Millennials and Alumni Giving

Christina Balotescu

May 27, 2013

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) far outpace older Americans in the use of social networking sites.

How are the never-not-online habits of twenty- and thirty-somethings relevant to the alumni experience, and something alumni relations professionals should pay attention to?

Because millennials care—about causes, campaigns, and organizations. And when they feel connected to institutions, they give. Three quarters of respondents to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report survey gave to an organization in 2011. And almost as many (70%) fundraised on behalf of a nonprofit. What’s more is that young people prefer to do their giving online. They stay connected via the internet to each other and the organizations they care about.

So, do millennials care about—and therefore give to—their alma maters? The answer is yes. At least, for now.

A 2010 survey found that the donations made by alumni under 35 to their alma maters represented a higher proportion of their overall giving as compared to the donations made by older alumni. But the survey also found that over time, an alum’s connection to their institution ebbs.

If millennials give when they feel connected but grow increasingly distant from their alma maters as they age, universities must not only connect with their recent grads, but work to keep them engaged over time. So, how can institutions cultivate lifelong donorship in recent graduates and young alumni?

Simple. Start where the client is at.

Institutions must find young alumni where they already spend time engaging, interacting, and giving. When alumni relations professionals communicate in a language their customers understand and provide the tools that make ongoing engagement and long-term giving possible and easy, recent grads will be invested for good. And given the nature of social media, their fellow grads, friends, peers, and colleagues will be invested, too.

The only missing piece to the puzzle of millennial engagement is, to phrase it in a decidedly non-millennial way, the $64,000 question: How many institutions already have the infrastructure, facility with social media, and cultural competence to connect with recent graduates?

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