Ten. This is the magic number when it comes to alumni giving. If colleges and universities want their alumni to consistently give, they have 10 years after students graduate to establish the habit. Given the fact students are graduating with hefty loans and entering a workforce with higher unemployment rates, means schools need to be more aware of how alumni perceive the value of their education if they want them to donate.
A 2015 Alumni Pulse survey by Eduventures showed among the over 70,000 alumni surveyed, only 15 percent gifted their alma mater when they believed the cost of their education exceeded the value. In contrast, 40 percent of alumni who perceived the value of their education exceeded the cost, donated. So, how can schools get alumni to buy in to donating after already giving their alma mater thousands of dollars? By offering more engagement opportunities that give alumni a return on their investment.
The Value of Alumni Engagement on the Bottom Line
Students tend to view their time spent in college as a commodity, not a charity: your institution sold them a degree, which they purchased at an agreed upon price. When they graduate, they move on. So, when schools ask for more money, it feels like charitable request, which leaves alumni asking, “Why should I give back?” and “What am I getting in return?” This is where alumni engagement comes into play.
Most alumni are given the opportunity to participate in traditional activities such as athletic events (homecoming) and reunions. The rub is, these events don’t offer any tangible benefit to them; no motivating factor to give their alma mater more money. When participants in the Eduventures survey were asked, which alumni activities would engage their interest, homecoming, campus visits, and reunions were quickly replaced with regional alumni events, networking events, and professional seminars. Alumni want to know schools don’t just see dollar signs when they look at them. Schools must take a hard look at what they’re offering compared to want alumni want. In doing so, schools can take effective first steps toward increasing alumni engagement and interest in giving back.
Letting Alumni Have a Say
One example of a school retooling their approach to alumni giving is Michigan State University. Last year their alumni association eliminated the dues requirement for membership. Why? Because they paid attention when alumni told them that dues are a distraction. Alumni are still encouraged to support whichever facet of the university they want, but they no longer required to donate in exchange for access to professional and personal enrichment content, online alumni directory access, and invitations to school-related events.
How alumni perceive the value of their degree goes beyond being able to get a job. It is also about schools viewing alumni as more than just money mills. Through intentional engagement, there’s a greater chance that alumni will not only give back financially for years to come, but they will also believe that it’s worth every penny.
Share in the comments the new ways you’re engaging alumni to give.
Photo Courtesy of: Tamarcus Brown