Traditionally, universities have relied upon federal or state funding to help cover the needs that student tuition and fees do not meet. However, with recent budget cuts to educational grants, schools will need to rely on alumni funding more than ever. With the exception of a very few universities in the US, alumni contributions typically max out at roughly 13%. This number is no longer sufficient to fund the types of programs that most universities want to keep running.
When looking at boosting the alumni donation numbers, the question becomes, how? Most schools send out the obligatory letter to alumni or invite graduating seniors to donate a “senior gift” in the hopes that they will be able to begin a habit of giving to the university. However, there has been a lot of research done on alumni and why some are more likely to give to their alma mater than others.
Connection to the School
Universities that build a strong sense of school spirit and support will often receive donations from their alumni. Keeping up that sense of community is something that many universities work hard to achieve, particularly those universities with a strong Greek system. By developing these relationships with students early on, you will have an easier time in the future of garnering financial support from them once they have graduated.
Success in their Chosen Field
Studies show that those alumni who have succeeded in their chosen field are more likely to give back to their alma mater in appreciation. There is a cycle that happens among successful alumni. Colleges that are able to produce successful students are able to guide those students into financially lucrative careers. In appreciation for the university’s assistance and connections, they are more likely to offer donations to the school that helped them be a success.
In many of the top 10 colleges that receive alumni donations, there is a strong sense of tradition. Generations of single families attend one university. For example, Princeton University has the highest alumni donation rate in the country. They also have one of the highest legacy rates of any college. Successful parents will often want their children to attend the university that helped them to succeed in their own careers.
There is some danger in accepting large donations from alumni who are donating with the implicit understanding that a larger donation on their part may result in a higher likelihood of their child being accepted by the same university. It is the university’s responsibility to set the expectation that alumni gift donations are separate from the admissions process.
By taking a look at the reasons that alumni give back to their schools, you and your university can take a look at ways in which you can improve your connection with your students and the surrounding community, or perhaps by sending targeted letters to those alumni that your school may have been tracking or by getting an early start on those requests with students who may be on the precipice of graduation. However you decide to add to your alumni donation efforts, keep in mind that you should be impressing upon them the importance of alumni support.