My five-year college reunion is coming up in June, and whenever I think about that I feel myself doing a double take and saying, “Where did the time go?” I had a wonderful college experience, and I look to that time as one that helped shape the person I’ve become. Even still, there’s something about giving to Brandeis, my alma mater, that feels a little different than my other philanthropy. I know I share that sentiment with many of my peers who are often hit up by their respective universities for donations. A lot of people feel put off by that, especially given the rising costs of tuition, the continuous looming weight of shouldering their loans, and the understandable argument that if they’ve graduated, they won’t be the people benefiting from the school, so what’s the point of giving? I asked my friend and former classmate Aaron Louison to help people understand why giving to their school is a good idea. Aaron is the Associate Director of Annual Giving at Brandeis University.
With the 2016 NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament having wrapped up this week, students and alumni from 68 different colleges and universities have been passionately rooting for their alma maters to make a storybook run into the Final Four. Despite so much pride for their collegiate basketball teams and with the tournament in 2015 reaching its highest viewership in 22 years, this athletics pride has not translated to these same alumni giving back to support their schools.
Most alumni from any reputable college will tell you that they had the best time as undergrads. From the parties to academics, and making life-long friends, it is hard to find any college grad who says that their four years on campus weren’t some of the most exciting and transformative of their lives. With more Americans attending college today than ever before, one would expect that the number of alumni who give back to their school would also grow. But current research shows a long-term trend of declining numbers of alumni donors to their undergraduate institutions.
Higher education has transformed over the last few decades from the traditional training in the liberal arts to an emphasis on career-focused instruction. This change has impacted the affinity graduates have with their alma maters from one of life-changing education to career preparation. While both are important, donors require a deep connection to an institution in order to give.
From a university’s perspective, the problem is two-fold: 1. Declining numbers of donors, and 2. Increasing numbers of alumni. Over the last thirty years, enrollment has increased industry-wide from 26% to over 40%. This, compounded with the declining numbers of donors, stresses a university’s top-indicator of alumni satisfaction: Alumni Participation Rates (Total Alumni Donors/Total Alumni of Record).
But why should you care? “My university’s alumni participation rate has no impact on me,” you might say. While this may be true in a direct sense, indirectly, it has a huge impact.
Next week, Aaron shares more about why you should care about your college’s fundraising efforts. Tune in! Have a question for Aaron? Send ’em to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass them on.