4 Reasons You May Be Losing Alumni Participation
I grew curious after coming across some articles discussing the decrease in alumni participation rates among colleges and universities. I wanted to figure out what was behind this decline – not only because quite a few of our clients utilize our fundraising services and have seen the antithesis of this, but also because I am able to draw from my own experience as I graduated in 2009. So I dug a little deeper, did some research, and applied my own insight to figure out some contributing factors as to why alumni are not more engaged with their alma mater. Four of the main reasons that I’ve come across and identify with are listed below.
- Student loan debt – The average amount of student loan debt after graduation is approximately $24,000. Pile that on top of rent, bills, and other payments and there is not a lot left over for charitable donations.
- Other options that literally provide more of a payoff – A hot topic right now is microfinance institutions. These institutions (like Kiva.org) provide microloans to entrepreneurs in areas of the world that are stricken with high levels of poverty. You can help provide a loan that gets paid back to you rather than just donating and parting with your money for good. People donate to other people and to causes, making it imperative for development teams to connect with the alumni on this level. Make them feel like they are donating towards something that is meaningful to them. They want to make a difference and feel good about what they do.
- Lack of initiative in building loyalty prior to graduation – I made it through all 4 years of college without hearing one word about my school’s Annual Fund and that wasn’t due to lack of involvement on the campus. I was involved with several organizations, attended events, showed up to class regularly, and still never got word of this Annual Fund until a few months after graduation. My first thought was, “what do I care at this point?” Very negative, I know, but nonetheless my initial gut reaction. The experience was behind me and they had so many opportunities to reach out prior to begin laying the ground work for the importance of giving back. By the time I came in contact with my first appeal I thought it seemed irrelevant. I probably would have felt differently and more loyal had I previously been informed about the Annual Fund (and what it goes towards) rather than thinking, “so why are you are just reaching out to me now?”
- Not reaching young alumni on platforms they are on – I have received print pieces from my school’s alumni association along with an e-newsletter periodically. The print piece is interesting, I will give them that, because they do it in a mini magazine form. The e-newsletter though is so long that I have yet to fully go through one so I am not even sure if there is an appeal in there. My generation likes things that are quick and to the point. This is why social media works so well because there is limited space to provide information (without looking heavily overloaded, i.e.-on a Facebook Page). Colleges and universities need to recognize these channels as opportunities to effectively reach out to young alumni and make their appeal.