University of Pittsburgh: Young Alumni Giving and Engagement

318,000+ (alumni)
Public University
Pittsburgh, PA
Customer Since:

The University of Pittsburgh’s annual giving program collaborates with the Pitt Alumni Association to use Signal Vine to message young alumni. Specifically, the team targets alumni who have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in the last ten years.


The Pitt annual giving team wanted to create a communication channel that recent graduates would be likely to respond to. Additionally, this channel would be the primary driver of engagement and annual giving. The team realized that channels like email or phone are not always the preferred method of communication for this population. Pitt’s intention for text messaging is to meet these young alumni where they operate most. In addition, with a team of four, they realized they needed a scalable tool to reach a large alumni population. 


The team evaluated a total of eight vendors before deciding on a platform to support the text message initiative. Ultimately, they chose Signal Vine because the platform offered the best mix of automation, a robust implementation process, and personalized support at every step. The team valued the two-way message program to engage and connect with alumni while also finding a channel for large-scale outreach communication. With a total of four Pitt team members, the team relied heavily on automated replies to sort through common responses. They also allowed the platform to flag responses that required an individual team member reply. The Pitt team contacted Signal Vine for a demo request in early October. Six weeks later, they successfully launched their young alumni program including more than 53,000 text messages to 17,000 alumni.

The program included five different young alumni outreach sequences. This included outreach to alumni who had

  1. not yet donated,
  2. donated before but their gift designation was unknown,
  3. given a known gift designation,
  4. in the previous year donated but their gift designation was unknown, and
  5. in the previous year donated and their gift designation was known. 


Early results from the text program to young alumni include the following:

  • more than 3,500 inbound messages
  • 205 completed interest forms
  • a very low opt-out rate
  • a solid engagement rate
  • very positive qualitative feedback
  • an average gift from text of $46.39, marking a 13x improvement in yield from previous email efforts

A few alumni responses included the following:

“Hi Sarah, I love this new texting fundraising! Much better for connect than by phone for our generation. ☺” -2010 Pitt Alumni

“I also donated a little $$, just what I could at the moment, because of your outreach efforts. Hail to Pitt!” –2007 Pitt Alumni

“Oh hi, Sarah for sure! How can I give today?” –2012 Pitt Alumni

Since the initial launch of the texting project, Pitt has expanded its efforts for various projects:

  • Staff sent a nudge to alumni for the annual Pitt Ski Trip. Before the nudge, two emails had been sent to Pitt’s 17,000 alumni, resulting in 40 registrations. Following the text nudge, which was sent to roughly 5,400 alumni, the event sold out with 150 registrations.
  • Staff texted alumni to remind them of the Pitt Day of Giving. This resulted in 981 clicks and 207 alumni donating, 202 of whom had never donated to Pitt before.

Overall, the annual giving team felt that the text program was an overwhelming success which they presented to division leadership. Going forward they will roll out a program to the entire alumni population and create an opt-in program, confirm contact information, and use Signal Vine for their annual Pitt Day of Giving each February.

Increase Alumni Engagement and Giving

Learn more:

To learn more about how the University of Pittsburgh is using texting to engage its alumni, check out the webinar.

Sarah Webb, Assistant Director, Annual Giving - Young Alumni Engagement
University of Pittsburgh

Signal Vine provided us the best option for establishing relationships with young alumni who do not currently engage and/or give to the institution. The ability to scale and personalize conversation really resonated with our staff while also allowing us the opportunity to respond individually when needed. Signal Vine is without question the best text messaging platform we have seen for higher education.

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