When their experiences at the university have been positive, young alumni often have tremendous enthusiasm for their alma mater. But since they are just starting out, even a small annual gift can feel like a major commitment. As the years pass, this group will increasingly have significant philanthropic potential—but how can we maintain their engagement in the meantime?
Here are four of our favorite ideas for cultivating your institution’s relationships with its young alumni:
Invite Them Back to Speak
One English department shared that its current students often experience extreme worry as graduation approaches due to being unsure of how their new skills will serve them in the real world. In response to those fears, several faculty members began inviting recent alumni to be guest speakers at a senior seminar class. The alumni had gone on to find interesting and fulfilling work in a variety of career paths. Students found the stories inspiring and helpful. Moreover, the alumni felt honored by the experience, believed they had helped future generations, and frequently asked if there was anything else they could do to help.
Feature Their Stories
Your institution has many communication vehicles; use them as much as possible to feature the stories of young alumni. Many institutions do this on a university-wide level, but it is possible—and sometimes even more meaningful—to feature stories on a departmental level. One Honors program runs a feature in its monthly newsletter with brief updates from 10 recent alumni. Awareness of the feature among those alumni who have been interviewed (and among those in their networks) has increased readership, and many of these individuals appreciate hearing updates from old friends.
Request Volunteer Service
What opportunities does your institution have to enlist the unique skills and talents of its alumni on a volunteer basis? Particularly if your institution is in the midst of a campaign, there are often many ways that young alumni can apply their energy and enthusiasm to get involved. Just be careful not to create a situation where volunteers feel underutilized. One organization formed regional committees during a campaign and did not disband them afterward, leaving their volunteers feeling aimless. Plan your volunteer strategies carefully and your young alumni will feel valued.
Celebrate Any and All Contributions
Many young alumni make contributions that might seem minor to the institution as a whole, but in many of these cases, they are the largest and most significant gifts these individuals have ever given. Regardless of what we define as a major contribution, being able to give back to their alma mater for the very first time can feel major to newly graduated alumni. This creates the opportunity to steward those gifts in a way that deepens their commitment to the institution.
Faculty can reach out to students with whom they’ve had friendly relationships after contributions are made. Some organizations utilize social media to invite their young alumni to celebrate their contributions in a more public way. Consider how you can help young alumni deepen engagement by celebrating—and sharing the impact of—their contributions, whatever the size.
To learn more about your role in fundraising, click below to learn about our public workshop for academic leaders.