Creating a culture of giving : an exploration of the role of young alumni in institutional philanthropic efforts
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Consistent reductions in state and federal financial support for America’s public colleges and universities have resulted in an increased institutional reliance upon non- traditional revenue sources. Budgetary shortfalls precipitated by the loss of appropriations led many institutions to seek out alternative sources of revenue. While many of these strategies have proven to be controversial with institutional stakeholders (e.g., annual tuition rate increases), one appears to be both popular and effective: alumni giving. Colleges and universities rely heavily upon alumni to enhance the institution by subsidizing operational costs; this is especially crucial in times of great financial stress. In order to ensure strong, lifelong relationships between alumni donors and their alma maters, institutions must consistently evaluate the methods through which alumni giving is solicited. It is not enough to merely expect alumni to become philanthropically engaged upon graduation; institutions must create a culture of giving amongst its student body. The study explored how colleges and universities may foster increased alumni participation in institutional philanthropy. By gauging the perceptions of young alumni, institutions will be able to determine if existing efforts are effective in encouraging future alumni giving. Grounded in altruistic (i.e., prosocial), social exchange, student development, and donor motivation theories, this study utilized a quantitative survey methodology to uncover prevailing alumni perceptions toward contemporary institutional philanthropic efforts. Study participants were asked to reflect upon their undergraduate experiences and the relationships they maintain with their alma mater after graduation. The study found that specific variables (e.g., alumni association membership, gender, financial contributions, engagement in alumni activities, satisfaction with the undergraduate experience, and institutional connectivity post-graduation) were statistically significant in predicting membership within three distinct donor groups. After all data were collected and analyzed, recommendations were made to assist institutions in developing programs that are most likely to encourage active alumni participation and create a culture of giving amongst student bodies.