Latino alumni giving at a major southwestern university

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Gonzalez, Sandra Aida

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Institutional advancement officers are targeting Latino college graduates for alumni gifts and finding that it is more difficult to secure support from these alumni than from their mainstream counterparts. Some speculate that Latino giving traditions favor support of family over higher education. On the other hand, it may be that Latinos have familial and financial responsibilities that limit giving capacity. Finally, while institutional involvement and satisfaction with the collegiate experience are generally associated with alumni giving, research suggests that Latino students often have a poor institutional experience. The purpose of this study was thus to uncover the factors that influence Latino alumni giving. The study, which employed an interpretivist paradigm and a race-based perspective, was patterned after a study of minority alumni giving conducted at a predominantly white, private institution. A four-part survey instrument was mailed to the 1995 graduates at a major southwestern university in order to develop a philanthropic profile of the alumni. Thereafter, follow-up interviews were conducted with five randomly selected survey respondents. As the findings suggest, the Latino graduates in this study have both the financial capacity and the charitable propensity to support the university. While some alumni had a less than perfect institutional experience, most had other positive experiences that outweighed the negative. Many, likewise, support the university because they have pride in their degree or because they received a quality education. Even among those that had a positive experience, a large number report that Latinos remain underrepresented at all levels of the university. Some thus view their contribution as a means of increasing Latino representation at the institution. As for the alumni association, the findings suggest that communication with Latino alumni is key. It may be beneficial, moreover, to have Latino graduates solicit other Latino alumni for gifts. Meaningful participation such as raising funds in support of academic programs or Latino student scholarships may also help to increase Latino alumni giving. Finally, alumni association programs that demonstrate a true commitment to Latino students may do more to stimulate Latino alumni philanthropic involvement than the creation of a group-specific alumni association, in and of itself.