Soon campuses will be abuzz with commencement activities for a new round of graduates. The good news for development professionals is that many of these new grads have tremendous affinity for their institution. They’ve undergone transformational experiences on campus; their lives have been changed. These newly-minted grads proudly wear their school colors and speak with great enthusiasm about their professors, their classes, the organizations in which they have participated, athletics, and so on. In fact, 73% of Millennials graduating from U.S. universities say they intend to give to their alma mater at some point in the future, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Millennial Alumni Report (2014).
The bad news is that many of these grads will lose much of that affinity over time. They’ll go on to new lives. Some will have families. Priorities will change. Their enthusiasm for their alma mater will wane over time.
“The further I was removed timewise from the university, the easier it was to put it out of my mind. I mean, football’s great to follow, but I really wasn’t keeping up on what was going on in my college.”
— University Alum
However, many new opportunities to engage in philanthropy are available to these young alumni. The same Millennial Alumni Report showed that 75% of Millennial alumni would donate to a different organization before they would donate to their alma mater. Today’s always-connected Millennials have no shortage of worthy causes in which to engage, thanks to their far-reaching personal and professional networks.
So how do institutions of higher education stand out in their alumni’s crowded and noisy world?
One of the key ways is through those people who have a direct role in students’ transformative experiences: faculty, student affairs associates, coaches, librarians, and other administrative leaders.
“I stayed connected with a couple of professors who were involved with a club that I participated in. It was a pretty big deal and parlayed into my professional career. Because of that connection, the Foundation reached out and said, hey, there’s an opportunity to be on the advisory circle for the finance concentration in the College of Business.”
— University Alum
As this alumnus’s commitment to the College grew through his work on the advisory circle, two of his former professors connected him and his wife with a compelling opportunity to make a difference through scholarships. The couple’s major contribution, he says, “is a great launching point into what will hopefully be a future of giving.”
With this alumnus, as with so many others, the organizational representatives with whom he had meaningful relationships were the link that kept him connected. His engagement led to commitment, and that commitment led to philanthropy.
As graduation season approaches, ask these four questions to make the most of the opportunity for engagement:
- Are you fully leveraging the philanthropic potential of faculty and staff?
- How might you help them understand their critical development roles?
- How might you encourage them to offer engagement opportunities to young alumni?
- How might you help them articulate the work of their department/area in a way that is compelling to potential donors?