How to Transform This Year’s Graduating Class Into Engaged Alumni and Future Donors

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The caps have been tossed, the tents have been folded, and as students depart and staff return to work, those in the advancement office are turning their attention to their next task: soliciting first gifts from this year’s graduating class. These graduates have now become a part of one of the trickiest donor demographics to engage: graduates of the last decade (GOLD). The GOLD demographic possesses far less buying power than previous generations, carries far more college debt, and is more likely to be offended by a request for funds than excited to contribute to a college’s endowment. But as typical higher education revenue sources have become more erratic, securing a new pipeline of alumni donors is becoming increasingly important. How can advancement offices turn this latest crop of college grads into committed alumni?

Don't Ask for Money. Ask for Time and Talent

On average, students who take out loans leave college with $40,000 of debt. As new graduates struggle to budget for housing, food, and other expenses, the likelihood that they’ll be able, let alone willing, to donate money is minimal. In fact, requesting funds soon after graduation is more likely to result in alienating alumni. Instead of seeking to secure alumni engagement through soliciting donations, advancement offices should ask for things that are available: time and talent.

Use Young Alumni as Student Mentors

For current students, mentorship programs are incredibly valuable; they help with networking and allow students to make important connections that can lead to jobs upon graduation. Mentor programs can also help current students navigate college challenges, providing them with resources to support academic success.

For young alumni, mentorship programs provide similar value. These programs encourage young alumni to return to their college and stay physically and mentally engaged with their alma mater. Also, because mentors are typically those who succeed in their field, these mentorship programs help cement the relationship between an alum’s education and the benefits they received from it. When it comes time to solicit donations down the road, connections between alumni and their campus will have strengthened, as will their sense of the value that education has given them.

Create Young Alumni Boards

While most, if not all, colleges already have alumni boards, these organizations are often centered around solicitation donations. These boards aren’t enticing to young alumni, who are more focused on securing some sense of success and stability in their post-college life. As recent graduates depart from their institution and the communities they’ve built there, they are also in search of new communities with which to engage.

Creating GOLD alumni boards and centering these organizations around event planning and networking can be a more enticing proposition for young alumni. These types of boards will not only keep a handful of young alumni heavily engaged with the institution, but it will also ensure there are outreach efforts that appeal to their peers and keep their peers engaged with the college. Additionally, young alumni who serve on boards early in their post-graduation careers are more likely to continue serving in some capacity later down the road.

Don't Ask Them to Give to You. Give to Them Instead.

Nobody is more in need than a new college graduate. They are in debt, entering a difficult job market, and often lack the support group upon which they relied the last few years. The best way to keep young alumni engaged and build their relationship with your institution is to find ways in which you can give back to them.

There are a few schools that do this. They invite young alumni to concerts or museums, provide them with free tickets to campus events, host networking evenings, and more. And they do this without making any requests in return. These types of events help advancement staff build more personalized relationships with alumni as well as help them keep up-to-date records of engaged alumni to whom they can reach out to at a later date.

With all these initiatives in place, when these alumni finally have the means to give back, they may be more likely to donate to an institution that has given them so much.

To discover more ways to turn GOLD into gold, download our latest white paper, The New Gold Standard: How to Turn Graduates of the Last Decade Into Lifelong Donors.

CTA_White Paper_The New GOLD Standard How to Turn Graduates of the Last Decade Into Lifelong Donors

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