments have increased the ease of donating, added new channels for sharing how donated funds are used, and enabled more targeted communications around philanthropic opportunities.

Tapping Into the Appeal of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a method of fundraising for specific Western New England University projects through the collective effort of alumni, family, friends, and donors. This approach leverages the broad networks of University supporters using social media and other digital platforms to achieve greater reach and exposure.

Since the University invested in the crowdfunding platform, it has proven a successful tool to engage alumni and friends. For donors, crowdfunding makes giving easier and more transparent. They know exactly where their gift is going and how it will be used. And for student groups and academic departments, crowdfunding provides an avenue to reach alumni as well as others who may be interested in contributing to their cause, who otherwise might never have known of the need.

In 2019, members of the WNE chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) raised $1,160 through crowdfunding to defray costs of attending the Regional NSBE Conference.

In a crowdfunding project, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) raised funds to help offset the cost of attending a regional conference in Danvers, MA. Gifts totaling $1,160 helped with transportation, food, and conference registration fees for the participating students.

In fiscal year 2019, 11 groups hosted crowdfunding projects through the platform, collectively raising nearly $18,000 with gifts from 233 donors. As of April 2020, 14 fiscal year 2020 projects have generated more than $80,000 in new gifts, and the volume of activity is expected to continue growing.


Recent crowdfunding projects have included WNE Wrestling travel to the NWCA National Duals Championships (January 2020), the Golden Bear Racing Baja Club enhancing its Baja vehicle design and programming (2020), and student participation in the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference (October 2019), among others.

More crowdfunding projects are added regularly. Visit to view current projects.

Texting Delivers the Personal Touch

With technology as a core part of the engagement strategy, the University has also launched a text communication platform to better connect with alumni, with early results showing promise. Texting delivers a personalized message, including event invitations, volunteer opportunities, reminders, and invitations to give. Many young alumni prefer a text message over a phone call, and the ease of texting allows them the flexibility to respond when it is most convenient for them.

Students Benefit When WNEgives

Another initiative that taps into the spirit of being a Golden Bear is WNEgives, the University’s annual community giving event. Launched in 2016, the event promotes 1,919 minutes of giving in honor of the University’s founding year. WNEgives has continued to grow each year, attracting more individual donors, larger gifts, and increased engagement from volunteer Social Ambassadors.

Need to Program Alt text
The Alternative Spring Break program (ASB) raised $2,167 through Crowdfunding to help fund their trip to New Orleans to work with the NOLA Tree Project in 2018.

In its first year, WNEgives raised more than $100,000 from 336 donors. In just a few years, the event has grown to attract more than 1,100 donors with collective giving exceeding $260,000. While much of the growth can be attributed to inspiring donor challenges and expanded communications, there is no doubt that the University’s investment in a dedicated software to manage the giving day and the Social Ambassadors program have played a key role in the continued success.

The online system allows visitors to make a gift, observe the overall progress of the giving day, monitor progress on individual causes and challenges, see who else donated, and interact with a social media activity display. A key feature of the site is the ability for volunteer Social Ambassadors to share WNEgives with their networks.

WNEgives supporters can also host challenges—a donation of matching funds or a fixed amount contingent upon achieving a donor goal to a particular cause. Participating in WNEgives appeals to many donors, as the online system allows them to feel part of something much bigger than themselves.

Learn more about WNEgives 2020 results in Alumni News.

The Future of Fundraising is Here

As we continue to work to strengthen the Golden Bear network and donor base, we do so with the future of the University in mind. When alumni and donors continue to invest in Western New England University, they create opportunities not just for today’s students but for generations to come, laying the foundation for a second century of promise and excellence.