Doing the Dishes

Engineering a Better Solution

Sigma Phi Delta at Illinois uses outside 'experts' to make alumni communication work better

The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois is consistently ranked as one of the top engineering schools in the United States, so it’s no surprise that the brothers of the Sigma Phi Delta chapter are very good at making things work.

Since its founding in 1924, this professional-social fraternity of engineers has promoted both the training of young engineers and the fostering of lifelong relationships with graduated and alumni members. When the Delta chapter at Illinois needed things to work better in a few somewhat-unfamiliar areas — alumni outreach and fundraising — the brothers realized they needed help from some experts in another field.

Problem.

Over the years, members of Sigma Phi Delta Illinois have handled the coordination of the chapter’s fundraising and events. Alumni volunteers — all busy engineers — also managed the chapter’s newsletters and communication efforts. As a result, according to one chapter member, alumni outreach was sporadic and inconsistent, at best.

Solution.

Engineers, by design, are not marketers. The chapter’s leadership recognized this challenge and made the conscious decision to reach out to another group of “experts” to take the lead on communication, donor and database management. The implementation of a consistent, targeted communications plan has helped galvanize the chapter’s brotherhood and get more and more alumni involved each year.

Engineers tend to be conservative, but this communications program (and its experts) have helped us think bigger than we normally would. We are getting a groundswell of people getting more and more interested and more involved, to the extent that we’re talking about doing a large-scale capital campaign to renovate the house on campus.

Rick Woods
Delta Chapter Alumni President
Sigma Phi Delta (Illinois)

Results.

Working with these communication experts not only provides the chapter content to deliver to alumni, but also offers guidance on the frequency and type of inspirational and emotional stories its members want to read. The number of donors to the annual fund has steadily increased since 2013, and donations continue to climb — seeing as much as a 50% jump from one year to the next.

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