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Young Alumni Giving: An Exploration of Institutional Strategies

Lauren G Bent, Johnson & Wales University


An economy struggling to rise out of recession presents a difficult time for institutions of higher education as state and federal support for higher education is not keeping pace with costs (Newman, Couturier, & Scurry, 2004; Wellman, Desrochers, & Lenihan, 2009). It is essential for colleges and universities to raise funds from external sources, particularly alumni, which have continued to wane in recent years. More specifically, institutions should focus on the cultivation of young alumni donors to maximize long-term fundraising efforts (Engagement Strategies Group [ESG], 2010; Hurvitz, 2010; Mann, 2007; Meer, 2010; Monks, 2003). McMillan and Chavis' (1986) `sense of community' theory, which highlights membership; influence; integration and fulfillment of needs; and shared emotional connection, was used as a framework to explore the following research question: What strategies do institutions with high young alumni participation rates employ to promote young alumni giving? Using a qualitative descriptive design, semi-structured interviews ( N=16) were conducted at institutions (N=4) falling under the same Carnegie classification of Arts & Sciences focus/no graduate co-existence in the northeast. The chief advancement officer, the chief alumni relations officer, the assistant director of young alumni giving, and a young alumnus/a peer agent were interviewed to gather data in a four-strata approach. Data were coded and analyzed using Rubin & Rubin's (2005) interpretive framework. Finally, document analyses of websites, Facebook pages, and campaign letters provided rich content to triangulate the data obtained from the interviews. Five key findings emerged, including: foster a sense of community; treat young alumni as partners; institute philanthropy education; gain feedback; and draw upon emotional connections. Leaders in higher education may benefit from these strategies, which can be used to cultivate young alumni donors, and they may adopt and implement these tactics at their own institutions. Colleges and universities with high young alumni participation rates will benefit from long-term fiscal sustainability (ESG, 2010), and with increased funds, will be more likely to meet their strategic goals (Mann, 2007). Future generations of college students will also benefit because the burden that students acquire due to rising tuition costs may be alleviated through the generosity of alumni.

Subject Area

Education finance|Educational leadership|School administration

Recommended Citation

Bent, Lauren G, "Young Alumni Giving: An Exploration of Institutional Strategies" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3544242.